We decide that the information is not meaningful to us and the perception stops there; We do not immediately recognize the information, but believe it may be meaningful to us so we have some incentive to gain more information: The information is meaningful to us and therefore passes through the next filter, the valuing filter. When information passes through the valuing filter, we place one of three values on it:
- If it is something we have learned and is needs-satisfying, we place a positive value on it.
- If it is something we have learned and hinders our ability to meet our needs, we place a negative value on it.
- If it neither helps us nor hinders us in meeting our needs, we may place little or no value on it; it remains neutral.
Because we all come to every situation with different knowledge and experience, and therefore different values, our perceptions of the real world are different. Thus, we don’t all live in the same “real world.”
Social constructionism or the social construction of reality (also social concept) is a theory of knowledge in sociology andcommunication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality. The theory centers on the notions that human beings rationalize their experience by creating models of the social world and share and reify these models through language.
Manufacturers are increasingly producing and promoting sustainable products (i.e., products that have a positive social and/or environmental impact). This increase mirrors public interest in sustainability, as evidenced by widespread coverage in the press and public opinion surveys suggesting strong consumer demand for these products. Despite the attention sustainability is receiving, actual sales of sustainable products still represent only a small fraction of overall consumer goods sales. However, note that though the market share of sustainable products has been relatively weak in many product categories (e.g., household cleaning products), it has been relatively strong in other categories (e.g., personal care products). This qualified success hints at a variable that is differentially affecting the influence of sustainability on preference. The current research shows that the effect of sustainability on consumers’ product preferences depends on the type of benefit valued in a given product category. In product categories for which strength-related attributes are the key determinant of purchase, such as automobile tires, sustainability can be a liability and actually decrease preference. In contrast, in product categories in which consumers seek gentleness-related attributes, such as baby shampoo, sustainability can enhance product preference. The authors uncover the reason for this difference. Consumers implicitly associate ethicality/sustainability with concepts such as “gentle,” “safe,” “healthy,” and “mild” and a lack of ethicality/sustainability with concepts such as “strength,” “power,” and “toughness.” These associations lead consumers to be reluctant to purchase sustainable products in product categories in which strength is valued. The authors also find that consumers are hesitant to admit that they would not actually buy a sustainable alternative; in these studies, it was necessary to use indirect “projective” techniques to uncover consumers’ true beliefs and preferences. Fortunately for marketers of sustainable brands in these product categories, the sustainability liability can be attenuated through marketing communications. For example, the findings show that without any explicit information about product strength, consumers prefer to purchase a standard automobile tire over an “eco” tire made with sustainable methods and materials. However, when both the standard and the “eco” tires are “guaranteed strong,” this apparent rejection of the sustainable tire no longer occurs. The findings lead to the following recommendations for marketers: Marketers of sustainable products for which gentleness-related attributes are valued can use advertising, packaging, and so forth, to emphasize sustainability. In this case, sustainability should not harm, and may even help, product sales. Conversely, marketers of sustainable products for which strength-related attributes are valued must actively counter the sustainability liability. Emphasizing sustainability in this context may actually harm product sales; the best way to avoid this potential negative impact is to provide explicit information about product strength. In summary, this research helps explain why sustainable products may not always prevail in the marketplace despite consumer interest in them. The findings should improve the odds of success for companies interested in developing and marketing sustainable products, as well as support many consumers’ desire to better align their values with their consumption behavior.