Understanding the Color in Compromise

The careful application of color has enormous potential throughout marketing. The color red can make people more aggressive in online bidding. The color blue can signal competence when used in a brand's logo. In this lesson, we'll evaluate how the use of color in presenting brand features can satisfy a consumer's drive for uniqueness, leading to different product choices.

2-4 Weeks
Useful for All Industries

When making a product choice, consumers often avoid extreme options (e.g. selecting the cheapest or most expensive version), instead selecting the “safer” choice in the middle.

Marketers have optimized to this compromise effect by adding a new higher-priced option to everything from tv subscriptions, wine lists and tech gadgets simply to increase the attractiveness of their second-highest priced offering. Apple offers three iPhone storage sizes to drive 68% of sales to the 128GB option in the middle.

But, what happened to the other 32% of their customers?

It turns out that consumers are also motivated by a desire to be unique in their purchases. The stronger the desire for uniqueness, the more likely one is to choose a non-conforming product feature. But if you can satisfy that need early on, more conforming purchase behavior will follow.

Could different colors satisfy the need for uniqueness?

When children were allowed to pick to candy from one of three, white-colored boxes, only 26% of them chose the middle option. When the candy was placed in colored boxes, 44% did.

When a sushi display had no color, 67% of diners chose from the middle. When researchers placed sheets of colored paper below each piece of sushi, the middle was selected 82% of the time.

And, when Apple released their iPhone in new colors, 80% selected the middle storage option – an increase of 18% from the previous generation.

Presenting product information in different colors can satisfy the consumer’s motivation for uniqueness, driving product choice. This is a finding relevant to all businesses who provide a consistent (often black and white) presentation across all of their products. Something as simple as change in text color could lead to new sales growth.


Kim, J., Spence, M. T., & Marshall, R. (2018). The Color of Choice: The Influence of Presenting Product Information in Color on the Compromise Effect. Journal of Retailing, 94(2), 167–185.