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Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 146, Issue 3, pp 685–701 | Cite as

How Logo Colors Influence Shoppers’ Judgments of Retailer Ethicality: The Mediating Role of Perceived Eco-Friendliness

  • Aparna SundarEmail author
  • James J. Kellaris
Article

Abstract

Despite the moral gravity and far-reaching consequences of ethical judgment, evidence shows that such judgment is surprisingly malleable, prone to bias, informed by intuition and implicit associations, and swayed by mere circumstance. In this vein, this research examines how mere colors featured in logos can bias consumers’ ethical judgments about a retailer. Exposure to a logo featuring an eco-friendly color makes an ethically ambiguous practice seem more ethical; however, exposure to a logo featuring a non-eco-friendly color makes the same practice seem less ethical (Study 1). This effect is due to the embodied meaning of color, not referential meanings associated with the names of colors, and it is mediated by perceptions of a retailer’s eco-friendliness (Study 2a). Furthermore, although the word “green” appears to influence ethical ratings of retail practices more than the word “blue,” visual exposure to either color evokes similar perceptions of eco-friendliness and influences ethical judgments (Study 2b). Study 2c assesses and rules out alternative explanations for this effect. Critically, an eco-friendly color can skew judgments even when the practices judged are not ethically ambiguous (Study 3). Individual differences in ethical sensitivity moderate the observed effect, such that individuals who are less ethically sensitive are less influenced by color (Study 4). The article concludes with a discussion on how logo colors shape consumers’ perceptions of retailer ethicality.

Keywords

Embodied meaning Ethical judgment Retail branding 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lundquist College of BusinessUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  2. 2.Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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