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EMAC 2019 Annual Conference

The Unspeakable Dark Side of Status: Low Color-Value Signals Status, Unless You Mention It

Published: May 28, 2019


Susan Calderon Urbina, University College Dublin; Antonios Stamatogiannakis, IE Business School - IE University


status; color; conspicuous consumption


Field data and five experimental studies show that products with lower color-value (i.e., darker) are perceived as providing more status than, and therefore are preferred to, higher color-value (i.e., lighter) ones. Further, because color-value is a not costly, thus is a weak, status signal, these effects are attenuated when individuals do not seek status, and when color-value is salient during status evaluations, suggesting an implicit process. We contribute to theory by showing when and how lower color-value can drive status perceptions and preferences. We thus add to status signaling theories by showing that even signals that are not costly or difficult to obtain, can covertly help individuals project status. Managerially, we propose that not all status-signaling product properties should be explicitly communicated, as overt communications can backfire, and lower status perceptions.