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Are men seduced by red?

With the ever-present visual bombardment of advertisements throughout a person’s day, it’s no surprise that retailer’s employ colour to help attract buyers. Whilst utilising colour to signal value is nothing new, what is new is researching what sort of impact colour has on price perception. Consumer reaction to colour appears more complex than previously thought, proving there’s much more than a simple positive or negative reaction.

We evaluated four studies that assess impact of red on consumers’ perceptions of savings. Our studies revealed that red vs black does have an impact: male consumers’ judge red-coloured retail prices as offering bigger savings, whereas, female consumers were a bit more sceptical and required further elaboration with the advertisement. 

Retailers often use red to indicate and emphasise savings. We wanted to understand why. Is this an effective strategy for communicating value? Will advertisements with prices presented in red be seen as offering better value, than in black? Mounting evidence suggests that colour may serve as a heuristic cue in judgment.

The research yielded surprising results: male participants respond more positively when prices appear in red vs. black and perceive that the retailer is offering a better deal. Furthermore, these results held across a multi-ad context, eliminating the possibility that the effect of prices in red stems from the novelty of the red colour. Instead, men used the retail ad with prices in red as a heuristics cue to judge savings at the store, whereas women did not. Women exhibited better memory for price information, processing information in the ad more deeply. This in turn makes them suspicious of the retailer’s use of red to highlight prices.

In addition to its theoretical import, this research has considerable pragmatic implications. Price colour selectively enhances consumer perception of price; retailers can improve the efficiency of their marketing efforts by listing prices in red for male target audiences. We anticipate that prices in red will continue to signal greater savings for men, but only in situations where such consumers have low involvement in the task.

Read the online and published research

Read the published research

Puccinelli, Nancy, Chandrashekaran, Rajesh, Grewal, Dhruv and Suri, Rajneesh (2013) Are Men Seduced by Red? The Effect of Red Versus Black Prices on Price Perceptions. Journal of Retailing, 89 (2). pp. 115-125.

Media mentions

15 July 2013 "When men see red they see a bargain" Saïd Business School, Press Release
5 March 2013 "How men are seduced by red shop price labels ... but women see right through them" The Daily Mail
2013 "_Seeing red" Excel: Drexel University Research magazine

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