Nav: Home

Cold temperatures linked to high status

October 11, 2019

For decades, luxury retailers around the world have conveyed the message that cold temperatures are a sign of status with descriptions like "icy steel Swiss watches," "cool silk scarves" and "icy bling." But researchers have never studied whether people truly associate cold temperatures with status and luxury.

To investigate whether this association could be substantiated by evidence, investigators from England and Japan conducted a series of experiments, and their findings are available online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. In the first study, the researchers asked participants to hold and inspect a small, decorative vase, and people in one group were given a vase that had been chilled in a refrigerator while the other group held one that was at room temperature.

Then the participants rated the extent to which the vase was a symbol of status, achievement and wealth. They also rated the vase for its uniqueness, exclusiveness, expensiveness, sophistication and luxury. Finally, the participants evaluated whether they liked the product based on how desirable, pleasant and favorable they found it. The results showed that participants who evaluated the colder vase felt that it conveyed more luxury and status than the warmer vase. They also found the colder vase more desirable.

The researchers posited that this association between cold and luxury could be traced to deeply ingrained perceptions. "From the time we are born, warmth is associated with closeness next to a mother's skin," said study author Rhonda Hadi, an associate professor of marketing at Oxford University. "Conversely, cool temperatures are linked to physical and social distance, which can make products feel more exclusive."

The researchers repeated the experiment with cold visual cues instead of tactile cues when participants viewed advertisements for a new fragrance. One group saw an image with a winter scene behind the fragrance bottle while the second group saw a spring scene. Again, the participants rated the fragrance with the winter scene as more luxurious and desirable than the fragrance with the spring scene.

To test whether cold temperatures could influence consumers who were more motivated by the performance of the product rather than its status, the researchers asked participants to evaluate luggage. One advertisement showed the luggage with the winter scene in the background while the other ad showed the spring scene. One group was looking for luggage designed to impress and command respect, while the other group was looking for luggage that was designed for quality and provides consistency and function.

The results revealed that the people preferred the advertisement with the winter scene when they were looking for a high-status item, but there was no significant difference between the winter and spring ads when performance was the goal. "This suggests that the benefits of cold temperatures do not apply to all categories of products," Hadi said. "If consumers are seeking something that is more conformist that would help them fit in at work or with friends, then they may not want to stand out from others."

For marketers, the findings suggest that small adjustments in the temperature of a store or the background of an advertisement could significantly influence the perceived value and level of luxury for a product.

"It seems like such a simple manipulation, but it could have profound implications for companies that are trying to draw consumers to their luxury products," Hadi says. "At the same time, consumers should be aware that momentary feelings toward a luxury product in a cold store might fade at home."
The study abstract is available at:

Study author contact information:

Rhonda Hadi
Associate Professor of Marketing, Oxford University

Society for Consumer Psychology

Related Consumers Articles:

Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.
Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.
When consumers don't want to talk about what they bought
One of the joys of shopping for many people is the opportunity to brag about their purchases to friends and others.
As consumers, how do we decide what's 'best' when it's not clear?
Imagine you are choosing between two resorts for your island vacation.
Effects of ethnocentrism on consumers
Aitor Calvo-Turrientes, winner of the prize for End-of-Degree Project in Sustainability in 2015 awarded by the Faculty of Economics and Business of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country in Vitoria-Gasteiz, is the author of the paper 'The valuation and purchase of food products that combine local, regional and traditional features: The influence of consumer ethnocentrism,' published recently by the prestigious journal Food Quality and Preference.
Organic consumers mean business
Groundbreaking research from Aarhus BSS shows that organic consumers are standing fast and are buying more and more organic products following an increasingly predictable pattern.
Perfect mannequins a turnoff for some consumers
Mannequins' long legs, tiny waistlines and perfect busts can sour some shoppers on the products they're wearing, especially consumers who don't like the look of their own bodies.
What's in a name? For young Chinese consumers, it's about culture mixing
Younger, more cosmopolitan Chinese consumers tend to favor brand translations that keep both the sound and the meaning of the original name, says U. of I. business professor and branding expert Carlos J.
Why do consumers participate in 'green' programs?
From recycling to reusing hotel towels, consumers who participate in a company's 'green' program are more satisfied with its service, finds a new study co-led by a Michigan State University researcher.
Consumers care about carbon footprint
How much do consumers care about the carbon footprint of the products they buy?
More Consumers News and Consumers Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.