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Does Green Make You Greedy or Does it Make You Go Green? The Influence of Green Color Primes on Consumers’ Promotion Preferences


Drawing upon associational priming models, we examine the influence exerted by incidental exposure to the color green on consumers’ promotional preferences. Green color primes are theorized to activate self-related associations, increasing preferences for discount promotions (which benefit the consumer through price savings) versus donation promotions (which benefit others by generating charitable contributions). Results from three studies support this ability of green color primes to influence consumer preferences for discount promotions by systematically altering the salience of self- versus other-related cognitions. Our results also introduce contingencies into this influence of green color primes that are consistent with the potential for green to increase the salience of sustainability-related associations. Specifically, the influence of green color primes on promotional preferences was eliminated for individuals who hold strong environmental (or green) consumption values as well as when an environmental charity was featured as part of the donation promotion. Theoretically, this research significantly contributes to our understanding of the non-conscious influence exerted by green color primes on consumption decisions. Because marketers have full control over the background colors they employ in developing promotional materials, these findings also hold important implications for firms seeking to maximize purchase rates associated with their promotional strategies.

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Fig. 1


  1. Based on a pretest (N = 48), this charity was perceived as providing a good fit with the pen company, as the average fit score was higher than the scale midpoint of five (M = 6.76/9, t(47) = 7.42, p < .01).

  2. A follow-up study using a different product (cereal) and charity (an organization fighting hunger) replicated this effect of green (versus blue) color primes on promotion preference (1 = Promotion A, 7 = Promotion B) rather than choice. Stronger preferences for the discount promotion were observed in response to a green versus blue (control) prime.

  3. Additional analysis including the interaction of contrast code 2 and environmental consumption values did not result in a significant two-way interaction (B = −0.11, p = 0.49).


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We appreciate constructive feedback on this manuscript from Keith Lyle, Meg Meloy, and Luk Warlop and assistance by Gabriel Gonzales

This research was supported in part by a grant from the Smeal College of Business, Penn State University.

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Correspondence to Michael J. Barone.

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Michael J. Barone and Karen Page Winterich contributed equally to this work.

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Please see the supplementary material for stimuli and measures (DOCX 784 kb)

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Barone, M.J., Winterich, K.P. Does Green Make You Greedy or Does it Make You Go Green? The Influence of Green Color Primes on Consumers’ Promotion Preferences. Cust. Need. and Solut. 3, 3–10 (2016).

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  • Color priming
  • Promotion preferences
  • Discounts
  • Donations
  • Green associations
  • Environmental concern