The Cross-Modal Effects of Colour in Food Advertising: An Abstract
In 2015 global expenditure on food items was expected to exceed $US7 trillion (IFC, 2014). As such, every day around the world, consumers make a large number of decisions about food choices. In many of these decisions, the visual appearance of the food, in particular the product colour, will be the primary choice determinant. This is because the colour of a food product presents the consumer with critical information related to edibility, as well as the identity and intensity of flavour (Shankar et al., 2010). Many of the associations between food colour and its potential edibility or quality are learned from experience. However, evidence also suggests colour influences human perception at an innate, biological level (Labrecque et al., 2013). Importantly, colour – a purely visual stimulus – has the potential to influence other sensory modalities, for example, situations where colour influences perceptions of taste, smell and texture (for a review, see Spence et al., 2010). However, it would appear that the link between colour and physical reactions in other sensory modalities has mostly been restricted to situations involving food consumption. As a result, there is limited research demonstrating these cross-modal effects in situations where consumption does not take place, for example, in advertising, where much of consumer decision making is based on ‘expectations’ of consumption. The current study addresses this gap in the extant literature by examining the cross-modal relationships between vision (colour) and touch (food texture) in food advertising. This study examines the cross-modal influence of colour on consumer ‘expectations’ of product texture (creaminess/crunchiness) as a result of food advertisements. The study also examines the moderating effects of advertising copy and an individual’s sensory sensitivity, as well as the resulting influence on various marketing metrics. Findings demonstrate that the cross-modal effects of colour on expectations of creaminess and crunchiness are conveyed through advertising, that a form of Stroop interference moderates the effect when ad copy is included and that a person’s sensory sensitivity (using ‘need for touch’ as a proxy) causes a moderated moderation. The cross-modal effects are tested against marketing metrics, with findings demonstrating that the influence of colour on expectations of quality, purchase intent, pleasure and likability is mediated by an individual’s expectations of product creaminess, for those consumers who have a low ‘need for touch’ (Peck & Childers, 2003), creating a moderated mediation effect.