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The effectiveness of environmental claims for

services advertising
Ricky Y.K. Chan, T.K.P. Leung and Y.H. Wong
Department of Management and Marketing, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this study is to explore how different types of environmental claims may affect the communication effectiveness of
environmental advertising. Two two moderating variables include the perceived eco-friendly image of the originating country and consumer
involvement.
Design/methodology/approach – The examination involves the analysis of the responses of 1,200 subjects in Shanghai, China, to mock
advertisements containing environmental claims using a 2 x 3 factorial design.
Findings – Environmental claims enhance the communication effectiveness of advertisements for both high- and low-involvement services. For high-
involvement services, substantive environmental claims generate more favorable attitudinal responses than do associative environmental claims.
Research limitations/implications – This research focused on a single Chinese city and on two service categories with contrasting degrees of
involvement. While such a confinement can enhance the internal validity of the findings, their external validity has yet to be established.
Practical implications – These findings suggest that marketers should adopt a situational perspective by taking into account environmental claim
type, country disposition, the degree of environmental consciousness of their target consumers, and service type when designing their environmental
advertising campaigns.
Originality/value – Although a number of previous studies have focused on the application of environmental claims to advertise products, similar
investigation into how these claims may help advertise services is virtually non-existent. In this respect, the present study can be viewed as the first
empirical work devoted to closing this research gap.

Keywords Services, Advertising, Environmental studies, Brand image, Corporate image, China

Paper type Research paper

An executive summary for managers can be found at on this issue, nearly all concern the use of environmental
the end of this article. claims to promote tangibles in developed economies of the
West (Manrai et al., 1997; Morris et al., 1995; Polonsky et al.,
1998). Although Chan (2000) examined the effectiveness of
Introduction using environmental claims in China, the world’s largest
In sympathy with the increasing environmental consciousness developing economy, his work was confined to a product
of consumers over the past three decades, the use of (shampoo) rather than a service. In sum, a review of the
environmental claims for advertising has become more and existing literature reveals that investigation of the effectiveness
more popular (Banerjee et al., 1995; Easterling et al., 1996; of environmental claims in promoting services (and
Manrai et al., 1997). Apart from the wide application of particularly promoting them to consumers in developing
environmental claims in the product market (Kangun et al., countries) remains virtually non-existent.
1991; Polonsky et al., 1998), service firms of various types
(e.g. hoteliers and fast food operators) have been increasingly
resorting to these claims to enhance consumer acceptance of Rationale and purpose of the study
their intangible offerings (Conlin, 2000; Jones, 2002). An Within the foregoing context, this study attempts to analyze
empirical investigation of a sample of major magazines has and better understand the communication effectiveness of
also highlighted that over one-third of the environmental environmental claims for advertising services to consumers in
advertisements placed therein are related to service offerings China. To this end, the study refers to the existing literature
(Carlson et al., 1996b). on services advertising and general advertising in order to
Despite the popular use of environmental claims among analyze the effectiveness of environmental claims for
practitioners, limited academic attention has been paid to advertising services to Chinese consumers. It also examines
exploring the effectiveness of these claims. Of the few studies how key environmental advertising variables such as
environmental claim type (Carlson et al., 1996a), country
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at image of the service firm (Manrai et al., 1997), and consumer
www.emeraldinsight.com/0887-6045.htm involvement (Chan, 2000) may affect the communication
effectiveness.

Journal of Services Marketing


20/4 (2006) 233– 250 The work described in this paper was supported by a research grant from
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0887-6045] the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Research grant account:
[DOI 10.1108/08876040610674580] A-PD23).

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The effectiveness of environmental claims for services advertising Journal of Services Marketing
Ricky Y.K. Chan, T.K.P. Leung and Y.H. Wong Volume 20 · Number 4 · 2006 · 233 –250

In bridging the aforementioned research gap, this study will structures (China Environment Series, 1998; East Asian
make academic and practical contributions in several ways. In Executive Reports, 1999; Stover, 2000), and upgraded its
academic terms, marketing scholars have long been National Environmental Protection Administration (NEPA)
dissatisfied with the lack of integration between the services to ministerial status (Baldinger, 2000). All of these actions
advertising and general advertising literature (Mittal, 1999; indicate the significantly increased commitment of Chinese
Tripp, 1997). Such scholars contend that studies of services officials, at least at the national level, to tackle environmental
advertising would benefit from utilizing those long-established issues. This increased commitment from the central
communication and behavioral concepts derived from government, together with the corresponding tightening of
investigations into advertising issues in general (Mortimer, national environmental policy, has posed new operating
2002). In response to this call, the current study applies challenges to enterprises that conduct business in China
knowledge and theories documented in the general (Spitalnik, 1996). Failing to meet such challenges may
advertising literature to aid the analysis of services jeopardize the survival of these enterprises. For example, it is
advertising issues. It is hoped that this will contribute to reported that 60,000 heavily polluting enterprises from 15
cross-fertilization between related subject fields and provide industries have been forced to close down since China’s
insights into the relevance of general advertising theories in enforcement of various environmental regulations in 1996
explaining offerings other than tangibles. (Dutton, 1998).
In practical terms, the choice of China as the setting of With China’s continued economic and social advancement,
analysis will also provide significant insights to various service and the increased official commitment to tackle
firms that are attracted to investing in the lucrative Chinese environmental problems, Chinese consumers (especially
market (Luo, 2001; Ralston et al., 1999). China’s gross those residing in urban areas) have also gradually realized
domestic product has grown at a compounded annual rate of the importance of ecological well-being to their enjoyment of
nearly 10 percent throughout the last two decades (China increased amounts of leisure time. This observation is
Statistical Yearbook, 2002). The rapid rate of economic supported by Chan’s (1999) empirical study, which
development and the associated increasing purchasing power demonstrates that Chinese consumers residing in urban
of Chinese consumers make the country an attractive market areas are even more emotionally concerned about
for both foreign and local investors (Kilburn, 2001; Li and environmental problems than are their American
Gallup, 1995). The sustained economic growth has also led to counterparts. They are also willing to pay an additional
the expansion of China’s service industry. In recent years, the premium of 4.5 percent for a green version of an offering
industry has contributed to around one-third of the country’s (Chan, 1999). Moreover, Ye’s (2000) investigation indicates
national income and workforce (China Statistical Yearbook, that more than 75 percent of Chinese consumers have strong
2002; Fu, 2002; Lu et al., 2002). With China’s accession to intentions to purchase offerings that are eco-friendly, and that
the World Trade Organization, it is believed that immense over 90 percent of enterprises are willing to sell green
business opportunities will further emerge in its tertiary sector products in China. In view of these developments, it is hoped
due to the influx of foreign investment (Tang, 2002). Taking that the current study will provide service marketers operating
the fast food industry as an example, it is reported that China in China with some useful insights into fine-tuning their green
has already become the fastest-growing market of advertising strategy. A better understanding of how to
McDonald’s in the world (Madden, 2004). effectively use environmental advertising claims will render
While investors have been attracted to China’s remarkable service marketers with another promising tool to differentiate
economic performance, they have more recently started to pay their offerings from competitors. This understanding is
increased attention to the downside of this speedy economic particularly important given the difficulties commonly
development, namely environmental degradation. At least half associated with the positioning and promotion of intangibles
of the world’s ten most polluted cities are located in China. (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2004).
The country is also the world’s largest producer of ozone-
depleting substances, and the second largest producer of
Guiding framework of the study
greenhouse gas emissions (Baldinger, 2000). With a national
daily sewage rate of around 3.7 billion tonnes, China would With reference to the classical marketing communication
need 10,000 waste-water treatment plants costing some model (see, for example, Schiffman and Kanuk, 2004), a
US$48 billion just to achieve a treatment rate of 50 percent framework guiding the subsequent discussion and analysis is
(The Economist, 2004). Moreover, it is believed that three- depicted in Figure 1. Briefly, the framework adopts the
quarters of the river water flowing through China’s urban systems approach (Input ! Process ! Ouput) to delineate the
areas is unsuitable for drinking or fishing, and that 300,000 major factors that affect the communication effectiveness of
Chinese citizens each year die prematurely as a result of air environmental claims. The framework first postulates that the
pollution (Mallet, 2004). In recent years, the country has sender’s or advertiser’s demographic characteristics such as
produced 120m tonnes of solid waste annually, and this the nature of his/her offering (e.g. service or product) and
amount is increasing by 8 percent per annum (Chuan, 2003). country of origin, and strategic decisions on the use of
It is further estimated that environmental degradation and the environmental claims, will have a significant bearing on the
resultant resource scarcity costs China the equivalent of 8-12 consequent advertising messages and informational cues of
percent of gross domestic product annually (Economy, 1999). the advertisement. These messages and informational cues
The continuing environmental degradation has forced the are then psychologically processed by the receiver (the target
Chinese government to resort to various legislative and audience). Moreover, because the literature concerning the
administrative measures for rectification (Chan, 2000). advertising of products has revealed that country image and
Among other measures, the government has strengthened its level of involvement exert significant influences on the
environmental laws, developed new environment-related tax decisions of consumers (Manrai et al., 1997; Mortimer,

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The effectiveness of environmental claims for services advertising Journal of Services Marketing
Ricky Y.K. Chan, T.K.P. Leung and Y.H. Wong Volume 20 · Number 4 · 2006 · 233 –250

Figure 1 A framework guiding the analysis

2001; Vaughn, 1980), and particularly Chinese consumers While researchers of services advertising often express
(Chan, 2000; Zhao and Shen, 1995), the present framework different views on how to advertise services, they generally
further proposes that the psychological processing of the agree that the relevant advertising strategy should emphasize
receiver will be moderated by his/her perceived eco- addressing the issue of tangibility (George and Berry, 1981;
friendliness of the originating country of the advertiser, and Legg and Baker, 1987; Mittal, 1999). In this context,
his/her degree of involvement with the advertised offering. researchers including Hill and Gandhi (1992) and Tripp
This processing will eventually lead to the receiver’s (1997) maintain that services advertising should contain
communicative responses being expressed in terms of concrete language to help potential customers recognize the
attitudes toward the advertisement and the brand, and service benefits, and to build up confidence in the service
purchase intention. From the perspective of the advertiser, quality. However, as Mortimer (2002) succinctly points out in
these attitudinal and conative outputs constitute a basis for her review of the services advertising literature, other
evaluating the communication effectiveness of the researchers hold different views about how the issue of
advertisement (Stevenson et al., 2000). tangibility should be addressed in advertising (e.g. Stern,
With reference to this framework, the remainder of this 1997; Young, 1981). They concede that while most services
paper begins with a review of the literature on how the have some tangible components, their differentiating appeal
intangible nature of an offering may affect the relevant may well lie in some intangible aspects of the service process
advertising approach. This is followed by a discussion of or outcome (Mittal, 1999). On this basis, those researchers
different types of environmental claims (environmental claim suggest the possibility of using emotional advertising appeals
types), and the possible responses of consumers toward these to link the properties of the service to consumers’ subjective
claims. Two proposed moderating influences on the benefits of using the service, as well as to their social and
communication effectiveness of environmental claims, psychological experiences.
namely country image and consumer involvement, are then Stafford and Day’s (1995) study provides useful empirical
analyzed. These conceptual considerations are used as a basis input for evaluating the relative superiority of rational and
for the development of four hypotheses, which are tested emotional appeals in services advertising. In their work,
using data collected from Chinese consumers. Relevant Stafford and Day (1995) demonstrated that when compared
managerial implications and concluding remarks are made at with emotional appeals, rational or informational appeals are
the end of the paper. able to generate more favorable attitudes toward the
advertisement for advertising both experiential and
utilitarian services. They attribute the result to the ability of
Literature review specific and concrete information to reduce the higher level of
Services advertising perceived risks commonly associated with the purchase of
Although in the last two decades there has been increased services (see also Murray and Schlacter, 1990). From this
interest in the phenomenon of services marketing (Grove et al., analysis, Stafford and Day (1995) postulate the universal
2002), the way in which services should be advertised remains superiority of rational appeals for advertising services
a relatively unexplored research area (Tripp, 1997). Given the regardless of their degrees of experiential/utilitarian content.
unique characteristics of services, some researchers argue that When examined carefully, Stafford and Day’s (1995)
the approach for advertising services should differ from that findings appear to be consistent with the conventional view
for tangible products (e.g. George and Berry, 1981; Legg and of environmental researchers (e.g. Polonsky et al., 1997)
Baker, 1987; Stafford and Day, 1995). However, others cast concerning the relative effectiveness of different types of
doubt on the argument for distinguishing between products environmental claims. For this reason, the issues relating to
and services, and question whether it is really necessary to the classification and nature of different environmental claim
study services advertising separately from advertising in types, and consumers’ possible responses toward them, are
general (Mathur and Kenyon, 1998; Mortimer, 2001). discussed in the following sections.

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The effectiveness of environmental claims for services advertising Journal of Services Marketing
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Environmental claim types on environmental advertising claims in four English-speaking


Advertising is one of the most important communication tools countries, Polonsky et al. (1997) suggest that more positive
used by green marketers to promote awareness of their consumer responses can be derived by using factual and
environmentally friendly products and to stimulate verifiable claims. In other words, to make product choices
corresponding purchases (Carlson et al., 1996a; Peattie, consistent with their environmentally responsible desire,
1995). To achieve these communication objectives, consumers would prefer to have concrete (rather than vague)
environmental advertising typically includes information or information about the eco-friendly attributes of green products
claims about how the advertised product or the advertiser can (Chan, 1999; Manrai et al., 1997). When these findings are
contribute to environmental improvement or help reduce judged along with the substantive-associative taxonomy, it
environmental degradation (Polonsky et al., 1997). appears that substantive environmental claims, due to their
Alternatively, these environmental claims may be presented informational and more concrete nature, will generate more
in a more subtle way by indirectly associating the advertised favorable consumer responses than will their associative
product or the advertiser with some positive environmental environmental counterparts.
messages. Although the foregoing analysis is based on the findings from
Although the use of environmental claims for advertising studies concerning the advertising of tangible goods, it is likely
has become increasingly popular, only limited research that it remains tenable in the context of services advertising.
attention has been paid to how they should be classified. Indeed, as services are, in general, more ambiguous in nature
Carlson et al. (1993) used content analysis to devise four than products (Lovelock, 1996), the effectiveness of
typologies to categorize environmental information typically substantive environmental claims should be even more
conveyed in green advertisements. These are: apparent when compared with associative environmental
1 product orientation (e.g. “This product is claims. This is because the higher ambiguity of a service will
biodegradable”); limit the amount of evidence available for consumers to
2 process orientation (e.g. “20 percent of the raw materials evaluate the relevant service quality (Hoch and Deighton,
used in producing this product are recycled”); 1989). In such a situation, it is likely that consumers would rely
3 image orientation (e.g. “We are committed to preserving more heavily on claims that could provide them with concrete
our forests”); and information and substantiated evidence in order to make their
4 environmental fact (e.g. “The world’s rain forests are evaluation. On this basis, it is believed that substantive
being destroyed at the rate of two acres per second”). environmental claims, due to their greater ability to
substantiate the alleged eco-friendly benefits of an advertised
This classification has subsequently been adopted to study service, will generate more favorable consumer responses than
environmental advertisements in the USA, the UK, Australia, will associative environmental claims.
and Canada (Carlson et al., 1996a). Although investigations of Chinese consumers’ responses
When examined carefully, the product and process toward environmental advertising or services advertising are
orientations identified above demonstrate an organization’s rare, further light can still be shed on the foregoing discussion by
interventions in the marketplace that have a positive, or at referring to studies concerning consumers’ reactions toward
least benign, effect on the environment (Carlson et al., advertising in general (e.g. Parson, 1993; Pollay et al., 1990;
1996a). The product and process orientation information can Zhao and Shen, 1995). Of particular interest, Pollay et al.
be regarded as “substantive” claims that present concrete and (1990) report that Chinese consumers demonstrate very positive
specific information about the environmentally responsible responses toward advertising and like advertising claims to be
efforts of an organization (Ottman, 1993). On the other hand, informative and substantiated. Zhao and Shen (1995) also
the image orientation and environmental fact information can conclude that Chinese consumers are inclined to pay more
be regarded as “associative” claims that are less tangible in attention to the informational content of an advertisement rather
nature (Chan, 2000). These claims help an organization to than to its entertaining features. These findings suggest that
establish an environmentally friendly facade by tying it to Chinese consumers view advertising as one of the most
some positive environmental information, but without directly important sources for concrete product information, a
mentioning how it actually contributes to ecological well- phenomenon that is probably attributed to traditional Chinese
being (Carlson et al., 1996a). The above analysis is similar to utilitarian ways of thinking (see Hellersberg, 1953; Jenni, 1999;
the views of Polonsky et al. (1997), who regard product and Sun, 1992). Should Chinese consumers’ reactions toward
process orientations as indicators of substantive general advertising not deviate greatly from their responses
improvements in corporate environmental behavior, and toward environmental advertising, it is likely that they would
image orientation and environmental fact as environmental also exhibit a higher preference for substantive than associative
posturing by the marketer. So far as Chinese consumers are environmental claims. This inference about Chinese consumers’
concerned, it is found that they exhibit similar responses responses toward environmental claims echoes the general view
toward the two substantive claim types, and toward the two of Western researchers (e.g. Davis, 1993; Polonsky et al., 1997)
associative claim types, respectively (Chan, 2000). concerning environmental advertising, namely the advantages of
using concrete, informative, and substantiated claims for
Consumer responses toward environmental claims promoting green products.
In studying strategies for the effective advertising of eco-friendly In sum, given the increasing environmental consciousness
products, Davis (1993) maintains that specific environmental of the Chinese government and its citizens, it is argued that
claims that provide detailed, relevant, understandable, and the use of environmental claims will enhance the
supported information on green products’ environmental communication effectiveness of advertising services in the
benefits are better received by consumers than claims that Chinese marketplace. Moreover, it is argued that the
lack these characteristics. Based on their cross-national analysis effectiveness will vary according to the type of

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The effectiveness of environmental claims for services advertising Journal of Services Marketing
Ricky Y.K. Chan, T.K.P. Leung and Y.H. Wong Volume 20 · Number 4 · 2006 · 233 –250

environmental claims in use. On this basis, two hypotheses are products, similar studies on how it may influence consumers’
developed accordingly: evaluation of services are rather limited. Javalgi et al. (2001)
H1. The use of environmental claims will enhance the identified only 19 major studies performed in the last two
communication effectiveness of advertising services to decades on the relationship between country image and
Chinese consumers. international services. Those researchers, however,
H2. In the case of advertising services to Chinese maintained that the way in which country image affects
consumers, substantive environmental claims will be consumers’ evaluation of a service should not differ greatly
more effective than associative environmental claims in from that documented in the country image literature
generating positive consumer attitudes and purchase concerning products.
intention.
Moderating influences of eco-friendly country image
Country image and consumer perception In examining the moderating influence of country image on
The hypothesized claim type-effectiveness relationship might product evaluation in the context of environmental advertising,
be moderated by the presence of other variables. Among other Manrai et al. (1997) use the term “country disposition” to
factors, it is probable that consumers’ established perception denote how individual consumers perceive the originating
of the offering (in terms of its performance and quality) may country, and believe that this disposition is particularly relevant
exert significant moderating influences on the relationship. As in examining how consumers differ in their subjective
an illustration, even if a substantive environmental claim is evaluations of products from countries of comparable levels of
used to advertise an offering, it is unlikely to be effective if the development. They further contend that consumers who are
alleged eco-friendliness contradicts sharply with the unfamiliar with the environmental practices of a foreign firm are
perception of the offering that consumers already hold. likely to base their assessment of environmental advertising
Indeed, if there is a marked discrepancy between the claims on their disposition toward the relevant country.
environmental claim and such a perception, consumers may Consumers who have more positive disposition toward a
even interpret the claim as deliberate deception, thereby foreign country will probably interpret an environmental
leading to reducing rather than improving communication advertising claim from that country as being more credible and
effectiveness. In contrast, if an associative environmental favorable than one from another country (Manrai et al., 1997).
claim were employed in the above circumstance, consumers With reference to classic social judgment theory (see Sherif
would probably feel less annoyed because the vague nature of and Hovland, 1961, 1964; Sherif et al., 1965), further light
the claim may help avoid the sharp perceptual incongruity can be shed on how country image might affect the claim
that may arise in the case of disbelieved substantive type-effectiveness relationship. In brief, the theory posits that
environmental claims (Chan, 2000; Manrai et al., 1997). a highly involved individual will interpret a message that is
Concerning the development of consumer perception, congruent with his or her opinions as being more positive than
behavioral researchers argue that consumers often rely on it actually is. This reaction is termed an “assimilation effect”.
some surrogate or extrinsic cues to evaluate the performance Conversely, the theory also posits that a highly involved
and quality of a service with which they are not familiar individual will interpret a message that is not congruent with
(Schiffman and Kanuk, 2004). Among the various extrinsic his or her opinions as being more negative than it actually is.
cues, the country of origin of the relevant marketer is This reaction is termed a “contrast effect”.
consistently regarded as one of the most important cues for Based on the above discussion, the moderating effect of
consumers (Manrai et al., 1997), and particularly for Chinese country image on the claim type-effectiveness relationship
consumers (Li et al., 1997) in evaluating offerings. For this seems plausible in the following two situations concerning
reason, it is worthwhile to further explore how the perceived high-involvement purchases. First, if consumers perceive the
image of the originating country might moderate the claim originating country of an advertised offering as
type-effectiveness relationship. environmentally friendly, they will probably project this
Since the mid-1960s, numerous studies have been devoted to favorable or eco-friendly perception onto the offering as well.
investigating the effect of country of origin on consumer In this case, it is likely that consumers’ favorable perception of
perception (Han, 1989). Overall, these studies confirm that the the offering will be further strengthened if a substantive
perceived image of the originating country (country image) environmental claim is in use. This is because a substantive
significantly influences consumers’ evaluation of a product (Kim environmental claim (compared with an associative claim)
and Chung, 1997; Roth and Romeo, 1992; Thakor and provides a relatively more concrete and specific explanation
Katsanis, 1997). This line of investigation has, in general, about how the offering can contribute to environmental
demonstrated that country image prompts consumers to engage protection. Hence, the inclusion of such a substantive
in more elaborate cognitive evaluation of the product and description would further reinforce consumers’ existing
product-related information (Lee et al., 2001; Manrai et al., favorable perception of the offering (derived from the eco-
1997; Samiee, 1994). For Chinese consumers, similar influences friendly country image). According to social judgment theory,
of country image have also been found. For instance, King and this phenomenon refers to assimilation effects that result from
McDaniel (1989) discovered that Chinese consumers perceive high congruity between the environmental claim message and
Japanese, American, and European products as being consumers’ existing perception of the offering (Chan, 2000).
significantly more attractive than Chinese products. Li et al. Given that assimilation effects often prompt consumers to
(1997) also reported that Chinese consumers express more perceive an offering as being even more favorable than it
favorable attitudes toward products originating from the USA actually is, the third hypothesis is thus developed:
and Japan than toward those from their own country. H3. When the advertiser of a high-involvement service
Despite the relatively abundant amount of investigation on originates from a country perceived as eco-friendly, the
how country image may affect the perceived quality of use of a substantive environmental claim will be more

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The effectiveness of environmental claims for services advertising Journal of Services Marketing
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effective than that of an associative environmental Moderating influences of consumer involvement


claim in generating positive consumer attitudes and It should be noted that the foregoing analysis based on social
purchase intention. judgment theory points to the importance of high involvement
for the operation of assimilation or contrast effects.
Second, if consumers perceive the originating country of an
Specifically, the theory posits that if an individual is highly
advertised offering as environmentally unfriendly, they will
involved in an issue, he/she will accept very few alternative
probably project this negative or eco-unfriendly perception
opinions. This narrow latitude of acceptance will, in turn,
onto the offering as well. As such, a substantive environmental
lead to assimilation (contrast) effects when the individual
claim that provides concrete environmental information about
perceives similarities (discrepancies) between an external
the offering may simply augment consumers’ perceptual
message and his/her existing beliefs (Chan and Lau, 2004;
incongruity. Due to the aforementioned contrast effect, it is
Meyers-Levy and Sternthal, 1993; Sherif et al., 1965). The
expected that consumers will express even more negative
importance of the degree of involvement in influencing
views about the offering than it actually deserves. In contrast,
consumers’ receptivity of advertising messages has also been
should an associative environmental claim be employed in the
advocated in the general advertising (Vakratsas and Ambler,
advertisement, consumers’ unfavorable views on the offering
1999) as well as the services advertising literature (Mortimer,
may be ameliorated. This is because an associative
2002).
environmental claim does not relate the product directly to
According to behavioral researchers, an offering is classified
any specific eco-friendly attributes. The vague nature of this
as high involvement if it can provoke consumers to engage in
type of claim allows consumers wider latitude to avoid any
an elaborate cognitive process (Petty et al., 1983;
sharp incongruity between the environmental claim message
Zaichkowsky, 1994). They further contend that if
and their existing negative perception of the offering (derived
consumers perceive the purchase of a particular offering as
from the eco-unfriendly country image). Therefore, it is
being highly risky and yet personally important, they will be
expected that a substantive claim will be less effective than an
highly motivated to extensively analyze all the available
associative claim if the advertised offering is from a country
information (including advertising messages) related to the
perceived as being eco-unfriendly. Based on this analysis. The
purchase (Assael, 1998; Li, 1997). This notion of
fourth hypothesis concerning the operation of contrast effects
involvement leads to the general inference that if consumers
is formulated:
have limited experience in the purchase of a particular service
H4. When the advertiser of a high-involvement service
and/or perceive that service as expensive, they will be more
originates from a country perceived as eco-unfriendly,
involved in the purchase. On the other hand, if consumers
the use of a substantive environmental claim will be
have considerable experience in the purchase of a service and/
less effective than that of an associative environmental
or perceive it as inexpensive, they will be less involved in the
claim in generating positive consumer attitudes and
purchase. From another perspective, the foregoing analysis
purchase intention. seems to suggest that the degree of involvement of the
For reference, the hypothesized moderating influences of consumer (i.e. consumer involvement) does vary across
country image are depicted graphically in Figure 2. service types having different inherent characteristics. To

Figure 2 Hypothesized moderating influences of perceived eco-friendliness of the originating country on the relationship between environmental claim
type and communication effectiveness

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The effectiveness of environmental claims for services advertising Journal of Services Marketing
Ricky Y.K. Chan, T.K.P. Leung and Y.H. Wong Volume 20 · Number 4 · 2006 · 233 –250

illustrate this, some scholars have argued that the purchase of emphasis on print and broadcast advertising and publicity to
a hotel package will trigger a much higher degree of consumer cultivate their brand equity in the face of intensifying
involvement than will the purchase of fast food (Bloemer and competition. To further enhance their corporate image and
de Ruyter, 1999; Mortimer, 2002; Weinberger and Spotts, social acceptability, increasing numbers of new hotels (e.g.
1989). Accord, Hilton) have also widely publicized their
Relating specifically to the purchase of an offering featured environmental competence in treating wastewater, gas, and
with eco-friendly attributes, another possible determinant of smoke, and in economizing energy consumption (Euromonitor,
consumer involvement, namely consumers’ perceived 2004).
seriousness of environmental problems, also needs to be China’s fast food industry has also experienced rapid
considered. According to Higie and Feick (1989), consumers growth since the opening of the first foreign fast food outlet in
will be highly involved in a purchase decision if the offering in 1987 by Kentucky Fried Chicken in Beijing (Miller, 2004).
question relates to an issue with which they are greatly Over the last decade, the industry has achieved an average
concerned. Blackwell et al. (2001) also maintain that the annual growth rate of 20 percent in terms of revenue (Marr
degree of involvement tends to be high when consumers and Hatfield, 2001). Recently, the 800,000-plus fast food
perceive the decision to purchase as having a direct influence enterprises operating in China have accounted for one-third
on themselves. On this basis, it is likely that if consumers are of the total revenue of the nation’s entire catering industry.
highly concerned about environmental problems or perceive With the increasing affluence and Westernization of Chinese
these problems as serious, they will be highly involved in the consumers, the number and diversity of fast-food restaurants
cognitive analysis of those offerings (and the related in China and especially in Shanghai have mushroomed (Cee
advertising messages) alleged to be contributory to and Theiler, 1999; Marr and Hatfield, 2001). Apart from the
environmental well-being (Chan and Lau, 2004). In order market leaders of Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s,
to better understand how the degree of consumer involvement other overseas or non-mainland Chinese fast food operators
may moderate the communication effectiveness of including USA’s Pizza Hut and Papa John’s, Canada’s
environmental advertising claims, the empirical test of this Panagopoulos, Japan’s Mos Burger, and Hong Kong’s Cafe
study therefore also takes “service type” and “consumers’ de Coral have been marketing their offerings aggressively in
perceived seriousness of environmental problems” into the country. In addition to localizing their food items to fit the
consideration. The relevant details of the empirical test are taste of indigenous consumers, most of these large-scale fast
described below. food chains place considerable emphasis on enhancing their
corporate image through aggressive print and broadcast
Methodology and empirical tests advertising to differentiate themselves from rivals (Chen,
1997; Dolven, 2003). The recent launching of the localized
The chosen services version of the “I’m lovin’ it” campaign by McDonald’s in
Empirical tests of the four hypotheses, using data from a China typifies the use of aggressive advertising efforts to
survey, were made in order to assess the validity of various develop brand equity (Madden, 2004). Moreover, these
aspects of the foregoing conceptual analysis. The hypotheses chains are often engaged in joint promotion with other firms
were tested by conducting two field experiments: one for a to provide consumers with collectibles or gift items to further
high-involvement service and the other for a low-involvement nurture their loyalty (Chen, 1997; Miller, 2004). In terms of
service. The high- and low- involvement services chosen for environmental measures, they have also started reducing the
this study were hotel and fast food, respectively. Having use of traditional plastic-foam boxes or replacing them with
reviewed the relevant literature (e.g. Bloemer and de Ruyter, more eco-friendly paper bags to help solve the problem of
1999; Weinberger and Spotts, 1989), Mortimer (2002) “white pollution” (Bin, 1998).
considered the hotel and fast food services as differing
mainly in their degree of involvement. The use of these two The experiments
services for investigation would also enhance the practical The two experiments were in the format of a 2 £ 3 factorial
significance of the study as hoteliers (Conlin, 2000; Jones, research design. In the design, perceived eco-friendliness of
2002; Malley, 1999) and fast food operators (Hemphill, 1996; the advertiser’s originating country (PE), and environmental
Nation’s Restaurant News, 2001) are increasingly resorting to claim type (ECT) were treated as the independent variables or
various environmentally friendly measures to enhance their factors, and communication effectiveness was the dependent
social acceptability and corporate image. variable. To operationalize the design, six print
Relating specifically to China’s hotel industry, it is evident advertisements (test advertisements) for a fictitious service
that the industry has experienced rapid growth since the undertaking (a hotel or a fast food shop) were first developed
opening of its first joint-venture hotel in Beijing in 1982. for each experiment. A fictitious corporate name was used to
Throughout the past 15 years, the industry has achieved an control for influences of prior advertiser or brand perceptions
average annual growth rate of more than 15 percent in terms (Perrien et al., 1985). For each experiment, an identical
of revenue (National Tourism Administration, various issues). offering claim and pictorial representation of the advertised
Currently, China has a total of 9,751 star-rated hotels. Of service undertaking was placed in each of the six test
these, 678 are foreign-invested entities (e.g. Holiday Inn, advertisements.
Shangri-la) that target mainly foreign visitors and affluent In addition, with reference to Chan’s (2000) procedure, the
domestic travelers. Owing to their financial and managerial six test advertisements were each featured with the
advantages, these foreign hotels acquire a market share of over appropriate country image and environmental claim type
40 percent in terms of total annual revenue (Euromonitor, information to result in six different PE-ECT combinations.
2004). Although these hotels used to rely heavily on low The six combinations are similar to those depicted in Figure 2.
prices to attract customers, they have recently placed an Appendix 1 presents the adopted offerings, environmental

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Ricky Y.K. Chan, T.K.P. Leung and Y.H. Wong Volume 20 · Number 4 · 2006 · 233 –250

claims, and pictorial representations of the experiments, Findings


whereas Appendix 2 details the procedure for measuring PE.
Finally, the dependent variable of communication Summary statistics
Table I presents the summary statistics of the variables under
effectiveness was assessed for each of the two experiments
investigation for the high- and low-involvement services,
against three dimensions, namely attitudes towards the
respectively. As all these variables achieved satisfactory
advertisement (AAd), brand attitudes (BA), and purchase
reliabilities (see Nunnally, 1978), their composite scores
intention (PI) (Brown and Stan, 1992; Bruner, 1998). Items
were computed for subsequent testing of hypotheses.
used to operationalize these dimensions are detailed in
Appendix 2.
Summarized results of the hypothesis testing
The approach suggested by Hair et al. (1995) was followed to
The surveyed city test the four hypotheses. Specifically, multivariate analysis of
The Chinese city chosen for conducting the survey was variance (MANOVA) was first used to test whether the three
Shanghai. Shanghai is one of the most developed, yet dimensions (AAd, BA, and PI) used to assess communication
polluted, cities in China (Hu, 2001). As an illustration, effectiveness differed across the aforementioned six PE-ECT
combinations. Should significant differences be found,
Shanghai has long suffered from a fresh water supply shortage
univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) and pairwise
due to serious river pollution. Currently, the city can draw on
comparisons would then be performed to further identify
only 200 tonnes of new fresh water per resident per year, far
the source of the differences (Hair et al., 1995). The major
below the global average of 1,750 tonnes. Owing to its
results of the hypothesis testing based on this approach are
inadequate infrastructural development, Shanghai is able to
summarized in Table II. Readers are directed to Appendix 3
treat only 28 percent of its total residential wastewater (US (Tables AI and AII) for detailed results of the hypothesis
Embassy, 2001). When judged against US standards, testing.
Shanghai’s air is also considered to be “heavily polluted” Overall, the results rendered reasonable support to all four
due to the extensive use of coal-generated power plants and hypotheses. The support was even stronger when confined to
the increasing number of vehicles (US Embassy, 2001). the effectiveness measures of attitudes toward the
Recently, the city has produced 23m tonnes of solid waste advertisement, and brand attitudes. Specifically, the results
annually, and this amount is expected to increase by at least 4 echoed the general belief that the use of environmental claims
percent per annum (Shanghai Environmental Education enhances the communication effectiveness of advertising
Centre, 2004). In view of these deteriorating ecological services to Chinese consumers. Compared with associative
conditions, and in sympathy with the environmental policies environmental claims, substantive environmental claims were
of the central government, the municipal government of found to generate higher communication effectiveness among
Shanghai has recently made strenuous efforts to rectify the Chinese consumers. The results also highlighted that service
city’s environmental problems by pledging to spend at least 3 type and the perceived eco-friendliness of the originating
percent of its gross domestic product annually on country exert significant moderating influences on the
environmental protection (China Daily, 2003). These environmental claim type – effectiveness relationship. Put
developments indicate that the environmental situation another way, in the case where the advertised service is a high-
faced by Shanghai is indicative of that faced by other major involvement one and the advertiser originates from a country
Chinese cities (Tian, 2000). perceived as eco-friendly, the superiority of substantive

Table I Summary statistics for all major variables


Data collection
A total of 1,200 adult Chinese subjects were randomly Variable Mean Standard deviation Cronbach Alpha
selected and successfully invited to participate in the study. The high-involvement service, hotel (n 5 600)
Overall, the whole sample had approximately equal numbers PEa 3.84 1.61 0.9428
of male (53 percent) and female (47 percent) subjects, and a AAd 4.20 1.35 0.9897
median age range of 25-29. In addition, 62 percent of the BA 3.99 1.16 0.9911
subjects were married, and 60 percent had received high PI 3.44 0.82 0.9914
school education or better. These demographic characteristics The low-involvement service, fast food (n 5 600)
of the sample did not differ significantly from those of the PEa 3.80 1.53 0.9713
entire Chinese population (see China Statistical Yearbook,
AAd 4.12 1.40 0.9892
2002).
BA 3.91 1.18 0.9895
Of the 1,200 subjects, 600 were randomly assigned for
PI 3.40 0.86 0.9907
investigating the high-involvement service of hotel, and 600
for the low-involvement service of fast food. For each service Notes: a Based on their composite scores, PE was subsequently converted
under investigation, the 600 subjects were randomly assigned into a two-level factor using the median split technique to operationalize
to six groups of equal size (i.e. 100 subjects each). The the 2 £ 3 factorial research design; n = sample size; PE ¼ perceived eco-
subjects of each group were asked to view one test friendliness of the advertiser’s originating country; AAd ¼ attitudes toward
advertisement; BA ¼ brand attitudes; PI ¼ purchase intention; all were
advertisement (from those depicted in Appendix 1). After
coded on a seven-point scale (1 to 7) with higher values indicating more
the viewing, they were requested to express their responses favorable responses
relevant to the investigation. The major results are
summarized below.

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Table II Summarized results of the hypothesis testing


Hypothesis Result
H1. The use of environmental claims will enhance the communication Hotel: supported for the effectiveness measures of AAd and BA but not PI
effectiveness of advertising services to Chinese consumers Fast food: supported for all three effectiveness measures
H2. In the case of advertising services to Chinese consumers, Hotel: supported for the effectiveness measures of AAd and BA but not PI
substantive environmental claims will be more effective than Fast Food: supported for all three effectiveness measures
associative environmental claims in generating positive consumer
attitudes and purchase intention.
H3. When the advertiser of a high-involvement service originates from Hotel: supported for the effectiveness measures of AAd and BA but not PI
a country perceived as eco-friendly, the use of a substantive Fast food: Results further supported “high-involvement service type” as a
environmental claim will be more effective than that of an precondition for the operation of assimilation effects
associative environmental claim in generating positive consumer
attitudes and purchase intention
H4. When the advertiser of a high-involvement service originates from Hotel: supported for the effectiveness measures of AAd and BA but not PI
a country perceived as eco-unfriendly, the use of a substantive Fast food: Results further supported “high-involvement service type” as a
environmental claim will be less effective than that of an precondition for the operation of contrast effects
associative environmental claim in generating positive consumer
attitudes and purchase intention
Notes: AAd = attitudes toward advertisement; BA = brand attitudes, PI = purchase intention

environmental claims (relative to associative claims) in environmental problems as more serious exhibit more
enhancing communication effectiveness will be further positive communicative responses toward a service
augmented. Conversely, if the advertiser originates from a advertisement featured with an environmental claim, for
country perceived as eco-unfriendly, the use of substantive both service situations studied (MANOVA based significance
rather than associative environmental claims to advertise a level , 0.05). Second, being a major determinant of consumer
high-involvement service will result in much lower involvement, perceived seriousness of environmental
communication effectiveness. These moderating influences problems (as shown in Figure 4) also exerts a significant
are depicted graphically in Figure 3. moderating influence on communication effectiveness under
the high-involvement service situation. Specifically, if the
Influence of perceived seriousness of environmental advertiser of a high-involvement service originates from a
problems country perceived as eco-friendly, the use of an environmental
Apart from the influence of service type, consumers’ degree of (either substantive or associative) claim will elicit much higher
involvement in a service alleged to possess eco-friendly communication effectiveness from those who perceive
attributes might also be affected by their perceived seriousness environmental problems as serious than from those who do
of environmental problems, as discussed. Regarding this, not. Such an influence is similar to augmenting the
several points arise from the results of the analysis. First, all aforementioned assimilation effect. Conversely, if the same
other things being equal, consumers who perceive advertiser is from a country perceived as eco-unfriendly, the

Figure 3 Details of the moderating influence of perceived eco-friendliness of the originating country: the high-involvement service of hotel (n ¼ 600)

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Figure 4 Details of the moderating influence of perceived seriousness of environmental problems: the high-involvement service of hotel (N ¼ 600)

use of an environmental claim will elicit much lower ambiguous nature of most service offerings, service
communication effectiveness from consumers who are more marketers often encounter greater difficulty in positioning
environmentally conscious. The influence is similar to and image development compared with product marketers
intensifying the aforementioned contrast effect. (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2004). Should they be employed
properly, environmental claims would represent a promising
strategic tool for service marketers to personify their firms as
Implications socially responsible corporate citizens who constantly
Several salient implications can be drawn from this study. In contribute to environmental protection. The rapid adoption
academic terms, the findings have enriched the existing of eco-friendly advertising appeals by various service sectors
environmental advertising literature whose focus has been on (e.g. hotel, fast food, utilities) has clearly signified service
the use of environmental claims for promoting products marketers’ increasing awareness of the importance of this tool
(rather than services). In conventional product marketing, (Jones, 2002; Nation’s Restaurant News, 2001; Rashing,
researchers have often maintained that the use of an 2001). With the rising environmental consciousness of
environmental claim enhances the communication consumers both in developed countries (Davis, 1993) and
effectiveness of an advertisement (e.g. Chan, 2000; Manrai in those that are rapidly developing (Chan, 1999), service
et al., 1997). The current findings concerning the use of firms that fail to apply this tool effectively would undoubtedly
environmental claims for services marketing echo this be jeopardizing their own competitive position or even
traditional view. In short, although product and service survival.
offerings bear different characteristics, the results presented While increasing numbers of service marketers have
here help demonstrate the universal benefits that may be resorted to environmental appeals in promoting their
derived from the tactful use of environmental claims for offerings, problems associated with this green advertising
promoting each of them. The results also contribute to the approach are well documented (Easterling et al., 1996). These
external validation of extant general advertising theories in the problems are attributed in part to the type of environmental
arena of services marketing. claims being employed (Carlson et al., 1993, 1996b). In that
From the practitioner’s perspective, the reported context, the present study demonstrates that other things
effectiveness of environmental advertising claims may be being equal, substantive claims that provide detailed and
even more strategically important for service marketers than concrete information about how the service firm contributes
for product marketers. Owing to the intangible and to environmental protection will elicit much more positive

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Ricky Y.K. Chan, T.K.P. Leung and Y.H. Wong Volume 20 · Number 4 · 2006 · 233 –250

attitudinal and/or conative responses from consumers than effective than substantive ones (i.e. the operation of contrast
will their associative counterparts. Indeed, the occurrence of effects). Undoubtedly, these findings provide useful insights
several well publicized incidents of bogus environmental to green marketers responsible for promoting high-
claims, and the occasional exaggeration and involvement services. Instead of blindly applying any one
misrepresentation by some green marketers, have prompted type of environmental claim, they should pay particular
consumers to be skeptical about environmental advertising attention to the perceived level of eco-friendliness of the
claims (Carlson et al., 1996b; Landler, 1991). To overcome originating country. If their services originate from countries
this skepticism, service marketers must ensure that the perceived as eco-unfriendly, an associative claim may
promoted environmental benefits of their offerings can represent a better choice in order to avoid, or at least abate,
genuinely be perceived by consumers as bearing real and the undesired contrast effect.
positive impacts on environmental quality (Davis, 1993). In On the other hand, a substantive environmental claim
order to accurately identify these environmental benefits from would be a wise choice only when the originating country in
the consumer’s perspective, service firms are strongly advised question is perceived as eco-friendly. In sum, it is advised that
to conduct thorough surveys to discover which environmental green service marketers of high-involvement services should
problems in their own industry are of most concern to their adopt a contingent perspective when designing their
consumers. Such surveys should provide valuable input to advertisements by taking the possible moderating influence
help firms fine-tune their marketing communications of country image into account.
strategies. Relating specifically to green service marketers from
Despite the observed competency of environmental claims countries having an eco-unfriendly image, forming strategic
in enhancing communication effectiveness, it should be noted alliances with business partners originating from countries
that such effectiveness does vary across service types differing bearing a greener image would be a viable strategy to enhance
in degrees of involvement. In the case of advertising high- the relevant corporate and brand images through the halo
rather than low-involvement services, the use of effect. In real terms, this strategy would also facilitate the
environmental claims alone, as revealed by the present inter-firm transfer of green technologies and practices, and
findings, may still lack the required momentum to channel ultimately, lead to a greener service delivery system of the
consumers’ positive attitudinal responses into the allied entity.
corresponding conative responses. Given that the purchase In the case of China, while service marketers operating in
of high-involvement services often involves greater perceived its hotel and fast food sectors are increasingly resorting to
risks (e.g. financial and functional risks), it is not
various forms of strategic alliance (e.g. franchising, joint
unreasonable for consumers to make more elaborate
ventures) to strengthen their overall competitive position (Xu,
cognitive efforts to additionally evaluate other traditional
2000; SinoCast China Business Daily News, 2003), they
service-related attributes (e.g. reliability, price, facilities)
should be aware that the same strategy would also help them
when making a purchasing decision (Cacioppo et al., 1986).
better capitalize on business opportunities emerging from the
Advertisers of high-involvement services should therefore be
country’s rising green consumerism. From another
aware of the importance of employing a more integrated
perspective, as previous research has revealed that a
advertising approach by combining environmental claims with
favorable brand image derived from direct experience with
other appeals concerning traditional service-related attributes.
To do so, they need to further consider the degree of emphasis the brand will significantly lower the reliance of consumers on
that should be placed on each of these two sets of appeals. In country of origin to evaluate the offering quality (Ahmed and
product marketing, Davis (1993) suggests that environmental d’Astous, 1996; Cordell, 1992), these service marketers may
claims should be communicated as supplemental to also resort to other promotional tools (e.g. refund guarantee
traditional appeals as consumers are unlikely to base their for dissatisfied services, price incentives) to encourage
purchase decision primarily on the basis of environmental consumer trial. This would be in the hope that trials of the
attributes. This view also seems applicable to the purchase of service by consumers would lead to the generation of a more
high-involvement services. In fact, when several competing favorable brand image to counter the negative country-of-
service entities are perceived to be similar in terms of origin effect.
traditionally important service-related attributes, a specific Concerning the influence of consumers’ perceived
and evidence-based environmental claim would serve as a seriousness of environmental problems, the findings
particularly effective tie-breaker to induce patronage from highlight that it is detrimental for marketers to employ
consumers who have a moderate degree of environmental environmental claims blindly without paying due
concern. consideration to other important individual characteristics of
As an important extrinsic cue for the development of consumers. Specifically, the present results suggest that in the
consumer perceptions, country image has been found in this case of purchasing high-involvement services, consumers
study to exert significant moderating influences on the claim having different degrees of concern about environmental
type-effectiveness relationship under the high-involvement problems would vary in their communicative responses
service situation. Specifically, in the case where the originating toward environmental claims.
country is perceived as eco-friendly, substantive These findings should encourage high-involvement service
environmental claims appear to be far more effective than marketers operating in China to track the degree of
associative environmental claims for advertising a high- environmental concern of their target customers on a
involvement service (i.e. the operation of assimilation continuous basis. Such longitudinal consumer data will
effects). However, this observation appears to be reversed provide useful insights regarding which environmental claim
when the originating country is perceived as eco-unfriendly. type should be applied at any given time to maximize
In such a case, associative claims seem to be much more communication effectiveness.

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Ricky Y.K. Chan, T.K.P. Leung and Y.H. Wong Volume 20 · Number 4 · 2006 · 233 –250

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Association, Chicago, IL, pp. 196-9. Substantive environmental claim
Zaichkowsky, J.L. (1994), “The personal involvement Unsurpassed concern for the environment. There is nothing
inventory: reduction, revision, and application to more important to humankind than the environment. So our
advertising”, Journal of Advertising, December, pp. 59-70. entire air-conditioning system is CFC-free and 50 percent of
Zhao, X. and Shen, F. (1995), “Audience reaction to our furniture and 100 percent of our paper supplies are made
commercial advertising in China in the 1980s”, of recycled materials. We also conduct environmental auditing
International Journal of Advertising, Vol. 14, pp. 374-90. on our entire service delivery system annually to ensure that it
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and the reluctant consumer”, Journal of Advertising, Vol. 24
No. 2, pp. 1-6. Plate A1 The wonderful Visit Hotel from Canada’s (or Japan’s)
environmentally-minded hotel group
Appendix 1. Offering and environmental claims,
and pictorial representations adopted in the
study

The wonderful Visit Hotel from Canada’s (or Japan’s)


environmentally-minded hotel group
Offering claim
We offer uninterrupted panoramic views from every spacious
and luxurious guest room. The moment you enter our
graceful lobby, you can be assured of gracious hospitality in a
friendly setting. Our magnificent banquet and conference
facilities and delicious cuisine of various choices cater to a
wide variety of functions ranging from social gatherings,
wedding banquets, grand balls to international conferences.

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Plate A2 The delicious Fast Food from Canada’s (or Japan’s) evaluation of the originating country was then measured using
environmentally-minded catering group three seven-point statement anchored with 1 ¼ “strongly
disagree” and 7 ¼ “strongly agree”. The three statements
were:
1 The originating country is an environmentally friendly
country.
2 The government of the originating country has been
doing a lot to improve the ecological well-being of the
country.
3 People of the originating country are, in general,
environmentally conscious.
Scores on the three statements were used to compute
subjects’ composite PE scores. Based on these composite
scores and the use of the median split technique, subjects
were finally classified into either the “eco-friendly image”
(positive PE) or “eco-unfriendly image” (negative PE) group
to represent the two levels of the factor (see Chan, 2000).

Communication effectiveness
All items used to measure the three dimensions of
Associative environmental claim communication effectiveness (attitudes toward the
Unsurpassed concern for the environment. There is nothing advertisement, brand attitudes, and purchase intention)
more important to humankind than the environment. The were scaled 1 to 7. Following the practice of Stevenson et al.
atmospheric composition has been altered more in the past (2000), these dimensions were operationalized as follows:
100 years than in the previous 18,000 years, and all our 1 Attitudes toward the advertisement were measured in
tropical forests will be gone in just 50 years if the current terms of four items:
deforestation rate continues. So we are always committed to
.
bad-good,
making our Earth a better place for us and our children to
.
dislike-like,
live.
.
irritating-not irritating, and
.
uninteresting-interesting.
2 Brand attitudes were measured in terms of three items:
.
bad-good,
Appendix 2. Procedures for measuring perceived .
unfavorable-favorable, and
eco-friendliness of the advertiser’s originating .
negative-positive;.
country, communication effectiveness, and 3 Purchase intention was measured in terms of three items:
perceived seriousness of environmental problems
.
unlikely-likely,
.
improbable-probable, and
.
impossible-possible.
Perceived eco-friendliness of the advertiser’s
originating country (PE)
Manrai et al. (1997) maintain that the use of more than one Perceived seriousness of environmental problems
originating country of similar levels of development will The measuring items were adapted from Ng (1991).
improve the robustness of the measurement. In this study, PE Respondents were requested to rate the following seven
was treated as a measured variable, and Canada and Japan items according to a seven-point scale anchored with 1 ¼ “not
were employed to calibrate it. These two countries were serious at all” to 7 ¼ “very serious”:
chosen because they are both major industrialized countries 1 air pollution;
(G7 members) and have similar levels of development in 2 solid waste disposal;
terms of gross domestic product per capita (CIA World 3 water pollution;
Factbook, 2002). To calibrate PE, either Canada or Japan was 4 toxic waste problem;
first randomly assigned to any three of the six test 5 rural landscape destruction;
advertisements (of each chosen service) to denote the 6 noise;
originating country. For each test advertisement, subjects’ 7 townscape destruction.

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Appendix 3

Table AI Hypothesis testing results for the high-involvement service of hotel (n ¼ 600)
MANOVA results (dependent variables5AAd, BA and PI):
Independent variable Approximate F-Value Significance Level
ECT 2.49 0.02*
PE 532.53 0.00**
ECT 3 PE 14.32 0.00**
ANOVA results (Dependent variables5AAd, BA and PI):
Independent variable Dependent variable F-value F-significance level Scheffe’s Pairwise Comparison (at p < 0:05)
ECT AAd 4.02 0.02* Substantive claim¼4.40 .
Associative claim¼4.23 . No-claim¼3.98
BA 4.28 0.01* Substantive claim ¼ 4.18 .
Associative claim¼4.03 . No-claim¼3.77
PI 2.59 0.08 Not applicable
PE AAd 1220.84 0.00** þve PE ¼ 5.29 . –ve PE ¼ 3.12
BA 740.60 0.00** þve PE¼4.83 . 2ve PE¼3.15
PI 357.85 0.00** þve PE¼3.94 . 2ve PE¼2.95
ECT 3 PE AAd 34.89 0.00** Detailed analysis of interaction effect in Figure 3
BA 26.02 0.01* Detailed analysis of interaction effect in Figure 3
PI 4.31 0.01* Detailed analysis of interaction effect in Figure 3
Notes: * Significant at p , 0:05; ** Significant at p , 0:01; n = sample size; ECT = environmental claim type; PE = perceived eco-friendliness of the
originating country; AAd = attitudes toward advertisement; BA = brand attitudes; PI = purchase intention

Table AII Hypothesis testing results for the low-involvement service of fast food (n ¼ 600)
MANOVA results (dependent variables = AAd, BA and PI):
Independent variable Approximate F-Value Significance level
ECT 13.56 0.00*
PE 33.33 0.00*
ECT 3 PE 1.57 0.15
ANOVA results (Dependent variables5AAd, BA and PI):
Independent variable Dependent variable F-value F-significance level Scheffe’s pairwise comparison (at p < 0:05)
ECT AAd 31.09 0.00* Substantive claim¼4.48 .
Associative claim¼4.21 . No-claim¼3.65
BA 50.01 0.00* Substantive claim¼4.26 .
Associative claim¼4.06 . No-claim¼3.42
PI 28.20 0.00* Substantive claim¼3.57 .
Associative claim¼3.39 . No-claim¼3.24
PE AAd 76.34 0.00* þ ve PE¼4.59 . 2ve PE¼3.64
BA 70.39 0.00* þ ve PE¼4.29 . 2ve PE ¼ 3.53
PI 52.64 0.00* þ ve PE¼3.64 . 2ve PE¼3.16
ECT 3 PE AAd 1.58 0.21 Not applicable
BA 0.30 0.74 Not applicable
PI 0.28 0.75 Not applicable
Notes: * Significant at p , 0:01; n = sample size; ECT = environmental claim type; PE = perceived eco-friendliness of the originating country; AAd = attitudes
toward advertisement; BA = brand attitudes; PI = purchase intention

Corresponding author
Ricky Y.K. Chan can be contacted at: msricky@polyu.edu.hk

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Executive summary However, even if a substantive environmental claim is used


to advertise a service, it is unlikely to be effective if the alleged
This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives eco-friendliness contradicts sharply with the perception
a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a consumers already have about it. It might even be regarded
particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article as deception. In such a situation an associative (more vague)
in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of claim would be less likely to produce a negative attitude
the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the towards the service.
material present. Also worth emphasizing in marketing (or not as the case
may be) is the country of origin of the service, taking account
The effectiveness of environmental claims for services of consumers’ attitude towards that country. Even if they have
advertising no knowledge of a foreign country’s environmental practices,
Do people choose one product rather than another because they are likely to base their assessment of environmental
one is advertised as “environmentally friendly”? At a time of advertising claims on their disposition towards that nation.
increasing environmental consciousness of consumers, they The authors’ survey of customers’ responses to advertising
might. But they would first have to believe the claims made took place in Shanghai – as one of China’s most developed
about the environment – and that is something which many and heavily polluted cities, a place where environmental issues
people find more difficult to do as more and more products are of increasing concern to the population. It focused on
and services are marketed – sometimes vaguely – with “eco- both high and low involvement services, namely the hotel and
friendly” credentials. fast-food industries, two sectors where operators are
A random sample of advertisers reads: eco-friendly jewelry increasingly attempting to improve their image by means of
(ecologically and socially responsible jewelry as an alternative environmentally friendly measures. New hotels, for instance,
to gold and diamond mining); eco-friendly cleaning products have publicized their energy-saving initiatives and
(caring and being responsible for water, our main life force); commitment to cleaner methods of treating waste, while the
eco-friendly handbags (made from recycled materials) and burgeoning number of fast-food outlets have been able to
many, many more. Some companies have incorporated “eco” boast such environmental measures as using more eco-
into their brand name as if they believe consumers these days friendly packaging.
are more likely to choose to “save the planet” than “save 10 From the practitioner’s perspective, the reported
percent off the marked price.” And it is not just products, but effectiveness of environmental advertising claims may be
services which increasingly claim environmentally-friendly even more strategically important for service marketers than
reasons to buy. for product marketers, particularly because of the intangible
Awareness by consumers, producers and service providers and ambiguous nature of most service offerings. The proper
globally of the need to take care of the earth’s limited employment of environmental claims represents such a
resources is, of course, something to be applauded and promising strategic tool for service marketers to personify
encouraged, as is an increasing concern for the welfare of their firms as socially responsible corporate citizens who
people who produce goods and services. If people have the constantly contribute to environmental protection, that failure
choice of buying a product or service which improves, or does to apply it could be detrimental to its competitive position.
less damage to, the environment, so much the better. The Detrimental for marketers is to employ environmental
problem for marketers is how to pitch those claims at an claims blindly without paying due consideration to other
audience which has become skeptical. important individual characteristics of consumers. Ricky Y.K.
The study by Ricky Y.K. Chan et al. finds that Chan et al. say: “In the case of purchasing high-involvement
environmental claims do enhance the communication services, consumers having different degrees of concern about
effectiveness of advertisements for both high and low- environmental problems would vary in their communicative
involvement services, but there are nuances to be responses toward environmental claims. These findings
considered with regard to the claims being made, including should encourage high-involvement service marketers
whether they are to be “substantive” (presenting specific operating in China to track the degree of environmental
details about how the organization approaches its concern of their target customers on a continuous basis.”
environmental responsibilities) or “associative” (claims
which suggest the environmental credentials of the (A précis of the article “The effectiveness of environmental claims
organization by linking in with environmental information, for services advertising”. Supplied by marketing Consultants for
but not being specific about how they go about it). Emerald.)

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