Best in class or simply the best? The impact of absolute versus relative ecolabeling approaches

Stefanie Lena Hille, Christian Geiger, Moritz Loock, John Peloza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Although research has widely investigated labels across a range of product domains, one understudied area is the use of absolute versus relative rating approaches to information provision. For example, under an absolute rating approach to vehicle ecolabels, the consumer is informed of the actual amount of fuel consumed during use of a vehicle compared with that of all other vehicles on the market. Under a relative rating approach, the fuel consumption is communicated in relative terms, comparing the vehicle only with others in the same class. The current research illustrates that switching from an absolute to a relative rating approach can lead to a reversal effect in the perception of a car’s environmental friendliness. For example, a sport-utility vehicle can be perceived as either environmentally friendly or not, depending on the type of rating approach used. The authors demonstrate that visual representation drives this effect, using a colored alphabetical rating scale to communicate environmental performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Stefanie Lena Hille (email: was Assistant Professor of Energy Consumer Behaviour, Christian Geiger (email: was a graduate student, and Moritz Loock (email: is Assistant Professor of Energy and Sustainability, Management Institute for Economy and the Environment, University of St. Gallen. John Peloza is Associate Professor of Marketing, Department of Marketing and Supply Chain, Gatton College of Business & Economics, University of Kentucky (email: john.peloza@ This research is part of the activities of SCCER CREST (Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research), which is financially supported by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) under grant no. 466 KTI.2014.0114. The authors thank the JPPM review team for valuable feedback. This article was accepted in 2016. All fuel and energy specifications are accurate for 2016 car and appliance models. Stacey Menzel Baker served as associate editor for this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, American Marketing Association.


  • Choice architecture
  • Consumer information
  • Ecolabeling
  • Environmental policy
  • Passenger cars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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