Materialism and the boomerang effect of descriptive norm demarketing: Extension and remedy in an environmental context

Nadav Yakobovitch, Amir Grinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Household consumption has a major impact on the ecological environment. Still, research on effective approaches to reduce consumption is in the early stages. For example, it is not clear whether a widely used approach-descriptive norm demarketing-is effective. Some evidence suggests that this approach actually triggers a boomerang effect, enhancing consumption among some consumer groups. With two experiments (online and lab), the current research contributes to prior work on demarketing and social norms in multiple ways. First, whereas prior work has tested the impact of descriptive norm demarketing on consumer groups classified according to their consumption/usage levels, the current work classifies consumers according to the value system that underlies consumption-that is, materialism. Second, whereas evidence on the boomerang effect has mostly appeared in the energy domain, this research demonstrates the effect across numerous consumption contexts. Third, this research offers a potential remedy to the boomerang effect-namely, carbon labeling that emphasizes the ecological damage of consumption. Finally, the key outcome tested empirically is the actual ecological consequences of consumer behavior in terms of carbon footprint.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-107
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon footprint
  • Carbon labeling
  • Demarketing
  • Descriptive norm
  • Materialism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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