After working in the sales market for three years you begin to recognize certain things about your customers. You realize that your mood can affect their buying habits and how the attitudes can affect how you approach a prospective sale. If a person comes in showing that they have no idea about your market, you have to take the time to basically introduce them to your product. You tell them the advantages and disadvantages that your product offers. If they come in having knowledge of your product, you ask them to tell you what they already know and then correct them if there is anything they have been misinformed about. You have to make sure that what you offer for information is something they need and then move on with the sale.
Over the past few months somthing new has presented itself that at first seemed rather surprising. When our company got bought out we were given new red shirts as part of our uniform. Our old company had provided white shirts. No big deal? Our company has told us that we can wear whatever we want to work as long as it is presentable. What I have noticed is the days I wear my red shirt to work, sales seem easier to make! As I have not had the time to run a personal experiment to see if shirt color (which would be my independent variable), affects the number of sales in a given day (the dependent variable), I decided that I would look to see if color in fact can affect a persons motive to buy.
Eric Johnson, who is the “head of Research Studies for the Chicago-based Institute of Color Research” says that their research “explains that when eyes see red, the pituitary gland sends out signals that make the heart beat faster, the blood pressure increase, and the muscles tense–all physiologic changes that can lead to the consummation of a purchase (Tufts). Davis Masten of Cheskin + Masten/Image Net sat that packaging of products is done to reflect what consumers want to be, not what they really are. That is why you see elegant looking people on the front of coffee jars and not “frumpy looking Americans in bathrobes on the label (Smithsonian)
Color has shown to be a very useful tool when it comes to advertising products. Meyers-Levy + Peracchio (1995) used two experiments to determine the impact of presenting full-color, black and white, and color highlighted ad photos. They hypothesized that “when available resources better approximate those required for extensive ad scrutiny, full color ads or ads that color highlight ad photo ad photos are more persuasive than either black and white ads or ads that color highlight aspects of lower relevance to ad claims (Meyers-Levy + Peracchio 1). They showed that in certain situations that specific layouts of the advertisement would be more helpful. For example in an advertisement that has a lot of information to be processed, that the best type of advertisement would be in black and white. The reason for this is so the colors don’t interfere with the information that needs to be processed. “Color ads are likely to undermine even highly motivated consumers’ product attitudes by limiting ad claim processing and substantiation (Bohle +Garcia1986; Brandt 1925; Dooley + Harkins 1970).
Some studies have shown that the impact that color plays in an advertisement depends on two key factors. These factors include the total number of colors used in the advertisement and the extent to which the ad is mentally demanding (Durrett and Stimmell 1982)
Meyers-Levy and Peracchio (1995) used two experiments to determine the effect of color on ad processing and attitudes towards products. In their first experiment they focused on how differing demands affected processing of full color and black and white ads. They used an ad for a bicycle that was laid out in four different formats. The first was black and white with all pertinent information grouped together and placed in a bulleted list. In the second format the ad was in color and had all information placed in a bulleted list. In the first and second format the bulleted lists had arrows pointing towards the respective parts that they mention. These were considered the “more resource demanding ad versions” In the third layout the important information was laid out over the whole page. This time the bullets were by themselves with an arrow pointing to the area of the bike that they were relevant to. This format was presented either in full color or black and white. These were considered less resource demanding that the first two. They hypothesized that ads with the one bulleted list would be more easily processed in the black and white format. They felt that this would result in better attitude about the product as well. Their other hypothesis was that when ads were presented in an easy to read format that opinions on products would be better in full color.
Forty-six students took part in this experiment and on a scale of 1-7 rated their motivation to be in the experiment. ([Bar X] = 5.09). The students were asked to look at the ads and later asked to recall the information in the bullets. On the tests where less cognitive energy was spent the average number of items recalled was 5.48 items out of 8. On ads where cognitive processing was more difficult, recall dropped to 4.26 items. “A main effect showed (F (1,42) = 4.75, p*. 04).” Thus showing significant results in their claim that black and white ads are more easily processed when cognitive tasks are more difficult. Looking at the “attitude towards the advertised bicycle revealed an interaction of ad color and resource demand (F (1,42)=12.67,p*. 001)”(Meyers-Levy and Peracchio).
This interaction showed that when information was in black and white and grouped together that the attitude towards the product was more favorable (F (1,42)=4.8, p*. 03). This also showed that when the advertisement was in color, it was better to have the bulleted information broken up, instead of in one list (F (1,42)=8.06,p*. 01)(Meyers-Levy + Peracchio). All in all this experiment showed varying affects of color in advertising. When the ad used a large amount of resources the ads were more favorable in black and white, but when they were not as taxing on resources, color advertisements were better.
In Meyers-Levy +Peracchios (1995) second experiment, a few things were altered to further in depth look at how color can influence a consumer. In this experiment a type of ad was used to help determine what role color plays. The third type of ad was color highlighted and was a clothing ad instead of the bicycle. Only specific parts, which the bullets made, reference to were given color while the remainder of the image stayed in black and white. A second change was also implemented. This time the bulleted information was changed. It was either left the way it was on the first list, as is stating factual things about the bicycle that could be detected by looking at it, or it was changed so that the bulleted information was more image oriented, stating things like what people would think about you when they saw you on it. Meyers-Levy + Peracchio (1995) felt that when someone pays close attention to the ad and its claims, ads in black and white or ads that are color highlighted with factual information would be favored, and in ads where looks was the major concern of a consumer that ads with full color or ads highlighted with image related information would be more favored. In those that preferred the color advertisements consumers perceived only surface cues how well did the picture itself look, how nice did the product look and how nice looking were the people in the advertisement.
Forty-two subjects participated in this experiment. The clothing ads were “assessed by having subjects rate on a seven-point scales the extent to which the ad claims stimulated their imagination, brought memories to mind, related to the things they knew about or could imagine, or made them think about other products or their own experience”(Meyers-Levy + Peracchio 13). What they found was that ads based on image consumed more resources (X=5.42) than ads based on function (X=3.24). From the results a three-way interaction of processing motivation by type of ad claim by ad color for the bicycle and the clothing ads. In the ad for the bicycle and the ad for the clothing, when it was highly resource demanding, ads in black and white or color highlighted were still favored. In ads where there wasn’t as many resources used ads in full color were favored. They also showed that when the amount of resources that were used was low, the subjects had more positive thoughts about the product than when the resource level was high. This showed that motivation was influenced not only by ad claim but also ad color.
Other people have also looked ad the affect of color in advertising. In the above mentioned experiments the primary focus was on the motivation of the consumer. By this, the overall wants and this looked at desires of the consumer. Other researchers have looked to see if there are color preferences specific to males and females. They have also looked to see if the are color preferences based on ethnic background. Barnes and Lee (1990) used a variety of magazines to look at the color preferences of males and females as well as white people and black people. “Sandage, Fryburger, and, Rotzoll (1979) suggest that color may serve such functions as attracting attention, assisting in interpretation of product attitudes, giving life to otherwise bleak looking advertisement, and emphasizing or highlighting a distinctive trademark or symbol.” Color advertisements have been shown to attract 50% more readers than a black and white ad. (Auchincloss, 1978). What Barnes and Lee used for resources were Jet magazine (for the black magazine), People magazine (for the white people), Woman’s Day
(for the female population), and Playboy (for the men’s selection). Four issues of each magazine were chosen for the study. All ads from the magazine were used for processing of color information. The two dominant colors in each ad were recorded to weigh out color preferences. This study shows that differences in “colors are significant and at most, the result could be obtained from sampling error 4 times out of a 100“(Barnes and Lee 1990).
They have also shown that People magazine is three times as likely to use green black and purple than is Jet. This is contradictory to earlier research (Pettersson 1982) that show that purple should be more widely used in Jet. Barnes and Lee have also shown that the color of the ad doesn’t influence male and female consumers as much as the color of the product itself. They also found that the product line advertised in these magazines is quite varied. With specific colors affecting males and females differently, and also affecting white people and black people differently, Barnes and Lee suggest that advertisers aren’t paying enough attention to color cues and could ultimately benefit from working specific color schemes into specific magazine types. They feel that more research needs to be done regarding color preferences according to culture and sex. “It has been claimed that color and emotion are systematically related (Levy 1984) and color has a certain psychological effect upon human beings (Bustanoby, 1947)”(Barnes and Lee). People are different and so are their color preferences, and if companies want to get their message to differing groups, than one ad run in many periodicals won’t cut it. They need to be specified to preferences if they hope to expand their marketing potential.
As I stated earlier, the influence of color on customers seems very apparent, if the color they see does not evoke certain feelings, then the sale of the product lies directly on the salespersons shoulders. A good sales person will be able to still sell the item, but a little help from other things will always be welcome. As has been shown, the motivation of the consumer to either base their decision on product quality or overall look of the product is apparent. Also gender differences and ethnic differences in color preference also play a large role in determining who buys what!
Auchincloss, D. (1978) “The Purpose of Color” Graphic Arts Monthly and the Printing Industry 50, 11 46-48.
Barnes, JR, J.H. and Lee, S. (1990), “Using Color Preferences In Magazine Advertising,” Journal of Advertising Research, 29(January), 25-30.
Bohle, R. and Garcia, M. (1986), “Readers Reactions to Color in Newspapers,” Annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Conference 69, August3-6, Norman OK.
Brandt, E.R. (1925), “The Memory Value of Advertisements,” Archives of Psychology 8, No.79
Bustanoby, J.H. (1947) “Principle of Color and Color Mixing” NY
Dooley, R.P. and Harkins, L.E. (1970) “Functional and Attention Getting Effects of Colour on Graphic Communications,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 31 (December), 851-854.
Durrett, J. and Stimmell, T. (1982), The Instructional Use of Color, Pipeline, 7 fall 10-16.
Levy, B. (1984) “Research into the Psychological Meaning of Color” American Journal of Art Therapy23, 58-62
Meyers-Levy, J. and Peracchio, L. (1995) “Understanding the effects of color: how the correspondence between available resources affects attitudes,” Journal of Consumer Research 22(September) 121-139.
Pettersson, R. (1982) “International Review: Cultural Differences in the Perception of Image and Color in Pictures” Journal of Theory, Research, and Development 30,43-53.
Sandage, C.H., Fryburger, V., Rotzoll, K.(1979) Advertising Theory and Practice, 10th edition. Irwin Inc. IL.