Natural Is the Way To Go…Or Is It?

Doesn’t it feel like nearly every product these days references its natural or organic elements? While it’s fairly obvious why brands like to do this, making natural references may not always be the most effective messaging strategy.

Researchers have demonstrated that consumers have a preference for natural messaging, but only in certain circumstances.

Prescribe this to your marketing campaigns

Consumers prefer natural when the primary use case for the product is prevention.

For example, when you’re looking at marketing preventative products (e.g. hand sanitizer to prevent germs), it’s better to focus on naturalness (e.g. natural ingredients) as many consumers believe that natural products are safer & less potent.

However, when marketing curative products (e.g. drugs to cure food poisoning), natural framing is much less effective as consumers are all about potency, strength, & effectiveness.

Are your customers sick and tired?
Consumers have a preference for natural messaging in certain circumstances due to a prevent/cure effect. The prevent/cure effect is driven by two factors:

  • Lay beliefs about product attributes (i.e. natural products are safer);
  • Importance of product attributes (i.e. safety is more important when preventing than curing)

    Additionally, as prevention is about avoidance, consumers are more likely to choose natural products as there’s no immediate urgency. When it comes to curing products, the problem has already transpired, so people are more receptive to framing around potency & effectiveness.

Consistent with this explanation, when natural products are described as more risky and more potent, the inverse happens, i.e. natural products become more preferred for curing than for preventing.

Source: Sydney E Scott, Paul Rozin, Deborah A Small, Consumers Prefer “Natural” More for Preventatives Than for Curatives, Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 47, Issue 3, October 2020, Pages 454–471