Winterich, Karen Page, Gergana Y. Nenkov, and Gabriel E. Gonzales (2019), “Knowing What It Makes: How Product Transformation Salience Increases Recycling”, Journal of Marketing, 83 (4), 21-37.
Making people think about the products made from recyclables (e.g., what recyclables are transformed into) inspires them, increasing recycling rates.
Recycling campaigns abound, but do consumers think about what becomes of those recyclables? This research proposes that product transformation salience (thinking about recyclables turning into new products) increases recycling. We theorize that consumers are inspired by the transformation of recyclables into new products, and this inspiration motivates them to recycle. We demonstrate the effect of product transformation messages on recycling behavior using a recycling campaign (Study 1) and advertisements for products made from recycled plastic (Study 2). Study 3 demonstrates the mediating role of inspiration. Then three field studies provide robust support for the transformation salience effect via click-through rates for recycling advertisements (Study 4), recycling rates during pre-football game tailgating (Study 5), and a reduction in the amount of recyclable material incorrectly placed in the landfill bin by students in a university residence hall. Implications for the design of recycling campaigns and positioning of recycled products in the marketplace are discussed, as well as theoretical contributions regarding the role of transformation salience and inspiration in encouraging recycling and other sustainable behaviors.
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Consumer Cognitive Psychology; Corporate Social Responsibility; Green Marketing and Sustainability; Marketing Communications;
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