Consumers Associate Cold With Luxury — Here’s Why Brands & Retailers Should Take Note

Retailers may want to turn down their thermostats.

A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, called “Shivering for Status: When Cold Temperatures Increase Product Evaluation,” suggests consumers associate physical coldness with luxury. The study was co-authored by Jaewoo Park and Rhonda Hadi, from Musashi University and the University of Oxford, respectively.

Researchers tasked participants with holding and inspecting decorative vases — with one group given vases that had been chilled in a fridge and the other given vases held at room temperature. Subjects who inspected the cooler vases were more likely to say the items conveyed luxury and status and that they found them more desirable.

In another setup, the researchers showed consumers luggage ads with winter and spring scenes. When evaluating the ads for high-status items, respondents expressed a preference for the products in the winter advertisements.

With the holiday season approaching, wintry window displays and print ads are inevitable — and consumers are also shopping for cold-weather items like snow boots, parkas and wool socks. And the evidence from the study suggests fashion brands and retailers would be wise to pair the two ideas in their marketing campaigns and elsewhere to ensure the best ROI.

The report’s authors say their work could have “practical implications for retailing, product design, brand management and marketing communications.” For instance, keeping store temperatures on the cooler side could influence the value customers place on a product. Ad campaigns that depict cold-weather scenes might also improve consumers’ perceptions of items’ luxury.

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