15 Nov Green brands
Green brands are, first of all, brands. Therefore, we need to base our analysis in the brand concept. Brands are meaningful systems, incorporating values, ideas, associations, feelings and emotions which constitute a more or less cohesive identity [51, 52, 53]. With this in mind, brands allow to differentiate and protect products from competitors’ similar products .
A brand is a complex and multidimensional concept that can convey up to six levels of meaning :
- Attributes: the brand encloses a specific group of characteristics;
- Benefits: the brand’s attributes should translate into functional and emotional benefits valued by consumers;
- Values: the brand communicates something regarding the firm’s values;
- Culture: the brand may represent a specific cultural expression;
- Personality: the brand may transmit a specific personality, which is progressively built through marketing communications; it may reflect the type of person the brand would be if it was human;
- User definition: the brand suggests the type of consumer that buys or uses it.
Within brands, a green brand is defined as a specific group of brand attributes and benefits related to minimizing the brand’s environmental impact and its perception as environmentally healthy . As such, the green brand should provide benefits to the more environmentally aware consumers. To be able to succeed, the green brand needs to offer a significant eco-advantage over other brands and be aimed at consumers that are willing to value the environmental issues . This means that a green brand has to communicate with its target group, since consumers’ beliefs regarding the good ecological performance of the brand lead to positive attitude towards that brand .
Markets and customers tend to more easily accept appeals from brands perceived as green . Furthermore, previous studies show that, in what concerns the respect for the environment, specific claims of a green product are stronger than general corporate claims . These findings highlight both the development of a proper green brand positioning and the relevance of an active and differentiated communication of the brand identity and value proposition to its target group . Actually, ecologically sustainable products will not succeed commercially, if the green brand attributes and benefits are not effectively communicated .
However, when communicating the brand, firms need to take into account some issues. On the one hand, firms need to ensure the brand’s environmental compatibility to the specific product features and information. This is what is known as “functional positioning strategy” . Yet, the mere consideration of technical features may not suffice; the brand’s emotional associations are hugely important. Both cognitive and emotional mental processes, contribute to create brand attitudes . Consequently, the brand needs to communicate both functional messages as well as emotional messages . On the other hand, the choice and type of appeals is crucial. Vague and unfounded claims about the brand may have a negative effect on its reputation and lead consumers and buyers in general to become sceptic towards the firm’s environmental value claims . This is mainly true if the firm uses a purely emotional positioning strategy, ie, the environmental claims with no objective ground, once uncovered may induce consumers’ negative reaction [61, 62].
Additionally, even though some authors suggest that green positioning is a crucial factor for a green brand strategy to succeed [32, 50], other authors point that green brands should present a third party certificate, namely an environmental, so as to have an independent intervenient assessing the brand’s greenness [35, 57, 61, 63].
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