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Social norm-based gamification to promote eco-friendly food choice

Verena Berger (Institute of Natural Resource Sciences, ZHAW Life Sciences and Facility Management, Wädenswil, Switzerland)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 12 August 2019




Digital applications and thus new digital intervention possibilities such as gamification have made their way into our everyday lives. This paper aims to examine to what extent social norm information (SNI) in a game element feedback may increase eco-friendly food choices.


The effect of social norm-based feedback (SNBF), provided by a “GreenMeter”, was investigated experimentally. The SNI was integrated into the feedback by comparing the subject’s GreenMeter rating with either an injunctive, descriptive or combined SNI.


Injunctive SNBF was found to be effective in encouraging people to make an eco-friendly food purchasing decision. Combining injunctive with descriptive SNBF or simply providing descriptive SNBF was also found to be better than no intervention at all.

Research limitations/implications

To take further advantage of social norms to make gamification more effective, additional studies are needed in which long-term effects on behavior are investigated, as well as other game elements and target groups are taken into account.

Practical implications

Many people want to choose food that is more eco-friendly but often struggle because of deeply ingrained habits or strong social influences. Consequently, their intentions do not translate into changes in their behavior. Alternative motivational, gamification approaches, like SNBF, may be considered when designing Web-based applications.


The study provides insights into the effectiveness of SNI going beyond text-based interventions. Considering SNI in a specific design of gamification (“GreenMeter”) provided insights into how they could be integrated into dynamic, digital, behavioral change techniques to increase eco-friendly food choices.



This research was financially supported by the Suzanne and Hans Biäsch Foundation for Applied Psychology. The authors also thank Dr Angela Bearth for having an open ear during discussions regarding statistical analysis and Dr Linda Miesler, who acted as a sparring partner for the conceptual considerations of the study.


Berger, V. (2019), "Social norm-based gamification to promote eco-friendly food choice", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 666-676.



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