Active red sports car and relaxed purple–blue van: affective qualities predict color appropriateness for car types


Daniel Hanss, Faculty of Psychology (DICE-Lab), University of Bergen, Christiesgt. 12, N-5015 Bergen, Norway.



Research suggests that color appropriateness differs as a function of object type. Thus, a color may be perceived as appropriate for one product and inappropriate for another product. We argue that perceived appropriateness depends upon the congruity of the affective qualities of a color with those of the product. This assumption was addressed in two studies in which participants assigned the best matching color out of 13 Munsell colors to each of seven car types. Additionally, affective qualities of both colors and car types were measured on semantic differential scales. The first study showed that color appropriateness varied according to car type. As predicted, the affective qualities of the assigned colors tended to be congruent with the affective qualities of the car types. Affective congruity along the potency dimension of the semantic differential was of particular importance in explaining assignments of colors to car types. The second study was a replication of the first study but with a different sample. The results confirmed what we found in the first study. An interesting difference was, however, that activity (not potency) turned out to be the most important dimension of the semantic differential in explaining assignments of colors to car types. Implications for product development and marketing practice are discussed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.