COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Consumers like products better if they're recycled -- but only if the goods have a brand name they already know and trust.

A new study found that consumers gave higher marks to greeting cards and facial tissues advertised as recycled when they had the well-known brand names of 3M and Bounty.

However, these recycled products received no ratings boost over non-recycled versions when they were given the fictitious brand names of Halo and Silx.

"If people have any lingering doubt about the quality of recycled products, they would rather buy them from a brand name manufacturer," said Rao Unnava, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at Ohio State University's Max M. Fisher College of Business.

"The brand name is like insurance that the product, even if it is recycled, is of good quality."

Unnava conducted the research with Amy Mobley, Todd Painter, and Eric Untch, all former students at Ohio State. Their study was published in a recent issue of the journal Psychology & Marketing.

The study involved 89 college students who were shown mock ads for a greeting card and a facial tissue brand. Some of the subjects saw ads that mentioned that the products were made of recycled material; others saw ads that didn't mention recycling at all. Some saw ads with the well-known brand names, while others saw ads for the fictitious brands.

Unnava said the researchers purposely chose brand names (3M and Bounty) for companies that don't make greeting cards or facial tissues. They did this so they could measure the affect of the brand name on consumer attitudes, and not consumer attitudes toward the actual brands already in the greeting card and facial tissue markets.

After viewing the ads, the subjects completed a questionnaire in which they rated their attitudes toward the products and the perceived quality of the goods.

Unnava said he originally thought consumers in the study would rate facial tissue lower if it was recycled because of concern over personal hygiene. However, for both greeting cards and facial tissues, the recycled versions were rated more positively than the non-recycled versions. Also, the students rated the quality of recycled products as equivalent to the quality of non-recycled products.

"That suggests that recycling is provoking an emotional response," Unnava said. "People like a product just because it is recycled without thinking about the type of product involved. They also don't seem to believe that product quality is necessarily affected negatively by the use of recycled materials."

Still, Unnava said, consumers preferred the established brands when rating recycled products, probably because they trust the name.

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Contact: Rao Unnava, (614) 292-1506

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457