Regulatory fit effects for injunctive versus descriptive social norms: evidence from the promotion of sustainable products Articles uri icon


  • van Herpen, Erika
  • Fischer, Arnout
  • van Trijp, Hans

publication date

  • June 2013

start page

  • 191

end page

  • 203


  • 2


  • 24

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0923-0645

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1573-059X


  • Consumers face marketing messages using social norms in many situations where different goals are dominant. This research examines moderating effects of regulatory focus for descriptive and injunctive norms in the promotion of sustainable products. More specifically, it shows that descriptive norms have a better fit with a promotion than prevention focus, while this is not the case for injunctive norms. Three experiments examine consequences for perceived message fluency, attitudes, and behavioral intentions. Experiment 1 investigates regulatory focus when induced before a normative message, whereas Experiments 2 and 3 investigate regulatory elements ingrained in the message itself. Results show that messages with descriptive norms are perceived as more fluent and have a stronger impact on attitudes and intentions when promotion goals are salient than when prevention goals are salient. Unlike descriptive norms, injunctive norms are not affected by regulatory focus. Marketers using descriptive norms should develop message wording and context accordingly.