Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business


Color and font affects online behaviors, says professor’s research

Color and font affects online behaviors, says professor’s research

Labrecque is currently working on various research projects, two of which marry her interests in design and digital marketing.

By Whitney Critten |  Student reporter

Sensory elements such as color, sound, scent, or touch help shape consumer perceptions about brand personality, likeability, and purchase intent, says Lauren Labrecque, PhD, associate professor of digital marketing.

And as a result, marketers should be aware of how these elements influence the consumer experience, both online and offline, because small changes may result in huge differences.

Over the past ten years, Labrecque has focused her research efforts on understanding the consumer experience on digital and social media platforms, and how sensory elements impact consumers. More recently, she has combined her interest in digital media and sensory marketing in two new research studies.

Her research has been published in notable peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Interactive Marketing, and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Here, she discusses what drew her to her research area, her current research, and why businesses and marketing students should care about academic research.

What drew you to sensory marketing and digital media? 

Growing up, I was very into the arts and being creative—I actually spent some of my time during undergrad studying art and art history at Parsons School of Design and The American University of Paris, which explains my continued interest in color and design. 

While studying at The American University of Paris, in the early 2000s, my brother was getting his master’s in digital media studies at the University of Denver. He would email me links to websites, games, and other digital media. This fascinated me, and I realized that digital media was the future, so I soon joined him in Denver to pursue my master’s degree in digital media studies.

After graduation I spent a few years doing web development and digital marketing. While working in this area, my interest in digital marketing grew, and I continued my education as a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Again, I saw digital media as the future, and my PhD program allowed me the opportunity to better understand this growing area and how it affects both people and businesses.

What are you currently researching?

I’m working on a few different research projects right now, two of which marry my interests in both design and digital marketing. One examines how different typefaces influence consumers’ perception of how a company will protect their online information—specifically looking at privacy policies. Currently there’s no regulation as to how privacy policies online are supposed to look, and recently many brands are designing them to be colorful and graphic driven instead of being text heavy like they were in the past.

This research is being conducted with a Loyola undergraduate student. I love the fact that Loyola encourages research collaboration at the undergraduate level. It’s very unique and offers a great experience for both parties.

Another project looks at online reviews and examines how color impacts the credibility of an online rating. For example, with Yelp, I’m looking at the color of the stars that reviewers use to rate their experience, and I’ve found that with negatively rated products, consumers lend more credibility to reviews with red stars, as opposed to blue.

The color red has been shown to heighten arousal and serves as an alert mechanism. This is due to our biological and learned associations of the color red with danger, risk, warning, etc.

Why should the business community pay attention to academic research?

Academic research provides marketers with key insights on how to get a consumer to complete desired actions on their website, have a better experiences on their website, increase loyalty, and overall result in more revenue generated. And understanding how and why something is occurring is at the heart of academic research. Once we understand something we can then take this and apply it to our marketing efforts.

A practitioner may experiment with changes to his/her site and see positive results, but oftentimes they don’t understand why something is happening and that makes it hard to duplicate and build upon. Academic research offers a deeper understanding into why something is occurring so practitioners take this knowledge and apply it across many situations.  

How are you using research in the classroom?

In my classes, I teach my students both theory and real-world application, along with the importance of always learning new ideas and concepts after they’ve left the classroom. I discuss academic research findings in my classes and sometimes involve my students in research projects.

I stress to them that research, both academic research and practitioner research, is really key to being a highly effective marketer.