What Color Makes The Most Green?

Could wearing a particular color influence the results obtained by a salesperson? If that salesperson is selling to a buyer of the opposite gender, the answer may be, “Yes!”

Anyone in sales would acknowledge that personal appearance is part of the equation in successful selling. One has to look the part – someone selling investments who looked shabby, for example, would surely fail. Regardless of the field, most people in sales try to present an image that conveys success. After all, there’s a social proof effect – if this salesperson is (apparently) successful, that means other customers are buying his product too. Other strategies may include matching one’s clothing to the buyer’s style or expectation – a sales call in a bank headquarters requires a different look than one at a truck stop. Now, new research suggests that one clothing color could work better than others across the spectrum of sales situations.

The magic color? Red.

The Power of Red

Simply wearing the color red or being bordered by the rosy hue makes a man more attractive and sexually desirable to women, according to a series of studies by researchers at the University of Rochester and other institutions. And women are unaware of this arousing effect.

The cherry color’s charm ultimately lies in its ability to make men appear more powerful, says lead author Andrew Elliot, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “We found that women view men in red as higher in status, more likely to make money and more likely to climb the social ladder. And it’s this high-status judgment that leads to the attraction,” Elliot says. [From the University of Rochester describing work published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.]

Our Hardwired Preference for Red

Part of the phenomenon is cultural, according to Elliot – in many eras and cultures, red has been associated with the rich and powerful. The more interesting part of Elliot’s explanation is that biology is involved. In various primate species red is an indicator of male dominance, and he suggests, “When women see red it triggers something deep and probably biologically engrained.”

While this research didn’t directly evaluate the effect of red in the sales process, it seems logical that a salesperson perceived as being more attractive and of higher status will be more effective at conveying a successful image and achieving higher credibility.

Red Attracts Guys, Too

Red works as an attractor for both genders – another study found that women wearing red were more attractive to men. Unfortunately for saleswomen, red on a female conveys less about power and social status and more about sexual attraction. Still, with all the research showing how men in a “mating” frame of mind are more easily persuaded, even that effect may not be totally unproductive.

As we see so often here at Neuromarketing, in these studies the subjects were totally unaware of the “red effect” – the color preference was subliminal.

Getting Your Red On

So how does a salesperson take advantage of the power of red? Likely, a prominent accessory is enough. One experiment used pictures with a red or white border. Another varied shirt color. Presumably, for real world guys (today, red suits on men are worn mainly by Santa Claus) a red tie or red shirt would do the trick. Women have more options to display red in today’s business fashions, and could use anything from a dress to a prominent accessory.

So, get your red on and close some deals!
Images via Shutterstock


This post was written by:

— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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