Black generation Y students' environmental concerns, attitudes towards green advertising and environmental behaviour
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Green marketing is, in a sense, an oxymoron in that it merges the seemingly contradictory concepts of marketing, which focuses on facilitating and encouraging consumption, and environmental concern, which focuses on environmental conservation. Green advertising represents an important marketing tool for communicating an organisation’s green image and is the driving force behind fostering environmental awareness and environmentally friendly behaviour. As with any type of advertising, an important determinant of the success of green advertising is consumers‟ attitudes towards green advertising and corresponding environmental concerns and behaviour. The last decade has shown a staggering number of marketers targeting the green segment of the population with green advertising, with increasing green advertisements manufacturers are informing their customers about the pro-environmental characteristics of their products and services. Green advertising is an essential tool in an organisation’s overall environmental marketing strategy; one which possibly leads to achieving superior performance and assists in creating a sustainable competitive edge. An in-depth understanding of the relevant consumer behavioural aspects of a target market is tantamount to formulating successful marketing strategies. This holds true with the formulating of green marketing advertising strategies, which aim at encouraging consumption in an environmentally sustainable manner. There is a dearth of published literature on the South African Generation Y‟s consumer behaviour in general and none that specifically focuses on the environmental concern, attitudes towards green advertising and environmental behaviour of the significantly sized black Generation Y cohort. The Generation Y cohort is defined as individuals born between 1986 and 2005. In terms of South Africa, Generation Y individuals accounted for 40 percent of the South African population, with black Generation Y individuals making up 84 percent of this generational cohort. In addition, the black Generation Y cohort of South Africa makes up approximately 33 percent of the whole population, resulting in a highly attractive market segment. Individuals attaining tertiary qualifications are of particular interest to marketers since they are likely to enjoy higher earnings and a higher social status, which together is likely to make them opinion leaders amongst their peers. The primary objective of this study was to investigate black Generation Y students‟ environmental concern, attitudes towards green advertising and environmental behaviour within the South African context. The target population of the study was defined as full-time black Generation Y students, aged between 18-24 years, enrolled at South African registered public higher education institutions (HEIs). The sampling frame comprised the 23 registered South African public HEIs. Using a judgement sampling method, this was narrowed down to four HEIs located in the Gauteng Province - two of which are country-based and two of which are city-based. For this study, a convenience sample of 400 full-time black Generation Y students who were enrolled at these four South African HEIs during 2012 was drawn. The relevant primary data was obtained using a self-administered questionnaire. Lecturers at each of the four HEIs were contacted and requested to distribute the questionnaire to their students either during class or after class. The self-administered questionnaire was hand delivered to these lecturers. The questionnaire requested respondents to indicate on a five-point Likert scale the extent of their agreement/disagreement with items designed to measure their environmental concerns, their attitudes towards green advertising as well as their current environmental behaviour patterns. In addition, the students were asked to provide certain demographic data. The findings of this study indicate that South African black Generation Y students are environmentally concerned, have a positive attitude towards green advertising and report behaving in a pro-environmental manner. Previous research found gender to be a significant factor in displaying concerns for the environment. However, this study determined that gender played no significant role towards the black South African Generation Y cohort environmental concerns and attitudes. Similarly, the study found no significant difference between black Generation Y students who were based at city HEIs and black Generation Y students who were based at countryside HEIs. Insights gained from this study will help both marketing academics and practitioners understand current black Generation Y consumer attitudes towards environmental concerns, green advertising attitudes and the significance of their pro-environmental behaviour.