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Pietsch, Klara, 2021. Ambiguous environmental advertising : how brand advertising and consumers frame Rügenwalder Mühle’s products. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development



Along with current societal developments and trends, businesses which are not originally engaged in sustainability may be inclined to reorient themselves towards more environmental practices. It is crucial for corporations to understand how to integrate sustainability into a revenue-driven business, and how to communicate this to their customers. This thesis focuses on the traditional German meat producer Rügenwalder Mühle, that successfully entered the meat alternative market in 2014, as an exemplary case of ambiguous environmental reorientation and in consequence advertising. Building on the academic literature on environmental advertising and strategic ambiguity, the thesis explores the brand’s product framing as straddling between clear and open communication on the one hand, and ambiguous communication on the other hand.

Empirically, this thesis draws on interviews with 14 people regularly consuming the brands’ products, and 62 of the brand’s Facebook posts from 2020/21. Using an inductive content analysis and subsequent frame analysis, the findings show that product frames communicated by Rügenwalder Mühle are only partly reflected in the frames consumers use when talking about the products. The main differences are (1) how the brand conveys their new orientation by highlighting the reconciliation of tradition and innovation, which consumers primarily perceive as ambivalence; and (2) that the brand views sustainability linked to personal responsibility and agency, while consumers rather perceive the product as an agent for societal sustainable change.

Rügenwalder Mühle seem to employ a combined approach of strategic ambiguity and clear environmental claims in their advertising. Based on the frames identified in the analysis and the overall success of the brand in the market, this is evaluated to be a suitable strategy for businesses aspiring to reorient toward sustainability. Strategic ambiguity enables a gradual transition and thus alleviates the financial risk of abruptly changing a business orientation. While this strategy is only implicitly communicated to maintain flexibility, specific and tangible environmental product properties can be advertised to establish an environmental brand identity.

Main title:Ambiguous environmental advertising
Subtitle:how brand advertising and consumers frame Rügenwalder Mühle’s products
Authors:Pietsch, Klara
Supervisor:Rödl, Malte
Examiner:Joosse, Sofie
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2021
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM026 Environmental communication and management - Master's programme
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Keywords:environmental advertising, Rügenwalder Mühle, ambiguous advertising, sustainability framing, product framing, strategic ambiguity
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Trade, marketing and distribution
Deposited On:22 Jun 2021 06:40
Metadata Last Modified:23 Jun 2021 01:03

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