Going green? Specifics, please.

Many advertisers talk about their commitment to sustainability and the environment and, in turn, many consumers have grown skeptical of those claims. If you are a marketer, how can you make your green advertising more believable?

A new study in the Journal of Advertising Research suggests that the more specific the green claims, the more believable they are – and this holds true across a range of product categories.

In other words, the research found that a claim such as, “This battery is free from toxic heavy metals and is 98 percent recyclable” was more credible than something like, “This battery is kind to the environment and to the planet.”

 As the authors point out, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been urging consumers to think this way for 25 years. (For example, when a brand says a product is recycled, that could mean the product, the packaging or both. It could mean that only a small percentage was recycled. It is also important to understand where it was collected from.)

One limitation of the research is that study participants were simply exposed to green claims in isolation, not in the form of real consumer-facing ads. The study doesn’t take into account other aspects of creative execution, so making an emotional connection with those claims, supporting them with appropriate imagery, and embedding them within a suitable narrative is still important.  However, all else being equal, the research says specific is better when it comes to green messaging.

If you don’t have access to JAR you can read about the study here.