A consumer’s decision comes down to how readily differentiated a product is made by the information that is provided on the label.
Since most people choose to spend the least time necessary searching for products which satisfy their wants and meet their needs, producers have a strong incentive to provide labels which clearly and strongly differentiate their products. The traditional ways of doing this include; Category Labelling, Specific Product Information Labelling, and Brand Labelling. A growing trend is to use Certification Marks where the label might convey information regarding certification of the product by an independent authority. Such certification programs are intended to enhance the consumer’s expectations regarding certain product attributes. Product lifecycle analysis and sustainability has also become a key issue for consumer decision making. Production ecology, i.e. how a product impacts on the environment when it is produced is well serviced by various eco marks and logo programs. The same can be said about disposal ecology i.e. How a product impacts on the environment when it is disposed of e.g. recycling logo marks. However, the ‘environmental impact’ during the in-use phase of the product is not so well served. This is of great importance as the ‘environment’ for the in-use phase is generally the indoor environment and air quality of the home. The requirement for third part independent testing and labelling has come into the news recently with product recalls of toys due to lead in paint and the recalls by major manufacturers of automobiles. All of these stress the importance of audit and third party validation. Consumers want to know that the products will meet their quality and safety concerns. A growing demand for products which meet the needs of asthma and allergy patients has been brought to the forefront by rising health care costs. Avoidance of allergic triggers can reduce the risk of allergic reactions and asthma attacks, which greatly reduces emergency room visits saving millions in health care dollars.
Third Party Certification Marks
Manufacturers may incorporate a certification mark into their product label to demonstrate certain goods if they have been authorized to do so by the owner of the mark and the product fulfils the requirement of the certification standard. Examples of such symbols include the Ease of Use Commendation by the Arthritis Foundation, The American Dental Seal of Approval, and The Woolmark. The general purpose of these marks is to signal to the consumer that the product has been accredited by the specified authority for the specified purpose and to provide consumers with useful information. The Woolmark is the leading ‘added value’ premium fibre brand in textiles. It is used across a wide range of products including apparels, carpets, washing machines and detergents. The American Heart Association Food Certification Program provides consumers with a quick, easy way to identify heart-healthy foods. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and its “asthma & allergy friendly®” certification program is another example. Products in the program undergo rigorous third party testing by Allergy Standards Ltd. to determine suitability or performance criteria for people with asthma and allergic sensitivities. This is particularly relevant in the home as every room has the potential to affect the health of a consumer from cleaning products, vacuum cleaners, and bedding.
The Impact of Product Certification on Consumer Behaviour
There is now a large body of evidence demonstrating that certification trademarks have a very significant impact on consumer purchasing habits. Within the two years following the award of a seal of approval by the American Dental Association (ADA) Procter and Gamble’s ‘Crest’ toothpaste had become the top selling brand, with a 30 per cent share of the market (Bennet and McCrohan, 1993). In what has been described as ‘the most comprehensive investigation to date’ (Beltrami and Stafford, 1993), found consumers ranked ‘seals of approval’ highest, above ‘friends’, ‘salespersons’, and ‘advertisements’, in terms of their ‘expertise’ and ‘impartiality’ and second highest, behind friends, on ‘trustworthiness’. Recent research by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America showed that consumers would be willing to pay a higher price for a product which they believe has been tested and certified as a product which will reduce the chance of an allergic reaction or asthmatic attack. The growing awareness of environmental effects on the in-home use of products has led to an increase in products specifically tested and certified asthma & allergy friendly®.
In conclusion, the educated consumer today is actively seeking out products with third party certification marks as well as being keenly aware of sustainability issues. A full life cycle analysis can only be completed when the health impact of the in-use phase of the product is considered. Indoor air quality and a healthy home are important to all consumers, but are of relevance to the 70 million Americans with asthma and allergies. Manufacturers and retailers who embrace these issues will not only have satisfied customers, but a healthy return on the investment. References: Bennett, James t., and Kevin F. McCrohan. “Public Policy Issues in the Marketing of Seals of Approval for Food.” The Journal of Consumer Affairs, vol. 27, no. 2, 1993, pp. 397–415. Beltrami, R. F. and Stafford, E. R. “The Role of Seals and Certifications of Approval in Consumer Decision-Making,” Journal of Consumer Affairs, vol. 9, 1993, pp. 1-14. About Allergy Standards Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) is an international certification company that prepares independent standards for testing a wide range of products to determine their suitability for asthmatics and individuals with associated allergies. ASL has devised a series of proprietary testing protocols and suitability specifications for products to meet in order to be eligible for certification as asthma & allergy friendly®™. ASL has developed the asthma & allergy friendly®™ mark to identify products that consumers can trust have been subject to rigorous testing to determine their relative suitability for people with asthma and allergies. ASL has applied internationally recognized asthma and allergy trigger avoidance recommendations including both allergens and irritants. Clients include Dyson, LG, Shaw Floors, 3M, Fellowes, Tarkett, Stanley Steemer, and Samsung.