The buffer effect: The role of color when advertising exposures are brief and blurred

M. Wedel, R. Pieters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Color is generally considered to be a primary determinant of the speed and quality of identifying advertisements, packages, and brands by consumers. Thus, for instance, red is considered to be crucial information to know that an ad is for sports cars and pink that it is for facial creams. Our research instead shows that color is only a secondary determinant. Color helps consumers to determine what stimuli are when primary information contained in the shapes and textures (black-and-white surfaces) of stimuli becomes degraded due to blurring or very rapid exposures. Two experiments with a large set of ads across brands and categories, under speeded and blurred exposure conditions, and inferences based on a Bayesian Anova Model provide evidence for the hypothesized “Buffer Effect of Color.” The findings have implications for the design of commercial stimuli that are intended to cut-through the clutter and to rapidly communicate their gist, such as packages, brand logos and websites. Rather than predominantly focusing on color features of the stimuli, it is more or also worthwhile to emphasize specific shapes and textures and how these stand out from the context. Specific creative techniques to accomplish this are reviewed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-143
JournalMarketing Science
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


  • advertising
  • gist perception
  • drift diffusion model
  • Bayesian ANOVA
  • color


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