Immediate Effects of Living Green Have More Influence
A University of Arkansas study suggests that “lifetime” savings claims on product labels are not the most effective method to reach consumers regarding the benefits and potential savings from using energy-efficient products.
The study’s authors – Ronn Smith, assistant professor of marketing, and his colleague Andrea Tangari of Wayne State University – found that messages that boast of more immediate benefits will influence more people.
Smith and Tangari assessed the effects of temporal frames – “distal” measured in years or lifetime and “proximal” measured in months – on attitudes about product choice, purchase intentions and perception of savings. They conducted two experiments on consumer attitudes about compact fluorescent light bulbs. According to U.S. Department of Energy estimates, if every person in the United States replaced one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, consumers would collectively save more than $600 million in annual energy expenses and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of approximately 800,000 automobiles.
The researchers found that the best temporal frame to use in messages regarding potential savings was one that focused on benefits that consumers experienced soon, stated usually as “months” rather than years or the lifetime of a product. The findings held even when savings figures on packaging were significantly less, including amounts less than a dollar, than the temporally distant figures.
Future-oriented people were much more likely to buy a compact fluorescent bulb based on the lifetime savings message. However, they did not discount near-temporal frames. In other words, they considered the savings benefits, stated in smaller amounts, on a monthly basis as did the present-oriented consumers.
Smith said he hopes their findings will help manufacturers consider more effective ways to communicate savings and efficiency of products and to motivate consumers to purchase items that are more efficient and better for the environment.