Even more expensive: why do people associate cold with luxury goods?
It would seem that cold – what pleasure is there in it? For most people, winter is cool for only the first five minutes of skiing or throwing snowballs. After which you hide in a burrow for at least three months (if you’re lucky – sipping hot chocolate near the fireplace), and dream of the hot sun and a radically different landscape outside the window.
However, as the authors of the study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found out, for many people cold is strangely associated with premium and high cost. Researchers from the universities of Musashi and Oxford have concluded that somehow we perceive cold objects as more valuable and beautiful than their “warmed” counterparts. Perfume or suitcases, placed in an advertising picture against the background of “something frosty”, are perceived by us much more luxuriously than the same objects in the middle of green summer.
“Usually warmth is always preferred over cold. When we think about warmth, we have strong associations with warm human relationships, love, and this is usually exactly what we all want, ”she continues. “But if we recall such a concept as status, then it just presupposes a certain distance – both psychological and physical. And this is exactly the opposite of the warmth that we expect from intimacy. Feeling something as ‘cold’ is perceived as ‘exclusivity’, something separate and special. ” – Rhonda Hadi, Oxford professor of marketing.
Hadi tested this conclusion in her laboratory many times, and only a part of these experiments was included in the scientific report. Noting that luxury brands often lower cabin temperatures to boost sales, the research team took a closer look at the temperatures of the objects themselves. In one experiment, 50 participants were allowed to hold vases at room temperature, and the other 50 were chilled well below room temperature. In a special questionnaire, people noted how much they valued the object that fell into their hands – and it turned out that they considered chilled vases more expensive.
The results of the experiment make us remember that many things made of glass, or for example, metal (like the panel on an iPhone), feel cool to the touch. Hadi agrees, saying that stainless steel, which is still associated with premium products, has a similar effect. Perhaps we prefer these things, or at least consider them fashionable because it seems as if no one else touched them? In contrast, Hadi invites us to imagine that we are touching something warm, as if someone else touched this object in front of us. For example, we sit on a seat in the subway immediately after someone got up from there. Still not the most exciting sensation?
In another study, Hadi’s team put familiar luxury goods, including perfume and travel bags, on “fake” ads featuring natural scenes. In the first version, the background for the goods was a spring landscape. In another version, ice and snow became the background for the same products. Hundreds of subjects saw the same thing, and each time they stated that the “winter” versions of the goods are more status-conscious than those that were placed against the “spring” background.
Of course, marketers have known all this for a long time, at least intuitively. That is why we see real ice or fur on advertisements for jewellery. Nevertheless, the experiments carried out make one think. Does the cold seem “luxury” to us, because it is somehow connected with our survival, or with our behavior in society?
Hadi believes that no matter what the source is, now we can no longer change anything in our perception. “We created such associations in our heads, and it absorbed into our consumer culture,” she sums up.