How Colors Affect Consumer Behavior (Empirical Studies)

colors

Colors carry meanings, and they have an impact on emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. The meanings of colors are produced at an early stage of visual processing which does not require one’s awareness (Elliot & Maier, 2013).

The meanings of colors are learned. We have learned to associate different colors with different meanings in a nonconscious manner. In other words, we have learned the implicit meanings of colors through experience.

The meanings of colors are context specific, meaning that the same colors can have different meanings in different contexts. The meanings of colors may be affected by the object on which the color is viewed.

For example, red may carry a negative or threatening meaning when it is seen on an opponent, and it may also carry a positive meaning when it is seen on a potential mate. However, evidence suggests that specific colors on specific objects have a specific meanings to us.

Elliot & Maier (2013) summarize the empirical literature on how a number of colors affect our consumer behavior by indirectly affecting our perception.

The effects of colors on consumer behavior

  • “Male consumers perceive greater savings when product prices are presented in red rather than black”
  • “… Blue stores and websites are rated as more relaxing, less crowded, and even more trustworthy”
  • “Consumers also desire that the color of a product matches its intended use or purpose. Specifically, they prefer blue for products that are functional … and prefer red for products that are luxury items or are associated with status, such as a sports car”
  • “People have been found to have strong expectations regarding color-flavor links such that they expect, for example, red drinks to taste like strawberry or cherry and green drinks to taste like lime, mint, or apple”
  • “Coffee is perceived to be warmer when served in a red cup”
  • “Popcorn taken from a red bowl is perceived to be sweeter”
  • “People eat less snack food from a red plate and drink less soda from a red-labeled cup”
  • “Hot chocolate was rated as more chocolaty and better when consumed from orange- or dark-cream-colored cups.”
  • “Red wine was perceived to have a better flavor when it was served in a blue glass”
  • “People served themselves less food when putting red-sauced pasta on a white plate and white-sauced pasta on a red plate”
Image: Nanaki

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