Authenticity as meaning validation: An empirical investigation of iconic and indexical cues in a context of “green” products

Authors


Douglas R. Ewing, Carl H. Lindner College of Business, University of Cincinnati, PO Box 210145, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0145, USA.

Email: ewingdr@ucmail.uc.edu

ABSTRACT

Authenticity judgments involve how individuals distinguish what appears to be real versus fake, genuine versus phony. In this investigation, we bring authenticity into the laboratory to assess it in a manner quite different from most extant approaches. Taking a Peircian semiotic view in a context of environmentally conscious consumption, we develop and test a set of hypotheses concerning the effects of indexical and iconic cues to an authentic “green” product meaning. Results suggest that effects of these indicators of authenticity can be induced in a controlled manner with products being assessed as more or less “green” on the basis of particular cue arrangements. Furthermore, the effectiveness of these semiotic cues is moderated by a basic distinction among products. Taken together, the results provide evidence supporting a meaning validation process as the basis of authenticity judgments and suggest new directions for theory building in a domain where there is substantial practitioner interest. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Ancillary