“Buy green”

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Graduate School of Communication Master’s programme Communication Science

Master’s Thesis

“Buy green” or “buy less”:

The effect of green marketing and green demarketing on consumer responses to fashion advertising

Author: Asja Šerić (12561096) February 3, 2022

Supervisor: Dr. Anna Fenko Word count: 8180*

*Permission to use 10% rule granted by supervisor.

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GREEN MARKETING AND GREEN DEMARKETING 1

Abstract

As a response to the climate crisis and increasing environmental concern, green

demarketing, a relatively new strategy that encourages consumers to buy less for the sake of the environment, was recently developed (“buy less”). This strategy is understudied, especially in fashion, which is largely responsible for damaging the environment, as well as experimentally compared to green marketing, a strategy that promotes the consumption of sustainable brands (“buy green”). This study aimed to fill this research gap by examining the effect of green demarketing compared to green marketing on ad attitude, brand attitude and purchase intention in the context of fashion. Additionally, environmental reputation of the brand as a moderator and environmental concern inferences as a mediator were studied. An online experiment (N = 210) did not reveal a significant difference between each marketing strategy type on consumer responses. However, an indirect effect was revealed between green marketing and control conditions on ad attitude, brand attitude, and purchase intention through environmental concern inferences. Green marketing leads to more genuine environmental concern inferences compared to control, which in turn leads to more positive consumer responses. Next, the study revealed that a positive environmental reputation of the brands leads to more positive ad and brand attitude.

Furthermore, a mediation was found between environmental reputation and all three dependent variables through environmental concern inferences. No hypothesised interaction effect was found between marketing strategy and environmental reputation on consumer responses.

Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. As this study is one of the first to examine this effect within a fashion context, it contributes to the green demarketing research and

persuasive communication literature in general.

Keywords: green marketing, green demarketing, environmental reputation, environmental concern inferences, consumer responses, attitudes

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Introduction

“Don’t buy this jacket” was the slogan of Patagonia’s Black Friday campaign in 2011.

On the biggest shopping day of the year in the US, Patagonia placed an ad in The New York Times telling consumers not to buy the jacket in the ad, while all other retailers tried to convince consumers to buy as much as they could by offering huge discounts. With this message, the eco- friendly outdoor apparel brand attempted to address the issue of overconsumption and encourage the consumers to do the same. Patagonia is one of the few clothing brands that stays true to what its mission states: "We're in business to save our home planet" (Patagonia’s Mission Statement, 2021). With this campaign, Patagonia asked consumers to consider the environmental impact their consumption practices have on the planet. Additionally, they asked the consumers to take part in their Common Threads Initiative, encouraging people to “buy only what they need, repair what breaks and reuse or recycle the rest” (Allchin, 2013). In a society where consumption has become an important part of people's everyday lives, the campaign received much attention, some calling it hypocrisy, considering Patagonia is still a for-profit company, others calling it a great PR stunt. In any case, Patagonia's radical message resonated with conscious consumers, inspired brand loyalty, and made the brand stand out in the crowd. The marketing strategy that Patagonia used in this case, is what Armstrong Soule and Reich (2015) named green

demarketing.

In 2021, ten years after this controversial campaign launched, the fashion industry is still one of the largest polluters in the world, and it is continuing to destroy the environment as the industry is growing (Charpail, 2017). The production of clothes, footwear, and textiles is not only responsible for water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and an increase in the quantity of waste that end up in landfills, but it is also contributing to gender inequality and affecting other

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human rights issues (Environmental Sustainability in the Fashion Industry, 2021; Jacometti, 2019; Kozlowski et al., 2012; Ro, 2020; The impact of textile production and waste on the environment (infographic), 2021).

Globalisation and the shift towards clothing production in developing countries

(Jacometti, 2019) have helped the fashion industry to produce cheap clothing very fast, hence the name "fast fashion". Moreover, due to the extremely low prices, the global consumption of clothing has increased in volume (Kozlowski et al., 2012). Furthermore, the consumers often consider these pieces of clothing as easily disposable, as the clothing items are only trendy for a short amount of time (Claudio, 2007; Kozlowski et al., 2012). These factors have led the fashion industry to become the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, as well as the producer of 10% of global carbon emissions (Environmental Sustainability in the Fashion Industry, 2021; McFall-Johnson, 2020). Finally, textiles are also responsible for 9% of annual microplastics that end up in the ocean (Putting the brakes on fast fashion, 2021).

To address the issues described above and to respond to increasing consumer environmental concern, some fashion brands have been taking steps to reduce their environmental impact (Richards, 2019), for example, by using different marketing and

communication techniques to promote their sustainable practices. Traditionally, marketing and advertising serve to encourage purchasing behaviour. However, we have seen a surge in sustainable environmental marketing practices, such as “green” or “environmental marketing”

(Reich & Armstrong Soule, 2016), which serves to promote the consumption of sustainable brands ("buy green"). This idea is in line with the traditional idea of marketing while addressing the increasing environmental concern by promoting the consumption of items that are produced in an environmentally friendly way. On the other hand, green demarketing has emerged; a

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strategy which embodies the truly “green” idea by encouraging consumers to consume less (“buy less”) through “the purchase of focal brands using an environmental appeal” (Reich &

Armstrong Soule, 2016, p. 441). With this strategy, the brands encourage consumers to reduce their environmental impact by reducing their general consumption of items that end up in a landfill and instead buy their more durable products. The marketing strategy of promoting reduced consumption may be perceived as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, benefitting the brand long-term (Armstrong Soule & Reich, 2015).

This study will compare the effect of a green marketing strategy and a green demarketing strategy on consumer responses. Consumer responses to sustainable marketing strategies are important to study because consumers' pro-environmental behaviour contributes to sustainable development of the environment (Chung, 2020). Moreover, since fast fashion has such a significant negative effect on the environment and more fashion brands are also starting to acknowledge their role in participating in long-term sustainable practices, it is crucial to study different sustainable marketing strategies to help brands stay relevant in the field and to help the planet at the same time. Reducing consumption is not a widely accepted practice, especially among for-profit companies. Why would a for-profit company encourage consumers to buy less?

However, several reasons exist why they may want to use green demarketing techniques, the main one being building a sustainable brand image (Armstrong Soule & Reich, 2015). Moreover, consumers find value in supporting reduced consumption (Sekhon & Armstrong Soule, 2020).

Therefore, the results of this master thesis study could help marketing professionals discover the benefits of a green demarketing strategy on consumer responses, depending on the brand's environmental reputation. Moreover, marketing professionals encouraging consumers to reduce their consumption would be the first step in creating a greener society.

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Moreover, from a scientific perspective, this topic is essential because whilst most studies are focusing exclusively on exploring the correlations between a green marketing strategy and consumer responses within different contexts (e.g., Chung, 2020; Gelderman et al., 2021;

Kumar, 2016; Nguyen et al., 2019), only a handful conduct original experimental studies

comparing the green marketing strategy with green demarketing showing a direct causal effect of either strategy on consumer responses (Reich & Armstrong Soule, 2016; Vilasanti da Luz et al., 2020; Zhang et al., 2021). Further, these studies seem to study the effect of green marketing vs.

green demarketing of low involvement products, such as trash bags or institutional advertising (Reich & Armstrong Soule, 2016) and restaurants (Zhang et al., 2021). Considering the fashion industry is one of the most detrimental industries responsible for damaging the environment (Charpail, 2017; Jacometti, 2019; Putting the brakes on fast fashion, 2021; The impact of textile production and waste on the environment (infographic), 2021), it would be especially interesting to explore the effects of both sustainable marketing strategies, focusing specifically on a fashion brand, as only a few have been conducted within a fashion context so far (Kim et al., 2018;

Vilasanti da Luz et al., 2020).

Since previous research has primarily focused on the sole effect of a green marketing strategy on consumer responses, not focusing enough on comparing the effectiveness of green marketing versus green demarketing, and because this comparison is especially scarce in the fashion context, this master thesis aims to fill this research gap by conducting an original experimental study comparing a green marketing and green demarketing strategy on consumer responses, while considering the environmental reputation of the brand. The following research question will be addressed:

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RQ: To what extent does green marketing ("buy green") improve consumers' responses (attitude towards the ad, attitude towards the brand, and purchase intention) about a sustainable brand compared to green demarketing ("buy less") and to what extent does this effect differ for brands with a more positive environmental reputation?

Theoretical framework Green marketing vs. green demarketing

Environmental concerns were first introduced in marketing more than 40 years ago, however only in recent years has academic research in this field flourished (Kumar, 2016), especially as environmental sustainability-related issues are gaining resonance on the mainstream political agenda (Gordon et al., 2011), as well as many companies’ strategic agenda (Gelderman et al., 2021). Discussions on how to tackle climate change and protect the environment while trying to sustain the economy must include marketing communication because of its persuasive ability to sway consumer behaviour (Gordon et al., 2011), including behaviours such as

recycling, reusing, reducing, saving energy, buying ecologically friendly products and so on.

Green marketing is one such environmental management practice, aimed at reducing or controlling the negative impacts on the environment (González-Benito & González-Benito, 2005) by producing products that have a low impact on the environment, as well as integrating green messages in their communication strategy (Paço & Reis, 2020) to encourage the

consumption of such environmentally friendly products. In addition, green marketing uses environmental claims, such as "environmentally friendly", "recyclable” and “biodegradable” to raise awareness and increase positive attitudes toward environmentally friendly advertising and consequently brands (D’Souza & Taghian, 2005). Moreover, a green marketing strategy is often

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used to satisfy the demands of stakeholders, which in turn provides the company or brand a competitive advantage (Chung, 2020).

Green marketing is a frequent strategy adopted in the fashion industry to communicate the fashion brand's contribution to helping the environment. Most often, this is done by

communicating sustainable fashion information online, through sustainability reports, as well as providing information about the production of specific materials or promoting in-store recycling campaigns (Lascity & Cairns, 2020). However, issues arise when green messages used by the fashion brands do not reflect actual activities aimed at reducing the brand's impact on the environment. Greenwashing, defined as "the practice of wilful deception of consumers

concerning ecological activities of an organisation or the environmental benefits of a product"

(Gräuler & Teuteberg, 2014), may hurt the fashion brand’s image and decrease consumer’s attitudes towards the brand, when consumers become aware of it. Moreover, these brands rarely communicate the importance of consumption reduction, possibly because at the brand’s core, selling the products is more important than caring for the environment (Lascity & Cairns, 2020).

Traditionally, marketing has been used to expand the demand of a product or service during a time of oversupply (Kotler & Levy, 1971). Sometimes, however, it is reasonable for a brand to use a seemingly counterintuitive marketing strategy of supressing demand, for example, during a product shortage. Demarketing is "the aspect of marketing that deals with discouraging customers in general or a certain class of customers in particular on either a temporary or permanent basis" (Kotler & Levy, 1971). In the 1970’s demarketing was a direct response to inflation and the energy crisis (Armstrong Soule & Reich, 2015). Nowadays, demarketing strategies can be used to encourage healthier behaviours, like reducing sugar intake or

discouraging people from smoking, drug usage, or drunk driving (Hesse & Rünz, 2020; Kim et

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al., 2018), as well as in the tourism sector as a way to direct demand from overcrowded destinations (Hesse & Rünz, 2020; Jamrozy, 2007). Especially fashion brands may convey messages of reducing overconsumption to reduce the impact on the environment (Kim et al., 2018), to grow long-term demand and retain a particular, sustainable brand image (Armstrong Soule & Reich, 2015). This is what Armstrong Soule and Reich (2015) called green

demarketing. Green demarketing is defined as “a brand’s strategic attempt to reduce consumption through encouraging focal brand purchase, ostensibly out of concern for the environment” (p. 404). Reducing consumption has often been proved as the most effective way of mitigating the damages done to the environment, however from the company perspective, encouraging consumers not to buy their products or services may seem unreasonable (Armstrong Soule & Reich, 2015). However, since reducing consumption is something each individual can do to help the environment (Black, 2010; Cherrier et al., 2011), it is crucial to explore how green demarketing may encourage such behaviour and how the consumers respond to it, which is the goal of this study.

Overall, previous studies have shown that green marketing may have a more positive effect on consumer responses compared to green demarketing (Reich & Armstrong Soule, 2016;

Vilasanti da Luz et al., 2020; Zhang et al., 2021), although this effect was mostly studied with a range of moderators. This is because the consumers may perceive all for-profit companies' marketing strategies as a persuasion tactic to consume more. Therefore, a green demarketing strategy persuading them to buy less may seem out of place and questionable and could consequently lead to more negative consumer responses (Zhang et al., 2021). This assumption may also be viewed through the lens of the mere exposure effect (Bornstein & D’Agostino, 1992; Hesse & Rünz, 2020) and the Persuasion knowledge model (Friestad & Wright, 1994).

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Lastly, directive theories of the persuasion process (e.g., McGuire, 1989), which argue that attitude towards the ad is antecedent of attitude towards the brand and purchase intention, will also be considered. Therefore, the following hypotheses are proposed:

H1a: Green marketing will lead to more positive consumer responses (ad attitude, brand attitude, and purchase intention) compared to green demarketing and control conditions.

H1b: The positive effect of green marketing on attitude towards the brand and purchase intention is mediated by attitude towards the ad.

Environmental concern inferences

Another explanation for the weaker effect of green demarketing on consumer responses could be that participants typically infer greater environmental concern of the brand in the green marketing condition, compared to the participants in the green demarketing condition. This means that when green marketing is used, consumers may understand that brands have a more genuine concern for the environment compared to green demarketing, which is a relatively unknown strategy. Green marketing therefore leads to more favourable consumer responses, such as attitude towards the product, ad, and brand, compared to the green demarketing condition (Reich & Armstrong Soule, 2016) through genuine environmental concern inferences. The explanation for this may lie in the attribution theory, which posits that “people understand that others are likely to have ulterior motives for engaging in positive behaviours, but not for

engaging in negative behaviours, and so witnessing a positive behaviour is more likely to call the actor’s motives into question”. For example, consumers may feel sceptical and wary about companies engaging in environmentally friendly behaviours because they may be aware that companies are using it as a tactic to increase brand image (Ginder et al., 2021). Especially in the

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fast-fashion industry with greenwashing being a prevalent practice (Synthetics Anonymous:

Fashion brands’ addiction to fossil fuels, 2021), consumers may feel like the fashion brands using green demarketing are only doing it for the sake of increasing the brand equity and not because they genuinely care for the environment.

Furthermore, the MAYA principle, which stands for Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable posits that people typically avoid extremes (Berlyne, 1971, as cited in Ceballos et al., 2019).

Psychologically, it has been shown that consumers like innovation, but only to the point where they can still recognise it (Ceballos et al., 2019). This principle has most often been used in industrial (Hekkert et al., 2003) and product design (Ceballos et al., 2019); however, it may be applied to marketing strategies as well. For example, a marketing strategy should not be too far from what the consumers know and understand. Consumers are aware of climate change issues and the need to adopt sustainable practices to protect the environment, for example through recycling, which is a common practice in most western countries. On the other hand, reducing the general consumption is not so common, especially when encouraged by for-profit companies.

In this case, the consumers may wonder whether the company has an ulterior motive and is engaging in these activities because the stakeholders care about it (Ginder et al., 2021).

In the case of green (de)marketing strategies, a green marketing strategy is more

commonly used, less surprising and more congruent with consumers’ expectations of a for-profit brand, which is why consumers may infer higher levels of environmental concern when the message is green marketing compared to green demarketing. Therefore, the following hypothesis is suggested:

H2: Green marketing will lead the consumers to infer more genuine environmental concern for a brand compared to green demarketing and control condition, which in turn

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will lead to a more positive consumer responses (ad attitude, brand attitude and purchase intention).

Environmental reputation of the brand

Environmental reputation of the brand, defined as “the brand’s reputation of

environmental protection” (Armstrong Soule & Reich, 2015, p. 1408), based on what the brand has done in the past in terms of their green initiatives, encourages the consumers to evaluate the brand positively or negatively (Leonidou & Skarmeas, 2017). A positive green reputation may for example encourage consumer’s trust in a brand’s green initiatives (Chen, 2010). Moreover, studies have shown that a positive environmental reputation may lead to more positive

evaluations of the brand (Becker-Olsen et al., 2006; Lii & Lee, 2012). On the other hand, when the environmental reputation is negative, the consumers become more sceptical (Lii & Lee, 2012) and thus respond more negatively. Therefore, the following is proposed:

H3: A positive environmental reputation of the brand will lead to more positive consumer responses compared to a negative environmental reputation.

Moreover, Armstrong Soule and Reich (2015) have shown that environmental reputation of the brand predicts the type of motive consumers attribute to the brand using green

demarketing, which consequently affects consumer responses. The results of the study show that respondents who were exposed to the positive environmental reputation condition inferred more altruistic (genuine) motives compared with the participants in the negative environmental reputation condition, in which they inferred more exploitative (less genuine) motives. Similarly, it may be assumed that if a brand has a more positive environmental reputation, the consumers will believe that its environmental concern is greater, since the perceived fit of the brand’s actual

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environmental activities and what they are claiming to do is higher (Du et al., 2010; Menon &

Kahn, 2001), which may elicit more positive responses. Therefore, it is proposed that:

H4a: The effect of brand’s environmental reputation on consumer responses is mediated by environmental concern inferences, in that for brands with a more positive

environmental reputation, the consumers will infer greater environmental concern for a brand, which will lead to more positive consumer responses.

Lastly, Zhang et al., (2021) show that a green marketing strategy can be more successful than green marketing for brands with a negative environmental reputation in combination with health-associated information. Brands with a negative environmental reputation using a green demarketing strategy together with environment-associated information are similarly successful, because green demarketing may trigger lower consumer scepticism than green marketing in this case. This can be explained by what is discussed by Drumwright (1996) who suggests that brands should not partner with charities or non-profits that are too closely related to their core offerings, as the high fit may induce the idea that the company’s CSR motives are exploitative and may raise consumer scepticism. On the other hand, when the fit between the company and its CSR cause is weaker, consumers may not be as sceptical (Du et al., 2010). This can be applied to the use of a green demarketing strategy in this study’s case. Companies with a positive

environmental reputation that are also using a green demarketing strategy that has a seemingly high degree of fit, may induce less genuine environmental concern inferences, compared to when the environmental reputation is negative. In this case, when a company is using a green

demarketing strategy, it may feel more genuine. Taking everything into account, the following hypothesis is proposed (see Figure 1 for the theoretical model):

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H4b: Brand’s environmental reputation moderates the effect of marketing strategy on environmental concern inferences, in that for brands with a more negative environmental reputation, green demarketing will induce more genuine environmental inferences, compared to green marketing and control.

Figure 1 Conceptual model

Method Procedures and sampling

In the study, a 3 (marketing strategy: green marketing vs. green demarketing vs.

neutral/control) x 2 (environmental reputation: positive vs. negative) randomised between- subjects factorial design was employed with consumer responses (attitude towards the ad, attitude towards the brand, and purchase intention) as dependent variables and environmental concern inferences as a mediator. An online experiment was conducted between November 24

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and December 10, 2021, using the software Qualtrics. Based on the minimal requirement of 30 participants per cell, this study aimed to recruit 180 participants, who fully completed the questionnaire. Non-random convenience sampling was used with the target population of adult participants. The online questionnaire was distributed on social media and through personal messaging. All participants completed the study at their own pace on their computers or smartphones and no incentive was given for participation in the study.

The participants were randomly assigned to one of the six conditions immediately after clicking on the Qualtrics link. First, factsheet and informed consent were given, followed by instructions and the description of the brand. In the first part of the experiment, the participants were asked to examine an advertisement. Then, the dependent variables and mediator were assessed, followed by demographics, manipulation check, and attention check. After participants completed the questionnaire, they were presented with a second informed consent, then they were thanked and debriefed. 316 people filled out the questionnaire in total. Prior to the analysis, participants who did not give consent on the two informed consent questions were excluded from analysis (N = 106, 33.5%), leaving a final sample of 210 participants between the ages of 19 and 76 (M = 27.81, SD = 8.71). See Appendix B, Table 1 for other demographics.

Randomisation check. Randomisation checks were performed to check if participants’

age, gender, educational level and brand familiarity were comparable across the six experimental conditions (Green marketing + Positive, Green demarketing + Positive, Control + Positive, Green marketing + Negative, Green demarketing + Negative, Control + Negative). The six experimental groups did not differ in respect to age, F (5, 202) = 0.27, p = .929, ηp2 = .007, education, F (5, 203) = 0.43, p = .825, ηp2 = .011, brand familiarity, F (5, 201) = 0.59, p = .705, ηp2 = .015, and gender, χ2 (15, N = 204) = 12.98, p = .604 (see Appendix B, Table 2). Thus, the

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randomisation of participants was successful, and there was no need to control for these in the analyses.

Materials and stimuli

Based on the operationalisation by Reich & Armstrong Soule (2016), three mockup green marketing, green demarketing and control advertisements of an unknown sustainable clothing brand Happy Earth were created. Moreover, adapted from Armstrong Soule and Reich (2015), two ratings of the brand that showcased a positive or negative environmental reputation were created (see Appendix A for stimuli).

The materials of the experiment were pretested with 19 participants (age: M = 24.3, SD = 1.60). To evaluate whether the participants perceived the EPC rating as indicating either a positive or a negative environmental reputation, the participants were asked whether the brand has a good environmental reputation after showing them each of the ratings. Similarly, they were presented the stimuli materials for the variable Marketing strategy and asked whether the ad encourages consumers to use (buy) more clothing items. The data was treated as a within- subjects design, because all the participants viewed all six stimuli materials and rated each of them separately.

A paired samples T-test indicated that when shown the good 9/10 EPC rating of the brand (M = 5.82, SD = 0.52) people on average perceived the brand as having a more positive

environmental reputation compared to the poor 2/10 EPC rating of the brand (M = 2.63, SD = 0.90). The mean difference is statistically significant, t (18) = 11.61, p < .001 (see Appendix B, Table 3). This shows that the materials for the moderator environmental reputation of the brand were perceived as intended.

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Moreover, a One-way within subjects ANOVA comparing the effect of Marketing strategy on the dependent variable revealed a significant effect, Wilks’ lambda = .22, F (2, 17) = 30.31, p < .001 (see Appendix B, Table 4). In the green marketing condition (M = 4.42, SD = 1.40), people on average perceived the ad as encouraging them to buy more clothing items, compared to green demarketing (M = 2.32, SD = 1.05, p < .001). In the control condition (M = 4.03, SD = 0.72), people perceived the ad as encouraging them to buy more compared to green demarketing (p < .001). No significant difference was found between green marketing and control condition, p = .324. This shows that people noticed the difference between green marketing and green demarketing and thus the materials were appropriate for the experiment.

Measures

Attitude towards the ad. Attitude towards the ad was measured using a scale by Mitchell and Olson (1981) as cited in Reich & Armstrong Soule (2016). A principal axis factor (PAF) analysis showed that the three items form a single scale (eigenvalue 2.60) and explains 86.75% of the variance. The scale is highly reliable, Cronbach’s alpha = 0.92. The items were combined into a mean index scale. See Appendix B, Table 6 for factor loadings and reliability scores.

Attitude towards the brand. This scale was based on the same scale as ad attitude. A PAF analysis showed that the three items form a single scale (eigenvalue 2.78) and explain 92.72% of the variance. The scale is highly reliable, Cronbach’s alpha = 0.96. The items were combined into a mean index scale.

Purchase intention. Purchase intention was based on the scale by Spears and Singh (2004). The PAF analysis showed that the four items load on one factor (eigenvalue 3.62) and

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explain 90.54% of the variance. Moreover, the scale is highly reliable, Cronbach’s alpha = 0.96.

The four items were combined into a mean index scale.

Environmental concern inferences. Environmental concern inferences were measured using Armstrong Soule and Reich's (2015) measures of altruistic and exploitative motive

inferences. Six items were measured on a 7-point differential scale from 1 (Strongly disagree) to 7 (Strongly agree). The PAF analysis showed that the items load on two factors with eigenvalue above 1 (eigenvalue 3.65 and 1.16, respectively) that together explain 80.23% of the variance.

One factor consisted of positively framed items measuring altruistic motives and the other consisted of negatively framed items measuring exploitative motives. Together, the scale proved to be highly reliable, Cronbach’s alpha 0.87. Removing any of the items would not improve the reliability, therefore all six (exploitative were reverse coded) were aggregated into a single mean scale.

Control variables. Gender, age, educational level and brand familiarity were used as control variables. See Appendix B, Table 5 for all items.

Attention check. The participants were asked to recall the main claim that Happy Earth made in the ad (“Made from recycled cotton”, “Made from stronger material”, “Machine wash cold, with similar colours”).

Results Manipulation checks

Environmental reputation. An independent samples t-test was performed to see if environmental reputation was perceived as intended. On a scale from 1 to 7, the participants were asked whether the brand has a positive or a negative environmental reputation, where a

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higher score indicates a positive reputation (see Appendix B, Table 5). Participants perceived the Positive condition ads (M = 4.97, SD = 1.47) as showing a better environmental reputation, compared to the Negative condition (M = 3.54, SD = 1.66). The mean difference (of 1.43) is statistically significant, t (205) = 6.58, p < .001, 95% CI [1.00, 1.86]. Thus, the first manipulation was successful.

Marketing strategy. A one-way ANOVA was conducted to ensure participants perceived marketing strategy as intended. On a scale from 1 to 7, the participants were asked whether the ad encourages them to buy fewer vs. more clothing items, where a higher score indicates buying more. A significant effect was found, F (2, 201) = 27.46, p < .001, ηp2 = .22.

The post-hoc Scheffe test showed that in the Green demarketing condition (M = 2.52, SD =1.58), participants perceived the ad as encouraging to buy less, compared to the Green marketing (M = 4.00, SD = 1.74, p < .001) and Control conditions (M =4.43, SD = 1.39, p < .001). There was no significant difference between Green marketing and Control conditions, p = .273. Thus, the second manipulation was successful.

Main and interaction effects

To test both main effects and interactions, first a Two-way MANOVA was performed, with Marketing strategy (Green marketing vs. Green demarketing vs. Control) and

Environmental reputation (Positive vs. Negative) as the independent variables and Consumer responses (Attitude towards the ad, Attitude towards the brand and Purchase intention), as well as Environmental concern inferences as the dependent variables. The analysis revealed a

significant multivariate effect of Environmental reputation condition on the combined dependent variables, Wilks’ lambda = .77, F (4, 193) = 14.25, p < .001, ηp2 = .23. However, it revealed no

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significant multivariate effect of Marketing strategy (F (8, 386) = 1.65, p = .110) or of the interaction (F (8, 386) = 0.53, p = .834) on the dependent variables (See Appendix B, Table 8).

Marketing strategy. The Between-Subjects analysis of Marketing strategy (Green marketing vs. Green demarketing vs. Control) on Environmental concern inferences revealed a marginally significant effect, F (2, 196) = 3.04, p = .050, ηp2 = .03. Those exposed to the Green marketing condition (M = 4.46, SD = 1.21. See Appendix B, Table 7 for all means) inferred the most genuine environmental concern, compared to those in the Control condition (M = 3.99, SD

= 1.17, p = .044.). No significant difference was found between Green marketing and Green demarketing on Environmental concern inferences or between Green demarketing and Control conditions on Environmental concern inferences (See Appendix B, Table 9).

The analysis of Marketing strategy on Attitude towards the ad, Attitude towards the brand and Purchase intention did not reveal a significant effect on any of the dependent variables.

Hypothesis 1a, which proposed that a green marketing strategy will result in more positive consumer responses, compared to the green demarketing and control conditions, is not

supported. Moreover, Hypothesis 1b, which predicted that the positive effect of green marketing on attitude towards the brand and purchase intention is mediated by attitude towards the ad is therefore also not supported by the results.

Environmental reputation. The Between-Subjects analysis of Environmental reputation (Positive vs. Negative) on Attitude towards the ad, Attitude towards the brand and Purchase intention revealed significant effects of Environmental reputation on Attitude towards the ad (F (1, 196) = 42.12, p < .001, ηp2 = .18) and Attitude towards the brand (F (1, 196) = 43.05, p <

.001, ηp2 = .18). Both attitude towards the ad and attitude towards the brand were higher when the environmental reputation was positive (M = 5.32, SD = 1.23; M = 5.51, SD = 1.24,

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respectively), compared to negative (M = 4.06, SD = 1.49, p < .001; M = 4.14, SD = 1.72, p

<.001, respectively). No significant effect of Environmental reputation on Purchase intention was found. Thus, Hypothesis 3, which predicted that a positive environmental reputation of the brand will lead to more positive consumer responses (attitude towards the ad, attitude towards the brand and purchase intention), compared to a negative environmental reputation, is partially supported, for ad attitude and brand attitude.

Moreover, the analysis of Environmental reputation on Environmental concern inferences revealed a significant effect, F (1, 196) = 22.25, p < .001, ηp2 = .10. Those exposed to the

Positive environmental reputation of the brand reported more genuine Environmental concern inferences (M = 4.61, SD = 0.88), compared to those in the Negative environmental reputation condition (M = 3.85, SD = 1.37, p < .001).

Interaction: Marketing strategy and Environmental reputation. The Between- Subjects analysis of the interaction term between Marketing strategy and Environmental reputation on Consumer responses (Attitude towards the ad, Attitude towards the brand and Purchase intention) and Environmental concern inferences did not reveal a significant effect on any of the dependent variables. Thus, Hypothesis 4b, which predicted that the environmental reputation of the brand moderates the effect of marketing strategy on environmental concern inferences, in that for brands with a negative environmental reputation, green demarketing will induce more genuine environmental concern inferences, compared to green marketing and control, is not supported, as no effect was found.

Mediation analysis: Marketing strategy → Environmental concern inferences → Consumer responses

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To address the two mediation hypotheses (H2 and H4a) a statistical tool was used that simultaneously tests direct and indirect relationships. To test Hypothesis 2, which suggested that green marketing will lead to more genuine environmental concern inferences compared to green demarketing and control condition, which will in turn lead to more positive consumer responses (ad attitude, brand attitude and purchase intention), Hayes’ “PROCESS” macro v4.0 in SPSS ver. 27 with bias-corrected 95% confidence intervals (n = 5000) was used to test the mediated effect (Hayes, 2009, 2013).

Using “Model 4”, a single mediation analysis was performed three times (for each dependent variable), with Marketing strategy (Green marketing vs. Green demarketing vs.

Control) as the independent variable X, Consumer responses (Attitude towards the ad, Attitude towards the brand and Purchase intention, respectively) as the dependent variables Y and Environmental concern inferences as the mediator M. Since the independent variable is

multicategorical, it needed to be dummy coded to represent the comparisons of interest (Hayes &

Preacher, 2014). The coding system chosen for the pairwise comparison of the multicategorical variable X was indicator coding system (X1: Green marketing vs. Green demarketing, X2: Green marketing vs. Control, X3: Green demarketing vs. Control).

The mediation analyses show that a significant difference was found in the comparison of Green marketing vs. Control on Environmental concern inferences (path a), b = -.44, t (201) = - 2.14, p = .034. Green marketing predicted higher environmental concern inferences (M = 4.43, SD = 1.23) compared to the control condition (M = 3.99, SD = 1.17). No significant differences were found in the rest of the pairwise comparisons of Green marketing vs. Green demarketing or Green demarketing vs. Control on Environmental concern inferences (See Appendix B Table 10 for all effects).

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Attitude towards the ad. Path b of Environmental concern inferences predicting ad attitude is significant, b = .49, SE = .08, t (200) = 5.94, p <.001. As environmental concern inferences increase, so does ad attitude. Path c’ did not reveal significant differences in the direct effect of pairwise comparisons on ad attitude. Next, the total effect of pairwise comparisons of marketing strategy on ad attitude (path c) also did not reveal significant results, Lastly, we checked whether a relative indirect effect of X on Y was found. The relative indirect effect is “a quantification or empirical representation of a mediation process” (Hayes & Rockwood, 2020, p.

21). The results revealed that an indirect effect has occurred in the Green marketing vs. Control comparison, X2: b = -.21, boot SE = 0.11, 95% CI [-0.31, -0.10]. No indirect was found

comparing Green marketing and Green demarketing, nor comparing Green demarketing and Control (see Figure 2). Thus, green marketing increased environmental concern inferences, which then increased ad attitude.

Attitude towards the brand. Path b of Environmental concern inferences predicting brand attitude is significant, b = .87, SE = .07, t (199) = 11.77, p <.001. As environmental concern inferences increase, so does brand attitude. Path c’ did not reveal significant differences in the direct effect of pairwise comparisons on brand attitude. The total effect of pairwise

comparisons of marketing strategy on brand attitude (path c) revealed a marginally significant difference in the total effect of Green demarketing vs. Control (X3: b = .56, SE = .28, t (200) = 1.98, p = .049). It did not reveal significant results for Green marketing vs. Green demarketing and Green marketing vs. Control. Lastly, we checked whether a relative indirect effect of X on Y was found. A relative indirect effect of Green marketing vs. Control on Brand attitude was found, X2 indirect: b = -.41, boot SE = 0.19, 95% CI [-0.79, -0.07]. No mediation has occurred in the rest of the pairwise comparisons.

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Purchase intention. Path b of Environmental concern inferences predicting purchase intention is significant, b = .28, SE = .09, t (201) = 3.21, p = .002. As environmental concern inferences increase, so does purchase intention. Path c’ revealed a marginally significant difference in the direct effect of Green marketing vs. Green demarketing on purchase intention (X1: b = .52, t (201) = 2.02, p = .045). No significant differences in the direct effect of the rest of the pairwise comparisons on purchase intention were found. The total effect of pairwise

comparisons of marketing strategy on purchase intention (path c) revealed a marginally

significant difference in the total effect of Green demarketing vs. Control on purchase intention (X3: b = .53, SE = .27. t (202) = 2.00, p = .047). It did not reveal significant results for Green marketing vs. Green demarketing and Green marketing vs. Control. A relative indirect effect of Green marketing vs. Control on Purchase intention was found, X2 indirect: b = -.12, boot SE = 0.08, 95% CI [-0.30, -0.004]. Lastly, the results revealed that no indirect effect has occurred in the rest of the pairwise comparisons.

Hypothesis 2, which suggested that green marketing will lead to more genuine

environmental concern inferences compared to green demarketing and control condition, which will in turn lead to more positive consumer responses (ad attitude, brand attitude and purchase intention) is partly supported, for all dependent variables when comparing green marketing and control. No differences were found comparing green marketing with green demarketing.

Figure 2

Indirect effect of Green marketing vs. Control on the dependent variables through Environmental concern inferences. ***p < .001, *p < .05

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Mediation analysis: Environmental reputation → Environmental concern inferences → Consumer responses

To test Hypothesis 4a, which predicted that the effect of brand's environmental reputation on consumer responses is mediated by environmental concern inferences, in that for brands with a more positive environmental reputation, the consumers will infer more genuine environmental concern for a brand, which will lead to more positive consumer responses, Hayes’ “PROCESS”

Model 4 was used again. A single mediation analysis was performed three times, with Environmental reputation (Positive vs. Negative) as the independent variable X, Consumer responses (Attitude towards the ad, Attitude towards the brand and Purchase intention, respectively) as the dependent variables Y, and Environmental concern inferences as the mediator M.

The mediation analyses show (path a) that a significant difference was found in the Environmental reputation on Environmental concern inferences (b = -.76, SE = .16, t (202) = -

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4.73, p < .001). A positive environmental reputation predicted higher environmental concern inferences (M = 4.58, SD = 0.89) compared to the negative environmental reputation condition (M = 3.84, SD = 1.37). See Appendix B Table 11 for all effects.

Ad attitude. Path b of Environmental concern inferences predicting ad attitude is significant, b = .37, SE = .08, t (201) = 4.57, p < .001. As environmental concern inferences increase, so does ad attitude. Path c’ revealed a significant difference in the direct effect of Environmental reputation on ad attitude, b = -.92, SE = .20, t (201) = -4.69, p < .001. The total effect of environmental reputation on ad attitude (path c) also revealed a significant result, b = - 1.21, SE = .20, t (202) = -6.17, p < .001. Lastly, we checked whether a relative indirect effect of X on Y was found. The results revealed that mediation has occurred, b = -.28, boot SE = .10, 95% CI [-0.50, -0.12]. See Figure 3. A positive environmental reputation leads to more genuine environmental concern inferences, which in turn leads to a more positive attitude towards the ad.

Brand attitude. Path b of Environmental concern inferences predicting brand attitude is significant, b = .77, SE = .07, t (200) = 10.43, p < .001. As environmental concern inferences increase, so does brand attitude. Path c’ revealed a significant difference in the direct effect of Environmental reputation on brand attitude, b = -.80, SE = .18, t (200) = -4.53, p < .001. The total effect of environmental reputation on brand attitude (path c) also revealed a significant result, b = -1.37, SE = .21, t (201) = -6.52, p < .001. Lastly, the results revealed that mediation has occurred, b = -.56, boot SE = .13, 95% CI [-0.84, -0.31]. A positive environmental reputation leads to more genuine environmental concern inferences, which in turn leads to a more positive attitude towards the brand.

Purchase intention. Path b of Environmental concern inferences predicting purchase intention is significant, b = .26, SE =.09, t (202) = 2.79, p = .006. As environmental concern

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inferences increase, so does purchase intention. Path c’ did not reveal a significant difference in the direct effect of Environmental reputation on purchase intention, p = .420. The total effect of environmental reputation on purchase intention (path c) also did not reveal a significant result, p

= .087. The results revealed that mediation has occurred, b = -.19, boot SE = .09, 95% CI [-0.40, -0.05]. A positive environmental reputation leads to more genuine environmental concern inferences, which in turn leads to a higher purchase intention.

Considering everything, Hypothesis 4a is supported, as mediation was found between Environmental reputation and all three dependent variables through Environmental concern inferences. A positive environmental reputation leads to more genuine environmental concern inferences, which in turn leads to more positive consumer responses, compared to a negative environmental reputation.

Figure 3

Indirect effect of Positive vs. Negative environmental reputation on the dependent variables through Environmental concern inferences. ***p < .001, *p < .05

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Conclusion Discussion and implications

The aim of this thesis was to explore how the effect of green marketing on consumer responses differs from green demarketing, while considering the environmental reputation of the

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brand. Secondly, the mediating role of environmental concern inferences was investigated. To answer the research question, no differences were found between green marketing and green demarketing on consumer responses about a sustainable fashion brand. Moreover, no interaction effect was found with the brand's environmental reputation. On its own, however, environmental reputation plays a vital role in improving consumer responses. The results of the experiment have produced findings with implications for the academia and practitioners, discussed below.

Firstly, this study shows that marketing strategy type is not as important in determining consumers’ ad and brand attitude nor purchase intent, as initially hypothesised (H1a and H1b unsupported). The findings show no significant differences in consumer responses regardless of marketing strategy used. In previous studies that have tested similar effects, the brands or products used were not explicitly presented as (un)sustainable (e.g. Armstrong Soule & Reich, 2015; Reich & Armstrong Soule, 2016; Zhang et al., 2021), whereas in this study, the description of the brand stated that Happy Earth is a US organic clothing brand that works to give back, inspired by nature and dedicated to preserving it. This may have primed the participants to have a more positive attitude towards the brand in general, since they may have perceived it as sustainable. Therefore, although they noticed the difference in the two marketing strategies (as confirmed by the manipulation check), they did not use this information in their decision making.

However, marketing strategy appears to influence environmental concern inferences, which then affects consumer responses (H2 partly supported). A relative indirect effect was found comparing green marketing with control on all three dependent variables. Green marketing (compared to control) increases more genuine environmental concern inferences, which in turn increases attitude towards the ad, brand and purchase intention. Since the independent variable in the mediation analysis was multicategorical and the results of the analysis are relating on several

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inferential tests of relative effects, Type I error may have been inflated (Hayes & Preacher, 2014). It is possible that the analysis produced a significant difference between green marketing and control, when in fact there is no difference. More research into this mediation effect is thus needed, perhaps using a dichotomous variable.

Moreover, the results of this study show that environmental reputation of the brand has a prominent place in invoking certain consumer responses. As hypothesised (H3 partially

supported), the participants in the positive environmental reputation condition rated the ad and the brand significantly higher than those exposed to the negative environmental reputation.

However, no difference was found between positive and negative environmental reputation on purchase intention. Likely, the participants are simply not interested in the brand or the product category, which is why no difference was found on purchase intent (Posavac & Sanbonmatsu, 2014). Moreover, the described effect is mediated by environmental concern inferences for all dependent variables (H4a supported). Consumers infer more genuine environmental concern when the environmental reputation of the brand is positive, which then leads to more positive consumer responses. This is in line with Armstrong Soule and Reich's (2015) study, which showed that an excellent environmental reputation lead to increased altruistic motive attributions, which in turn also increased brand attitude. Their study however used plastic bin bags, whereas the present study used a sustainable clothing item. Therefore, this study provides additional evidence that consumers infer genuine environmental concern when the brand has a positive environmental reputation.

Lastly, inconsistent with our hypothesis (H4b unsupported) and previous research (e.g.

Zhang et al., 2021), which suggested that green demarketing may be an effective solution for restaurants with a poor environmental reputation, as the interaction between the two increases

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consumer responses, this study did not reveal an interaction between marketing strategy and environmental reputation of the brand on consumer responses. Since a green demarketing strategy is especially relevant for the fashion industry and research in this area is scarce, it is crucial to study these effects further, perhaps with a bigger sample or a different fashion brand.

Scientifically, this study extended on past green demarketing research, by being one of the first to compare green demarketing with green marketing using an unknown fashion brand. It expanded on the studies by Armstrong Soule & Reich (2015), Kim et al. (2018), Reich &

Armstrong Soule (2016) and Zhang et al. (2021), by including the marketing strategy

comparison and by using environmental reputation as a moderator and environmental concern inferences as a mediator. Moreover, this study contributes to a body of research implying that reduced consumption is the only way of creating long-term sustainable development.

Specifically related to green advertising literature, it explores the application of a green demarketing message within fashion advertising on consumer responses providing a starting point for future research.

Limitations and future research

This study is not without some limitations. Firstly, although the controlled experimental setting increased internal validity, the external and ecological validity may have suffered (Kihlstrom, 2021), thus decreasing the generalisability of this study (Vargas et al., 2017), especially regarding the sample. Most of the participants come from the social and academic circle of the researcher, are likely middle class and come from western countries, which is not representative of all humanity (Vargas et al., 2017). Further, this study did not take other personal characteristics of the participants into account. It is thus recommended to repeat this

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study using a more diverse sample in terms of demographics, as well as explore other characteristics and their moderating roles, for example consumers’ environmental concern, sustainable involvement, and fashion interest.

Furthermore, this study has used a single lesser-known sustainable fashion brand. Future research should examine the effects of a well-known sustainable fashion brand (Kim et al., 2018) or a different product category, such as footwear and sportswear. Lastly, this study used green marketing and green demarketing appeals as described in Reich and Armstrong Soule (2016).

Future research should focus more on the persuasiveness of green demarketing messages themselves, exploring what type of information is the most effective in interaction with green demarketing appeals, and has the potential to change attitudes and behaviour. This would be especially important for the fashion context, where reducing consumption is the only optimal solution in helping the environment. For example, future studies could investigate the effects of repeated exposure to a green demarketing message (Schmidt & Eisend, 2015) or explore the influence of different appeals (emotional vs. fear, Tannenbaum et al., 2015) and storytelling (Lundqvist et al., 2013) within green demarketing.

All in all, only some future suggestions are presented here. As green demarketing is at the early stages of research, many literature gaps follow from our results and would benefit from further exploration.

Practical implications

This study also offers some guidance for marketing managers. Firstly, this study has found that the depiction of a positive environmental reputation may change attitudes. Therefore, marketing professionals within the fashion industry should strive to obtain an independent

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environmental rating of the brand and present it next to their products to increase consumers' attitudes towards the ad and brand. Moreover, no differences in marketing strategy type were found on consumer responses, which means that both strategies are equally effective. Regardless of this result, green demarketing should still be considered by marketing professionals working in sustainable fashion. Not only may green demarketing lower the negative impact of the fashion industry on the environment, but it may also attract consumers who value sustainability and increase the sustainable brand image and profitability. However, the literature on the long-term effects is sparse, providing meaningful advice difficult.

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