New research provides evidence that shoppers who engage in environmentally friendly behaviors are stereotyped as more feminine. What’s more, they also see themselves as more feminine.
But in a series of studies, researchers showed that men are more open to purchasing green products if their masculinity gets a boost through the products’ branding.
“Previous research shows that men tend to be more concerned about maintaining a masculine identity than women are with their feminine identity,” said James Wilkie, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.
“We therefore thought that men might be more open to environmental products if we made them feel secure in their masculinity, so they are less threatened by adopting a green product.”
For the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the researchers used two approaches: First by affirming a man’s masculinity before introducing him to environmental products and then changing the associations people have toward green products.
“We documented how both men and women find green products and actions to be feminine,” Wilkie said.
“We thought that if you reframe environmental products to be more masculine, men would be more likely to adopt them. Instead of using traditional marketing messages about green products, which are typically perceived as feminine, we changed the messages to be more masculine in nature by changing the phrasing, colors, etc. When we did that, we found that men were more willing to ‘go green.'”
One study was conducted in China at a BMW dealership and focused on a model known for being an eco-friendly car. While surveying shoppers, the researchers simply changed the name of the car from the traditional, environmentally friendly name to “Protection,” which is a masculine term in China. Despite all other descriptions of the car remaining the same, the name change did increase men’s interest in the car.
In another study, the team compared men’s and women’s willingness to donate to green charities. They called one “Friends of Nature,” with a bright green logo featuring a tree. The second was named “Fun for Wilderness Rangers” showcasing a wolf howling to the moon. Women favored the more traditional green marketing, while more men were drawn to the masculine branding over the traditional.
Wilkie advises marketers mimic successful approaches in other products to combat feminine stereotypes.
“Body wash used to be considered a very feminine product, but companies changed that perception by marketing their products in a more masculine fashion,” he said.
“They used more masculine fonts and colors in packaging and hired very masculine spokesmen, explicitly stating that the product was for men only. It worked — as it also did for diet soft drinks. Again, there was a perception that ‘diet’ products were for women. Marketers changed their phrasing to ‘zero-calorie’ drinks. Pepsi Max stated that it was the ‘first diet cola for men’ and Dr. Pepper 10 warned, ‘It’s not for women.’
“These campaigns appeared to get more men to purchase the product, yet did not scare away women,” he concluded. “We think that green products can be successfully marketed in the same way.”
Source: University of Notre Dame