Do Generations Differ When It Comes to Green Values and Products?

By Squire, Scot | Electronic Green Journal, January 1, 2019 | Go to article overview

Do Generations Differ When It Comes to Green Values and Products?


Squire, Scot, Electronic Green Journal


With billions of dollars up for grabs, it is essential that companies understand how to best reach the United States consumers in one of the fastest growing merchandise categories: green products. There are three reasons why understanding the green consumer is more important than ever. First, companies are producing more green products (Lu, Bock, & Joseph, 2013; K. T. Smith & Brower, 2012); second, customer demand has increased for these products and services (Borin, Lindsey-Mullikin, & Krishnan, 2013; Lu et al., 2013); and third, government agencies are encouraging green products through regulations and incentives (Akenji, 2013; Kiger, 2013; Neslen, 2016).

Consumers are growing increasingly concerned about sustainability, and this has resulted in increased green marketing and environmentally friendly products (Coleman, Hladíkova, & Savelyeva, 2006; Lu et al., 2013; McKay, 2010; Ottman, 1998) and an expected doubling of spending on green products to around $500 billion per year (Borin et al., 2013). Researchers estimate that 13.1% of shoppers are willing to spend as much as 50% more for some products because they are green (Lu et al., 2012; Oliver, 2007; Wiser, Bolinger, Holt, & Swezey, 2001).

For many companies, in addition to growing concerns about our planet, they are attracted to the idea of greater green products' manufacturing because they now account for 10% of new products coming into the marketplace (K. T. Smith & Brower, 2012). With consumers spending billions of dollars each year on green products and services, marketers need to be able to better understand these consumers (McKay, 2010). Does one size fit all when it comes to marketing green products? That is, do consumers generally respond to a green message in the same manner regardless of their demographics? One way to look at demographics is through applying a generational cohort framework. Investigating green marketing efforts in light of generational cohorts offers additional insights because no two generations are alike. Each generation differs in the type of products and services they need and want, responds differently to marketing messages, and "sports" different shades of green (Anvar & Venter, 2014; K. T. Smith, 2010; K. T. Smith & Brower, 2012). By understanding these differences, marketers can better position a product for a specific generation.

Background

The idea behind examining generational cohorts is that each cohort shares cultural, political, and economic experiences, outlooks, and values (Kotier & Keller, 2006; Reisenwitz & Iyer, 2009). Rather than separately considering specific elements, a generational cohort approach sums up the aggregate values of an entire generation was used. This can lead to more robust conclusions because differences noted among generations need to be strong enough to appear in spite of the large range of ages (and consequently, values, incomes, experiences) represented. Generally, each generation shares common characteristics, and these traits are usually quite different from one generation to another. For example, generational cohort analysis has been applied to an eclectic group of research including internet satisfaction, volunteerism, brand loyalty, work orientation, risk aversion (Reisenwitz & Iyer, 2009), mobile data services (Yang & Jolly, 2008), work attitudes (Sullivan, Forret, Carraher, & Mainiero, 2009), consumer values, personality traits, and responses to advertising appeals (Loroz & Helgeson, 2013), retail attributes, retail format preferences, and satisfaction and loyalty (Brosdahl & Carpenter, 2012), to name a few. However, although there have been numerous studies on green products, green marketing, and consumer behavior, there is a gap in the research knowledge that investigates whether a generation's reported "greenness" actually translates to green product purchases.

In order to objectify greenness, Haws, Winterich, and Naylor (2014) designed the Green Consumer Values scale (GCVS), which assigns a green score to a person based on six survey questions. …

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