The Dilution Effect: A Barrier to Sustainable Consumption in B2B Markets? An Experimental Study of B2B Decision-Makers' Evaluation of a Sustainable Printer
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- Master Thesis 
Previous research indicates that individuals have a tendency to perceive sustainable and functional attributes as mutually exclusive, even if this perception does not objectively reflect reality. This misconception can lead them to prefer conventional products over green alternatives, under the belief that businesses prioritizing sustainability might compromise the functionality of the product. This perception has contributed to a discrepancy where individuals express a demand for green products, but this is not necessarily reflected in their purchasing decisions. In this research, we propose the psychological phenomenon known as the ‘dilution effect’ as a possible explanation for this misconception. It suggested that individuals may categorize the functional attribute of a product as ‘diagnostic’ or relevant information, while perceiving the sustainable attribute as ‘nondiagnostic’ information (irrelevant). As a result, when marketers present both attributes, the nondiagnostic information dilutes the diagnostic information, leading to the perception that the product’s functionality is diminished. We conduct a single study to investigate the presence of a dilution effect and a potential method to avoid it within the business-to-business (B2B) market by testing the relationship between communication types and brand attitude. We use an A/B/C monadic testing approach ( n = 100) and ask respondents to evaluate an advertisement of a fictional printer. We first examine the presence of the dilution effect by testing whether communicating a mix of unrelated functional and sustainable attributes lowers the brand attitude compared to the presentation of only the functional attribute. Within the same study, we also explore whether communicating that the sustainable benefits support the functional benefits can be a method to prevent decisions-makers from experiencing the dilution effect. Our findings challenge our predictions; in fact, they are inconsistent with our initial expectations. The results suggest that when companies in B2B markets communicate a mix of unrelated functional and sustainable, the effects of the functional attributes on brand attitude are higher than communication focusing only on functional benefits. Interestingly, communicated related benefits seems to result in the lowest brand attitude.