Business Briefs: Sustainable is Not Marketable, Less is More for Green Influencers & Machiavellian Leadership

Welcome to The Metropreneur’s newest series: Business Briefs. The world of academic publications features fascinating findings from real-world experiments in business and the marketplace. Here are some key takeaways and applicable nuggets of knowledge that may be helpful for your business.

Sustainable is Not Marketable

“Sustainable” is having a moment. It’s a term used to describe initiatives that are generally friendly to the environment and civilization. Locally, Sustainable Columbus is championing this sort of initiative in city management. 

And while “sustainable” might be an important, valuable movement, it turns out that “sustainable” isn’t a great marketing message. Researchers assessed the sales of 883 new products from national brands, and found that the sales of products marketed as “sustainable” were lower than sales of their more conventional cousins. 

Now, there were some mitigating factors involved. For example, an innovative sustainable product tended to out-perform a non-innovative sustainable product. But high-priced sustainable products were doomed. Related to pricing, discounts were more effective at moving conventional products than sustainable ones. Taken together, that’s a good catch-22: A high-priced sustainable product isn’t marketable, but discounting it doesn’t really help. 

All in, the researches concluded that “adding a sustainability claim to a new product leads to a higher likelihood of product failure.”

Read more here

Does Sustainability Sell? The Impact of Sustainability Claims on the Success of National Brands’ New Product Introductions – Jennyvan Doorn, Hans Risselada, & Peter C.Verhoef, Journal of Business Research

Influencers: When is Less More?

If “sustainable” isn’t marketable, how about “green?” Well, there’s a study on that as well. This time, looking at how we view green influencers. 

As a little review, an influencer is a person on social media with lots of followers. So, what they say is influential. And being a green influencer means that the influencer is eco-oriented. 

Researchers conducted a set of three experiments involving a total of 889 female instagram users. The gender limitation is interesting but the team explained their reasoning: earlier research says that female users are more likely to embrace green living standards. Further, successful influencers in social media are more likely to be female users. In general, the participants reviewed influencers that had anywhere from 1,190 to 119,109 followers.  The former would be viewed as a low number of followers for an influencer, the latter would be viewed as a high number of followers. 

Here are the study highlights:

  • Green influencers were generally perceived as more “caring” than fashion influencers
  • Non-green influencers are trusted more, when they have high popularity counts
  • Green influencers are viewed as more trustworthy when they have lower numbers of followers 
  • Increased levels of trust for an influencer meant increased intentions to buy into the influencer’s messages

Of all the highlights, the intriguing takeaway is that green influencers seem more trustworthy when they have fewer followers. In influence, less is more. 

Read more here

More Trust in Fewer Followers: Diverging Effects of Popularity Metrics and Green Orientation Social Media Influencers – Matthew Pittman & Annika Abell, Journal of Interactive Marketing

Mr. Machiavelli

Machiavelli was a Renaissance author who wrote a book of advice called The Prince. It has a lot of helpful nuggets for leadership like this one: “If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.

You may have worked with someone like Machiavelli before. For better or worse, this sort of mindset sometimes rises to the top in management, and researchers recently explored the conditions that might allow such leaders to build and abusive environment. In a couple experiments, researchers surveyed 515 employees and 493 supervisors, assessing their roles, their values, and the psychological climate in the workplace. 

Here’s the upshot: Some workplaces have a lot of rules. Some don’t. You want to be someplace with lots of rules. Why? Because the researchers found that, in rule-oriented workplaces, machiavellian supervisors have less liberty to be abusive. 

On the other side of the equation, in environments where colleagues were more self-governing, leaders with machiavellian tendencies were more likely to manifest themselves as abusive supervisors. 

Read more here

Showing one’s true colors: Leader Machiavellianism, Rules and Instrumental Climate, and Abusive Supervision – Annebel H. B. De Hoogh, Deanne N. Den Hartog, & Frank D. Belschak, Journal of Organizational Behavior