Outmoding Fast Fashion

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Outmoding Fast Fashion

The Role of Message Appeal Type and Level of Consideration of Future Consequences in Stimulating Frugal Consumption

Kim Pieper 12383481

Master’s thesis

Graduate School of Communication Master’s Programme Communication Science

Supervisor: dr. I. Bušljeta Banks

June 27, 2022

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Abstract

The fast fashion industry stimulates unsustainable consumption that contributes to

environmental degradation. To mitigate its negative externalities, consumers need to alter their consumption habits, i.e., adopt frugal behavior. In addition to regulations for producers and retailers designed to stimulate frugal consumption by providing information on a

product’s durability and reparability, consumers may be empowered for a green transition through persuasive communication techniques such as message appeals. The current study investigates the effects of exposure to persuasive messages promoting frugal clothing consumption based on biospheric and economic message appeals, while exploring the moderating role of consideration of future consequences (CFC). The results show no

significant main effects of appeal type and no significant interaction effect of appeal type and CFC. CFC and egoistic value orientation (EVO) were found predict intentions to engage in frugal clothing consumption (IFCC). The findings of this study provide practical insights into behavioral changes that are necessary to meet sustainability goals, and suggest that further research is needed to establish how message appeals can be used to stimulate frugal clothing consumption.

Keywords: message appeals, biospheric appeal, economic appeal, fast fashion industry, frugal clothing consumption, experiment

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Outmoding fast fashion

Controlled by a desire for endless growth, the economic system of capitalism prevailing in Western countries facilitates a consumerist culture that is characterized by excessive buying behavior. Materialistic lifestyles have a strong negative impact on the world’s ecosystems due to externalized costs generated by large organizations (Dauvergne, 2010). In accordance, the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls for a radical shift in consumption patterns to help reduce CO2-emissions and mitigate climate change (IPCC, 2022).

Especially dominated by overconsumption is the fast fashion industry, which has the fourth-highest negative environmental impact in the European Union after food, housing, and transport (Rosane, 2022). The industry relies on impulse buying and recurring consumption, stimulated by the continuous offering of low-priced, trend-led clothes (Niinimäki et al., 2020).

It produces eight percent of global CO2 emissions (Bailey et al., 2022), uses enough water to meet the essential needs of five million people (The World Bank, 2019), accounts for 35% of oceanic microplastic pollution, and generates over 92 million tons of textile waste per year (Niinimäki et al., 2020), part of which includes harmful chemicals used during the production of synthetic fabrics.

By relying on cheap labor from developing countries in the Global South (Khirwar, 2021), low-priced clothes fuel the notion that replacing them is more effortless and less expensive than repairing or modifying them before they are worn out (Harris et al., 2016). In addition, consumption-promoting communication dominates the online media landscape (Frick et al., 2021). Clothing brands spend trillions of euros to convince consumers to buy new items by tapping into their insecurities, deepening the culture of consumerism

(Dauvergne, 2010). Low pricing and excessive advertising together amplify two unsustainable consumption habits: (1) buying more (unnecessary, trend-led) clothes, and (2) wearing

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acquired clothes less frequently. On top of it all, less than one percent of all clothing

worldwide is recycled after disposal; the majority ends up in landfills or burnt, thereby further harming the environment (Rosane, 2022; The World Bank, 2019).

Europe experienced a 40% increase in clothing purchases between 1996 and 2012, while the average lifetime of garment use decreased by 36% compared to a 2005 baseline due to the utilization of cheap fabrics (Niinimäki et al., 2020). Despite a drop in consumer

spending due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, clothing sales are still expected to increase in the upcoming years (Statista, 2022). Given the amount of production and waste, the fashion industry forms a key threat to the environment.

Policymakers are becoming increasingly aware of the negative consequences of overconsumption. On March 30, 2022, the European Commission (EC) proposed regulations that empower consumers for a green transition towards carbon neutrality by providing them with clear information designed to guide them in making sustainable decisions (EC, 2022a), potentially resulting in the conservation of natural and social resources through pro-

environmental behaviors (Tapia-Fonllem et al., 2017). One such behavior is frugal behavior, which involves the deliberate avoidance of unnecessary consumption of resources (Tapia- Fonllem et al., 2017). As such, the regulations of the EC oblige producers and sellers to report the durability and reparability of their products, including clothing, prior to the consumer’s purchase. The EC’s press release on sustainable and circular textiles describes how the

combination of a paradigm shift in the fast fashion industry and frugal consumer behavior will be the means to a ‘green’ end:

Consumers will benefit longer from high quality textiles, fast fashion should be out of fashion, and economically profitable re-use and repair services should be widely available. . . . In this way, the circular textiles ecosystem will be thriving, and be driven by sufficient capacities for innovative fibre-to-fibre recycling, while the

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incineration and landfilling of textiles has to be reduced to the minimum. (EC, 2022b, p. 2).

The EC expects this to contribute to the goal of Europe becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050, as established in the European Green Deal (EC, n.d.).

Brands, too, are becoming increasingly aware of the need for change in the fashion industry. To illustrate, G-Star Raw, a Dutch denim brand, is now trying to stimulate frugal behavior by telling consumers to “Wear your denim till the end” (G-Star Raw, 2022) (Figure 1). Another prime example comes from Patagonia, an outdoor clothing brand known for its environmental activism. On Black Friday 2011, Patagonia published a full-page

advertisement in the New York Times that told people “Don’t buy this jacket” (Figure 2) (Bloomberg, 2013; Patagonia, n.d.). Their goal was to address the problem of consumerism and motivate people to think twice before purchase (Patagonia, n.d.). Perversely, Patagonia saw their revenues grow by almost one-third the year after the campaign (Bloomberg, 2013).

In accordance, research shows that effectively communicating information meant to stimulate frugal behavior, in terms of purchasing less and re-using or repairing acquired goods, can be a challenge (Herziger et al., 2020; Xu et al., 2015). Some consumers may value information about the durability and reparability of clothing because they care deeply about Figure 1

G-Star Raw Campaign

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Figure 2

Patagonia Campaign

the environment, whereas others may disregard it because they are primarily motivated by self-interest or fail to consider the impact of their current actions on the future. The question, thus, remains: how can consumers be persuaded to buy fewer clothes, and/or to buy the clothes that last longer or can be easily repaired?

Communication tools frequently used by practitioners to stimulate specific types of behavior are message appeals. These provide textually framed information that taps into a consumer’s concerns, values, and/or personality traits (Bolderdijk et al., 2013; Herziger et al., 2020), which may navigate their selection and evaluation of behavior (Herziger et al., 2020).

In environmental contexts, biospheric appeals are especially common. They focus on the consideration of needs of all living things in the environment, including plants, trees, and animals (Herziger et al., 2020). An organization that regularly deploys biospheric appeals is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Figure 3 shows a WWF campaign that aimed to encourage Canadians to pick up trash at the shoreline by employing such an appeal (“Don’t let garbage replace wildlife”; WWF, 2017).

However, a biospheric appeal is not always effective in promoting pro-environmental behavior, i.e., behavior performed with the explicit intention to achieve an environmentally

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Figure 3

WWF’s Shoreline Cleanup Campaign

beneficial outcome (Gatersleben et al., 2019), as such behaviors often do not immediately benefit an individual and need collective effort for positive consequences to show in the future (Bolderdijk & Steg, 2015; Bruderer Enzler, 2015). To illustrate, Herziger et al. (2020) studied the effect of biospheric appeals in promoting minimalism, a pro-environmental lifestyle of living with less. Contrary to their expectations, the biospheric appeal had no effect on minimalism engagement (Herziger et al., 2020). An egoistic appeal that emphasized immediate personal enhancement or gain, however, did strengthen consumers’ motivation to curtail their consumption (Herziger et al., 2020).

The efficacy of various types of message appeals may potentially be influenced by the extent to which consumers consider the future outcomes of their current purchasing behaviors and the extent to which they take these outcomes into account when making purchase-related decisions, i.e., their consideration of future consequences (CFC) (Strathman et al., 1994).

Research has shown that people who consider future consequences generally express stronger intentions to engage in pro-environmental behavior (Bruderer Enzler, 2015; Joireman et al., 2001). Nevertheless, scientific evidence on the role of this consumer trait in the effectiveness of different message appeals on pro-environmental behavior so far remains ambiguous. While

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Kesenheimer and Greitemeyer (2020) showed that CFC correlates highly with one’s intention to donate to an environmental organization, but does not significantly affect behavior change, Sun et al. (2021) did find an effect of CFC on behavioral intention. Namely, their results showed appeals emphasizing the societal consequences of (not) complying with advocated behavior increased high-CFC participants’ intention to engage in activities that promote waste classification, while appeals that emphasize individual consequences increased low-CFC participants’ behavioral intention (Sun et al., 2021).

This mixed evidence indicates more research is needed on the circumstances under which message appeals effectively stimulate pro-environmental behavior, and on the role that CFC may play in this context. Since the motivation-behavior gap of consumers is especially strong in the clothing domain (Nielsen et al., 2022), the current study places two message appeal types in this context, while considering the possible role of CFC. It aims to offer implications for policymakers who attempt to empower different consumer types in playing a role in the green transition towards carbon neutrality. To do so, the study is guided by the following research question:

RQ: To what extent does type of message appeal (biospheric vs. economic) in persuasive messages on the consequences of clothing consumption influence consumers’ intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption, and what role does one’s level of consideration for future consequences play in this context?

Theoretical background Frugal clothing consumption

Awais et al. (2020) define frugal behavior as “a uni-dimensional consumer lifestyle trait characterized by the degree to which consumers are both restrained in acquiring and resourceful users of economic goods and services to achieve longer-term goals” (p. 8). The anti-consumption practice, thus, involves purchasing less and re-using and/or repairing goods

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the consumer already owns, to avoid unnecessary consumption of resources (Tapia-Fonllem et al., 2017). In the clothing domain, frugal behavior relates to (1) reducing the purchase of new clothing, and/or (2) prolonging product lifetime by engaging in behaviors such as care, repair, second-hand acquisition, and clothing exchange (Frick et al., 2021). This decreases the demand on material resources and, therefore, reduces environmental pressures.

Goldsmith et al. (2014) state three reasons for people to behave frugally, namely, they:

(1) are required to do so because of their economic circumstances, (2) are raised in a culture that emphasizes its desirability, and/or (3) have adopted certain personal values that are in line with the behavior. The first reason is inapplicable to most European consumers, as their clothing consumption – measured in number of owned items – has increased over the years (Niinimäki et al., 2020) and they hold the second highest private wealth value in the world (Statista, 2021). Secondly, Western culture does not emphasize the desirability of frugal behavior. If anything, consumption-based values thrive under its capitalist system (Passini, 2013) and are fueled by advertising practices that promote materialism as the only path to happiness (Dauvergne, 2010; Kasser et al., 2014; Passini, 2013). Personal values, then, remain the main motivation for European consumers to behave frugally. Multiple scholars argue that, in addition to self-enhancing (egoistic) values that promote the individual’s own interest, and self-transcendent (social-altruistic) values that promote goals outside the

individual (De Dominicis et al., 2017), there is another self-transcendent value orientation that emphasizes the intrinsic value of nature (De Groot & Steg, 2008, p. 333). This is referred to as the biospheric value orientation (BVO). As such, for individuals who tend to evaluate behaviors based on costs and benefits to the ecosystem, engaging in frugal clothing consumption may be relatively easy. In fact, pro-environmental and frugal behavior are influenced by similar cognitive and emotional processes (Suárez et al., 2020).

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For individuals who tend to evaluate behaviors based on costs and benefits for themselves, engaging in frugal clothing consumption may not be as straightforward. As for many pro-environmental behaviors, it requires a tradeoff between the satisfaction of

immediate desires and future benefits (Bolderdijk & Steg, 2015; Bruderer Enzler, 2015).

Consumption curtailment conflicts with the hedonic enjoyment consumers may experience from the mere act of purchasing new products (Frick et al., 2021; Wang et al., 2004). Some consumers even expect clothing consumption to increase their social status (Frick et al., 2021;

Kasser et al., 2014). This notion follows from the belief that one can increase well-being through acquiring goods, which correlates negatively with pro-environmental behavior (Frick et al., 2021; Hurst et al., 2013). On the other hand, frugal clothing consumption can also directly benefit the consumer. Namely, reducing clothing purchases or engaging in behaviors such as care and repair saves money (Awais et al., 2020), thereby lowering consumers’ work pressure and allowing them to spend the money saved on something else they value.

Biospheric and economic message appeals

Persuasive communication practitioners frequently employ message appeals to stimulate a desired behavior. Message appeals provide textually framed information that appeals to consumers’ concerns, values, and/or personality traits Bolderdijk et al., 2013;

Herziger et al., 2020). Like frames, they make certain aspects of a perceived reality more salient than others, to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation (Entman, 1993). Consequently, they may evoke specific unconscious structures in human cognition (schemata), that do or do not reflect the presented textual information, potentially leading to acceptance or rejection of the message (Entman, 1993).

The effectiveness of message appeals can be explained by self-perception theory, which describes how individuals strive to preserve a consistent, predictable, competent, and

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morally good sense of the self, due to which they act in line with their values (Bem, 1972).

Not complying with a promoted behavior that is in line with one’s values, or behaving in a way that contradicts them, may induce a feeling of psychological discomfort due to internal inconsistency, i.e., cognitive dissonance (Aronson, 1992). People generally attempt to reduce this feeling at any cost (Aronson, 1992). Therefore, for people who mainly hold biospheric values, i.e., behavior-guiding principles that are based on the perceived costs and benefits for the ecosystem and biosphere as a whole (De Groot & Steg, 2008), biospheric appeals that make salient the self-transcendent, environmental motives and consequences of a behavior may especially be effective (Bolderdijk et al., 2013a; De Dominicis et al., 2017; Steinhorst &

Klöckner, 2018).

Biospheric appeals may, however, alienate consumers who are unwilling to give up personal convenience or comfort to address an abstract problem like environmental

degradation because they do not sufficiently value such issues (Schultz & Zelezny, 2003) and will therefore not experience cognitive dissonance (Aronson, 1992). Zane et al. (2016) even found that consumers who willfully ignore information about environmental product

attributes sometimes go as far as to denigrate the consumers who do take this information into account in consumption decisions. Communication should consider the diversity of opinions and the interest of sub-groups within a population to be persuasive, especially in the case of pro-environmental behaviors (Roser-Renouf et al., 2015).

One way to get consumers who do not sufficiently value the environment to engage in frugal behavior might be to reframe the issue away from self-sacrifice towards something they do value. Since consumers are primarily motivated by self-interest (Bolderdijk & Steg, 2015; Steinhorst & Klöckner, 2018), it is assumed that reframing the consequences of a behavior towards individual financial benefits may be effective in stimulating frugal clothing consumption, such that they have a higher intention to engage in this behavior when it is

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portrayed as financially attractive. This reframing can be done through an economic message appeal that stresses the egoistic, monetary incentives of engaging in frugal clothing

consumption by focusing on its benefits for the individual (Bolderdijk et al., 2013b;

Bolderdijk & Steg, 2015). Economic appeals potentially elicit a cost-benefit type of reasoning in which consumers evaluate a certain behavior in terms of the financial payment that it brings about. It is argued that they will only engage in the behavior if its benefits balance out the costs (Van den Broek et al., 2017).

Even though it is assumed that biospheric appeals can effectively stimulate some consumers to engage in frugal clothing consumption, an economic appeal to self-interest appeals to the lowest common denominator as satisfying financial needs is in the interest of all consumers, independent of their individual concerns (Herziger et al., 2020; Schultz &

Zelezny, 2003). This notion was supported by three studies of De Dominicis et al. (2017), who indicate that consumers with egoistic, self-enhancing values act pro-environmentally when a behavior results in a personal benefit, whereas consumers with self-transcendent biospheric values act pro-environmentally when a behavior results in an environmental or personal benefit. Hence, I posit:

H1: Exposure to a persuasive message promoting frugal clothing consumption based on an economic appeal will lead to higher intentions to engage in frugal clothing consumption than exposure to such a message based on a biospheric appeal.

Consideration of future consequences

One personality trait that is often studied in pro-environmental research and may be primed by message appeals (Herziger et al., 2020), is consideration of future consequences (CFC). This cognitive mindset is defined as “the extent to which individuals consider the potential distant outcomes of their current behaviors and the extent to which they are influenced by these potential outcomes” (Strathman et al., 1994, p. 743). CFC involves an

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intrapersonal struggle between one set of immediate outcomes and one set future outcomes of a current behavioral decision. Individuals low on CFC generally act in accordance with their immediate needs and concerns, whereas behavior of individuals with high CFC is often guided by longer-term outcomes (Orbell & Kyriakaki, 2008). Research has shown the latter group to be more likely to engage in pro-environmental behaviors (Bruderer Enzler, 2015;

Joireman et al., 2001; Sun et al., 2021), which typically involve temporal conflicts between short- and long-term interests due to uncertain immediate costs and certain delayed benefits (Bruderer Enzler, 2015; Orbell & Kyriakaki, 2008). If a consumer disregards future outcomes of a specific behavior and focuses primarily on immediate consequences, the odds of them engaging in that behavior will depend on their evaluation of short-term psychological costs, loss of pleasure, and inconvenience that they perceive to result from it (Orbell & Kyriakaki, 2008). To illustrate – frugal clothing consumption potentially helps protect the environment in the long term and results in lower personal costs (Herziger et al., 2020), while on the flip side, it may have negative short-term consequences for people low on CFC because they would lose the immediate hedonic enjoyment they experience while purchasing clothes and may fear the loss of social status (Frick et al., 2021; Wang et al., 2004). It is, therefore, assumed that:

H2: Consumers with higher levels of CFC will have a higher intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption than consumers with lower levels of CFC.

In health communication research, CFC has been studied in combination with

temporal framing, which emphasizes the short- or long-term effects of behaviors (Zhao et al., 2015). Orbell and Kyriakaki (2008) found a moderation effect of CFC, such that emphasizing the immediate positive outcomes of sunscreen use was more persuasive for low-CFC

participants, whereas emphasizing the future positive outcomes was more effective for those high in CFC. In accordance, Zhao et al. (2015) found long-term framing in cigarette health warnings to be more effective for at-risk nonsmokers with high CFC levels, whereas short-

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term framing was more effective for those low in CFC. Finally, Orbell and Hagger (2006) found similar patterns in the context of taking part in a Type 2 diabetes screening program.

Parallels can be drawn between temporal framing and the appeals used in the current study: biospheric appeals focus on delayed, long-term outcomes of a behavior, whereas economic appeals focus on immediate outcomes. Therefore, it is expected that the former will especially be effective for consumers with high CFC levels, whereas the latter will be more effective for consumers with low CFC levels. The following hypothesis was constructed:

H3: Consumers’ CFC will affect the relationship between type of appeal used in the

persuasive message promoting frugal clothing consumption and their intention to engage in this behavior in such a way that a) for consumers with higher CFC, exposure to a persuasive message based on a biospheric appeal will result in a higher intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption than exposure to such a message based on an economic appeal, whereas b) for consumers with lower CFC, exposure to a persuasive message based on an economic appeal will result in a higher intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption than exposure to such a message based on a biospheric appeal.

All hypotheses are visualized in the conceptual model below (Figure 4).

Figure 4

Conceptual Model

Message appeal - Biospheric - Economic

Consideration of future consequences (CFC) - Higher

- Lower

Intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption (IFCC) H3

H1

H2

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Method Research design

The current study employs a 2 (Message appeal: biospheric vs. economic) × 2 (CFC:

higher vs. lower) factorial between-subjects design, with the first independent factor (Message appeal) being fully experimental, and the second factor (CFC) being a quasi-experimental moderator. The model contains one dependent variable, Intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption (IFCC). An experimental research method allows for the manipulation of the independent variable while keeping other factors constant, so a cause-and-effect relationship can be established (Gravetter & Forzano, 2014).

Sample

Since CFC is a quasi-experimental personality trait, a sufficient number of participants needed to be recruited from both the low and the high end of the spectrum. Hofstede (2011) argued that consumers’ temporal orientations, such as CFC, are influenced by culture. The long-term orientation dimension (LTO) of his cultural dimensions theory describes how every society has to maintain some links with its past while dealing with current and future

challenges (Hofstede Insights, 2022). Similar to CFC, LTO distinguishes between long-term orientations that foster virtues oriented towards future rewards, and short-term orientations that foster virtues oriented to the present and past (Hofstede, 2011). Hence, cross-national research was conducted. In Europe, short-term orientations can be found in normative (e.g.) Scandinavian countries such as Finland and Denmark, which score 38 and 35 on the LTO scale (ranging from 1 to 100) respectively (Hofstede Insights, 2022). It can, therefore, be expected that many residents of these countries score relatively low on CFC. Long-term orientations (related to high CFC) are more frequent in pragmatic countries such as The Netherlands (67) and, especially, Belgium (82) (Hofstede Insights, 2022). Purposive sampling was, therefore, used to reach participants in Belgium, Finland, and Denmark. Dutch

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participants were recruited through convenience sampling on social media. Additionally, participants were recruited through survey exchange platforms, by email through contacts from Belgian, Danish, and Finnish universities, and by handing out QR codes to the

questionnaire on a Dutch university campus. All consumers above the age of 18 were eligible to participate.

In total, 356 individuals started the questionnaire, 230 of which completed it. Given that the completion time was supposed to take between 5 to 10 minutes, nine respondents that finished the questionnaire in less than two minutes were removed from the dataset, to increase the internal validity of the study. In total, data of 221 participants was included in analyses (N

= 221). Participants’ ages varied between 19 and 59 (M = 26.34, SD = 7.74). Of the

respondents, 73.3% was female, 24% was male, 1.4% identified themselves as non-binary and 1.4% preferred not to say. Out of the 35 different nationalities in the sample, the most

common were Dutch (52%), German (7.2%), Danish (5%) Belgian (4.1%), and Finnish (3.2%). Such as the Netherlands and Belgium, Germany scores high on the LTO scale (83;

Hofstede Insights, 2022). One hundred fourteen participants were exposed to the biospheric appeal (51.6%), and 107 to the economic appeal (48.4%).

Procedure

To answer the research question, a questionnaire containing experimental stimuli was developed in Qualtrics. Participants were recruited between April 28 and May 13, 2022. First, participants were presented with the informed consent form, which contained information on the topic and duration of the study, the preservation of anonymity, and the right to withdraw.

After agreement, participants were exposed to questions measuring CFC. This variable, as well as the covariates value orientation and environmental concern, was measured prior to exposure to one of the message appeals to make sure scores were not influenced by the stimuli. Next, participants were randomly exposed to either a biospheric or economic version

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of the stimulus depicting a poster from the EC, after which their IFCC was measured. Finally, participants filled in a manipulation check and demographic questions on gender, age, and nationality. The questionnaire ended with a short debriefing about the aim of the research by pointing participants to the EC’s proposal on durability and reparability, and about the fictional stimuli that were created for research purposes.

Stimuli

In line with the EC proposal, the stimuli in the current experiment showed public information posters that provide information on the durability and reparability of clothing (Appendix A, Figure 5 and 6). Prior to the launch of the online questionnaire, four biospheric and four economic appeals were pre-tested on the extent to which they were oriented towards nature and environmental consequences (biospheric) and money and personal consequences (economic). Items were measured on a Likert scale that ranged from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much). A paired samples t-test showed that participants perceived the economic appeals to be more oriented towards money and personal consequences (M = 4.53, SD = .42) than the biospheric appeals (M = 2.75, SD = 1.04), t(7) = -4.03, p = .005. The biospheric appeals were perceived to be more oriented towards nature and environmental consequences (M = 4.70, SD

= .43) than the economic appeals (M = 2.77, SD = 1.13), t(7) = 4.19, p = .004. There were no statistically significant differences among the economic appeals (i.e., none of them were perceived as more economic than others), F(6, 1) = 2.50, p = .450, nor among the biospheric appeals, F(4, 3) = 5.46, p = .316. Therefore, the two appeals with the most pronounced difference between them were chosen, t(7) = 1.53, p = .170.

The final economic appeal tapped into economic values by asking participants whether they care about their finances and emphasizing financial incentives of buying clothes with high durability and high reparability scores, while the biospheric appeal tapped into biospheric values by asking participants whether they care about the environment and

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emphasizing environmental benefits of this behavior. Both message appeals employed gain frames that emphasize the benefits of taking action instead of the costs of failing to take action (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981). Since people feel gains less keenly than losses and are less likely to take risks to be ensured of a gain than to avoid a loss (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981), it is expected that using gain frames prevents framing from becoming the determining factor of the results. All other elements in the stimuli, i.e.., the background image, the EC logo, the high durability and reparability scores, the call to action (“Choose consciously”), and the fictional link to the website, were kept constant. A minimum exposure time of 15 seconds was added so that participants were obligated to take time to read the message appeals. To measure whether participants perceived the biospheric and economic appeal as such, a question was included at the end of the questionnaire.

Measures

Consideration of future consequences

The independent moderator variable is measured using the consideration of future consequences scale created by Strathman et al. (1994). It includes twelve statements that measure an individual’s concern related to the immediate and future consequences of their behavior by asking them to what extent they feel the statement is characteristic of them (e.g.:

“I am willing to sacrifice my immediate happiness or well-being in order to achieve future outcomes”, “My convenience is a big factor in the decisions I make or the actions I take”).

CFC was measured on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (very uncharacteristic) to 5 (very characteristic). Seven items concerning immediate consequences were reverse coded so that a higher score indicates a higher CFC. A principal axis factor analysis with direct oblimin rotation showed that three factors with an Eigenvalue above 1 could be extracted from the items. However, all 12 items loaded onto the first factor, which explains 38.4% of the

variance (Eigenvalue = 4.60). Two items with factor loadings below .40 were excluded from

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the reliability analysis. The remaining items combined formed a reliable scale (Cronbach’s α

= .86). Thus, the CFC variable was computed using 10 items (M = 3.61, SD = .69).

Value orientation

According to De Dominicis et al. (2017), values are important life principles and goals that drive a person’s actions. Based on previous studies, pre-existing values were expected to potentially affect the relationship between message appeals and IFCC (Bolderdijk et al., 2013a; De Dominicis et al., 2017; Van den Broek et al., 2017). Value orientation was,

therefore, included in the study as a covariate, and measured on a scale by De Groot and Steg (2008). The original measurement requests participants to indicate to what extent they stick to different biospheric, egoistic, and altruistic values as guiding principles in their lives. Items of the altruistic dimension were removed since the current study aims to tap into biospheric and egoistic values. The final scale includes eight items, measured on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (not at all important) to 5 (extremely important), so that a higher score indicates a higher importance.

A principal axis factor analysis, indeed, indicated two factors to be extruded. The first factor had an Eigenvalue of 3.42, accounting for 42.8% of the variance. These four items (respecting the earth, unity with nature, protecting the environment, preventing pollution) were computed into the Biospheric Value Orientation variable (BVO; M = 3.70, SD = .93), which was shown to have a high reliability (Cronbach’s α = .92). The Eigenvalue of the second factor was 2.20, explaining 27.5% of the variance. These four items (social power, wealth, influence, authority) were computed into a second variable, namely Egoistic Value Orientation (EVO; M = 2.68, SD = .76; Cronbach’s α = .75).

Environmental concern

Since multiple studies have found a relationship between environmental concern and intention to engage in pro-environmental behavior (Bruderer Enzler, 2015; Gatersleben et al.,

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2002; Schultz, 2001), items measuring this variable were also included in the questionnaire, as a covariate. Environmental concern is described as “a general attitude, which centers on the cognitive and affective evaluation of the object environmental protection” (Bamberg, 2003, p.

21). It is measured with the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) scale by Dunlap et al.

(2000), which originally includes 15 statements on the relationship between humans and the environment. Ntanos et al. (2019) conclude that environmental concern has five dimensions:

anti-anthropocentrism, anti-exceptionalism, limits to growth, fragility of nature’s balance, and possibility of an eco-crisis. Items of the scale that measure the latter three dimensions were considered most relevant to the study and therefore included in the questionnaire, resulting in a scale with nine statements (e.g.: “We are approaching the limit of the number of people the earth can support”, “The earth is like a spaceship with very limited room and resources”).

Items were measured on a five-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Three negatively formulated items were reverse coded prior to analysis, so that a higher score indicated a higher environmental concern. As expected, principal axis factor analysis with direct oblimin rotation revealed three dimensions to underlie the NEP scale, which – taken together – explained 64.1% of the variance. One item with a factor loading well below .40 was removed prior to variable construction (“The earth has plenty of natural resources if we just learn how to develop them”). The eight remaining items were computed into the Environmental Concern variable, which was considered reliable (Cronbach’s α = .79, M = 3.94, SD = .65).

Score perception

To check whether low durability and low reparability scores were perceived equally negative in both conditions, a semantic differential scale with five items (e.g., harmless – harmful, wrong – right) measured whether the participants rate them as positive or negative.

Three items were recoded so that a higher score indicates a negative perception. Factor

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analysis showed that all five items loaded on one factor (Eigenvalue = 3.80) explaining 76%

of the variance. The items were computed into the Score Perception variable (M = 4.11, SD = .91), which was shown to be highly reliable (Cronbach’s α = .92).

Intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption

The dependent variable, IFCC, was measured in two different ways: with a pre- existing scale (Lastovicka et al., 1999) and an a/b scenario (Carrico et al., 2018). This data- analysis triangulation, i.e., the combination of two or more analytical methods within the same study, increases the confidence in and robustness of research data (Thurmond, 2001).

First, the frugal behavior scale by Lastovicka et al. (1999) was adapted to the context of clothing consumption. This nominal variable is measured with eight items on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (extremely disagree) to 5 (extremely agree), so that a higher score indicated a higher intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption. A factor analysis using principal axis factoring with a direct oblimin rotation showed that two factors were extracted.

The first factor (Eigenvalue = 2.92) included items that concern individual behavior (e.g., “I am willing to wait to purchase clothes I want so I can save money”), explaining 36.5% of the variance, whereas items that concern general statements (e.g., “If you take good care of your clothes, you will definitely save money in the long run”), loaded onto the second factor, which explained only 13.5% of the variance (Eigenvalue = 1.08). However, the scale turned out most reliable when including all eight items (Cronbach’s α = .74). Therefore, the IFCC1 variable was constructed with all items (M = 4.04, SD = .53). All numerical measures are included in Appendix B, Table 1.

Secondly, mimicking the approach of Carrico et al. (2018), participants were asked to imagine themselves in a situation in which they ripped their jeans and received €30 to resolve the problem. They were given the choice to (1) buy a new pair of jeans with a low durability and a low reparability score, or (2) spend €15 to get their jeans repaired and save the other

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half. This categorical measure (hereafter: IFCC2) indicates specifically to what extent people would engage in frugal clothing consumption by having them weigh up ecological and

economic factors and make a decision.

To measure if IFCC1 and IFCC2 correlate, a point biserial correlation coefficient was calculated. It allows for the analysis of a link between a continuous variable (IFCC1) and a dichotomous variable (IFCC2), where former may underlie the latter (Demirtas & Hedeker, 2016). Point biserial correlations are special cases of Pearson’s product moment correlation, but mathematically equivalent to it (IBM, 2020). The results showed a significant correlation between the two variables, rpb = .283, p < .001. This indicates a weak, but positive effect between IFCC1 and IFCC2, such that a higher intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption as measured on a scale is associated with a higher likelihood of opting for the frugal option in the a/b scenario.

Results Randomization check

Randomization checks were carried out to explore whether the participants were evenly distributed over the conditions on age, gender, and nationality. An independent samples t-test revealed that the mean age in the biospheric condition (M = 26.18, SD = 7.62) did not significantly differ from the mean age in the economic condition (M = 26.51, SD = 7.91); t(219) = -.32, p = .752. Participants were, thus, equally divided over the conditions based on their age. Pearson chi-square tests indicated that the randomization was also successful in terms of gender (𝜒2(3) = 2.83,

p

= .419), and nationality (𝜒2(34) = 33.94, p = .470). Therefore, no demographic variables were included as covariates in further analyses.

To assess whether participants’ BVO, EVO, environmental concern, and score

perception were comparable over the conditions of the independent variable, four independent samples t-tests were conducted. Participants’ BVO in the biospheric condition (M = 3.79, SD

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= .94) did not significantly differ from participants in the economic condition (M = 3.62, SD = .91), t(219) = 1.33, p = .184, but the difference between participants’ EVO in the biospheric condition (M = 2.78, SD = .76) and the economic condition (M = 2.58, SD = .75) bordered on the significance level of .05, t(219) = 1.91, p = .057. To eliminate the possibility of EVO influencing the results of the main analyses, it was included as a covariate in the main analyses.

As for environmental concern, analysis showed that participants’ scores on this

variable in the biospheric condition (M = 3.98, SD = .62) were not significantly different from participants in the economic condition (M = 3.90, SD = .69), t(218) = .90, p = .369. Between- group differences in score perception also remained insignificant: participants in the

biospheric condition (M = 4.13, SD = .96) did not perceive low reparability and durability scores more negatively than participants in the economic condition (M = 4.07, SD = .86), t(219) = .477, p = .634. Consequently, these two variables were not controlled for in the main analyses.

Manipulation check

To measure if the manipulation of the experimental stimuli was successful, i.e., if the biospheric and economic appeals were perceived as such, participants were asked on a single- item scale whether the poster they saw included information on the environmental

consequences of clothing consumption or the financial consequences of clothing consumption. Out of the participants exposed to the biospheric appeal, 93.9% correctly perceived the message on the poster to concern the environmental consequences of clothing consumption. Of the participants exposed to the economic appeal, 66.4% correctly perceived the message to concern the financial consequences of clothing consumption. A Pearson chi- square test revealed that there was a significant difference between the two groups (𝜒2(1) = 87.63, p < .001), indicating that the manipulation was successful.

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Main analyses

As the dependent variable (IFCC) was measured in two ways, two models were tested – one using a linear regression and the other a logistic regression analysis. Both models included Message appeal type as the independent variable, CFC as a moderator, and EVO as a covariate. Because CFC is continuous, it was computed as a mean-centered variable prior to analyses. Mean-centering ensures that the regression coefficients of the main effects can be directly interpreted in terms of the original variables (Dawson, 2014).

To test the model for IFCC1, a continuous measure, a linear regression analysis was conducted (Model 1). A significant regression equation was found (F(4, 216) = 20.48, p <

.001, R2 = .52), explaining 52.4% of the variance in IFCC1. The analysis shows that Message appeal type did not significantly predict consumers’ intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption, b = -.01, t = -.16, p = .873, 95% CI [-.13, .11]. H1, which assumes that

consumers exposed to an economic appeal would have a higher IFCC compared to consumers exposed to a biospheric appeal, was, therefore, rejected.

The main effect of CFC on IFCC1, however, was significant, b = .32, t = 5.21, p <

.001, 95% CI [.20, .45]. For every one-point increase in CFC, one’s IFCC1 increases by .32, indicating that the more people tend to consider the future consequences of their current actions, the more likely they are to engage in frugal clothing consumption. H2, which

predicted that consumers with higher levels of CFC will have a higher intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption compared to consumers with lower levels of CFC, was accepted.

Interestingly, EVO, included as a covariate, was also found to significantly predict IFCC1, b

= -.10, t = -2.34, p = .020, 95% CI [-.18, -.02]. EVO negatively influences one’s IFCC, such that every one-point increase in EVO leads to a decrease of .10 in IFCC1. This indicates that people who hold more egoistic values are less likely to engage in frugal clothing

consumption.

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Finally, no significant interaction effect between Message appeal type and CFC was found, b = .09, t = 1.03, p = .306, 95% CI [-.84, .27]. H3, which predicted that exposure to a persuasive message based on a biospheric appeal (compared to an economic appeal) would result in a higher intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption for consumers with higher CFC, while economic appeals (compared to biospheric appeals) would result in a higher intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption for consumers with lower CFC, was rejected accordingly. The results of both models are summarized in Figure 7 and Table 2.

A logistic regression analysis was performed to ascertain the effects of Message appeal type, CFC, and EVO on IFCC2, i.e., the likelihood that consumers will engage in frugal clothing consumption (repair clothes and save money) or in fast fashion consumption (buy jeans with low durability and reparability scores) (Model 2). As expected because of the established correlation between IFCC1 and IFCC2, Model 2 shows similar results. The overall model was statistically significant, X2(4, N = 221) = 26.03, p < .001. It explained Figure 7

Tested Models

Note. * p < .01, **p < .001 Message appeal - Biospheric - Economic

Consideration of future consequences (CFC) - Higher

- Lower

Intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption (IFCC) b = -.01

OR = .87 b = .09

OR = .73

b = .32**

OR = 2.56*

b = -.10*

OR = .46*

Egoistic value orientation (EVO) - Higher

- Lower

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Table 2

Regression Models to Predict IFCC

IFCC

Model 1 (b) Model 2 (OR)

Constant 4.30*** 33.42***

Message appeal -.01 .87

CFC .32*** 2.56**

Message appeal * CFC .09 .73

EVO -.10* .46**

Note. N = 221. CFC = consideration of future consequences. EVO = egoistic value orientation. Message appeal: 0 = economic, 1 = biospheric.

* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < 0.001.

16.6% (Nagelkerke R2) of the variance in IFCC2 and correctly classified 76.9% of the cases.

In line with the results of the linear regression analysis for IFCC1, Message appeal type did not significantly predict the odds of consumers to engage in frugal clothing consumption (OR

= .87, p = .689, 95% CI [.43, 1.74]).

Just as in Model 1, CFC did significantly predict IFCC2 (OR = 2.56, p = .008, 95% CI [1.28, 5.12]). For every one-point increase in CFC, the likelihood of a consumer engaging in frugal clothing consumption increases 2.56 times, indicating that consumers with higher CFC levels are more likely to engage in frugal clothing consumption. EVO also significantly predicted IFCC2 (OR = .46, p = .001, 95% CI [.29; .73]), such that for every one-point increase in EVO (i.e., the more one holds egoistic values), consumers are .46 times as likely to engage in frugal clothing consumption.

Finally, no significant interaction effect between Message appeal type and CFC was found (OR = .73, p = .521, 95% CI [.28, 1.92]). In summary and in line with the results of both Model 1 and Model 2, H2 was accepted, while H1 and H3 were both rejected.

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Conclusion and discussion

This study investigated the effectiveness of two message appeals, biospheric and economic, to promote frugal clothing consumption. Consideration of future consequences was studied as a possible factor affecting both the intention to engage in frugal clothing

consumption, as well as the relationship between the two appeal types and consumers’

intention to engage in this behavior. Overall, the results do not provide evidence of the efficacy of one type of message appeal over the other.

Regarding the main effect of message appeals on consumers’ IFCC, no significant difference between biospheric and economic appeals was found. This contrasts the

expectation that an economic appeal would be more effective in increasing IFCC because satisfying financial needs is in all consumers’ interest (Herziger et al., 2020; Schultz &

Zelezny, 2003), while a biospheric appeal would only appeal to those who value the environment (Bolderdijk et al., 2013a; De Dominicis et al., 2017; Steinhorst & Klöckner, 2017). An explanation for this insignificant effect is that, even though the manipulation of appeal type was statistically successful, the economic appeal did not work as intended for over one third of the participants exposed to it. Possibly, the visuals in the stimuli were more powerful than the verbal claim, due to which participants in this condition may have

perceived the overall poster to appeal to environmental consequences, and no main effect was found. Another possible explanation is that participants in the economic condition were primed to think about the environmental benefits of frugal clothing consumption instead of personal gain due to questions on environmental concern that were asked prior to exposure to the stimuli (Herr, 1989). This may also explain why there was no significant moderation effect of CFC on the relationship between message appeal type and IFCC, as was predicted by the third hypothesis. It is suggested for future research to conduct a pre-test that measures whether the stimuli are strong enough to produce substantial effects. Since the insignificant

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findings imply that it does not matter whether the message appeal is biospheric or economic, policymakers are recommended not to focus on this when stimulating frugal clothing

consumption through persuasive communication.

A crucial finding is that, as expected, CFC significantly and strongly predicted consumers’ IFCC, such that a higher CFC evoked a higher intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption. This contributes to existing literature on CFC that showed this consumer characteristic to positively predict different types of pro-environmental behavior, such as donating money to an environmental organization (Arnocky et al., 2014), saving energy (Bruderer Enzler, 2015), and promoting waste classification (Sun et al., 2021), all of which – like frugal clothing consumption – involve an intrapersonal trade-off between short- term and long-term interests (Bruderer Enzler, 2015). The current study also shows

consumers’ EVO to significantly predict IFCC, such that the more egoistic values consumers hold, the less likely they are to engage in frugal clothing consumption. This finding is in line with a study of Arnocky et al. (2014), in which egoistic values significantly predicted pro- environmental behavior motivation in the same direction. These results imply that

policymakers should focus on influencing these consumer characteristics, i.e., increasing CFC and decreasing EVO, when trying to stimulate frugal clothing consumption. Future research should study persuasive techniques that contribute to this. Finally, awareness should be raised of the benefits of engaging in frugal clothing consumption, also for consumers who tend to think short-term and hold egoistic values.

Due to data-analysis triangulation, the results of this study are robust. However, as with any experimental study, it has a set of limitations. First, participants were obligated to view the poster stimuli for at least 15 seconds, to increase the study’s internal validity. This, however, induces an artificial situation of high involvement, which does not stimulate natural advertisement processing and negatively influences the study’s external validity. Future

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research should allow participants to view the message freely. Furthermore, the internal validity of the study may be low due to two reasons. Firstly, a great majority of participants were not native speakers of English, and several indicated some English words used in the questionnaire were too difficult to understand. This is especially problematic because English language proficiency was not controlled for. Secondly, questionnaires posted on survey exchange platforms are generally filled out very fast, without paying much attention. Despite participants who completed the study in under two minutes being removed from the dataset, this should still be considered while interpreting the results and may explain the lack of significant differences between the conditions. It is recommended for future studies to (1) offer participants the questionnaire in their native language, and (2) include an attention check in the questionnaire.

In conclusion, this study shows that the effect of message appeals on intention to engage in frugal clothing consumption remains debatable, as one message appeal was not favored over the other. Further research is needed to investigate how to effectively use these persuasive tools to stimulate this specific type of pro-environmental behavior. Despite the lack of some expected effects, this study provides valuable practical insights on the

importance of levels of consideration of future consequences and egoistic value orientations when stimulating consumers to consume clothes more frugally. Policymakers should focus on these consumer characteristics, rather than message appeal types, when trying to stimulate frugal clothing consumption.

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Appendix A Experimental Stimuli Figure 5

Economic Appeal

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Figure 6

Biospheric Appeal

Figure

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