Here's how businesses can use lighting to influence consumer behaviour


Businesses operating in retail and food service industries should be aware that the level of lighting can impact consumer behaviour and the choices they make.

Researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that the level of lighting can change how likely we are to make pleasurable versus practical decisions.

Ping Dong, assistant professor of marketing at the Kellogg School notes that “ambient light is a very important experience that is easily manipulated”.

“This shows a new psychological consequence of darkness—consumers more often choose the option that provides immediate pleasure,” she says.

The research shows that we feel less connected to others in the dark, so we assign less weight to what others think and more weight to what we authentically desire.

The Kellogg researchers conducted three experiments in which the participants were subjected to different lighting levels and asked to provide views on products. They manipulated the light levels to see how participants’ choices changed when offered a utilitarian product versus a more enjoyable one. In each case, the participants made the hedonistic choice when it was offered in a darkened or dimly lit environment.

This research has obvious implications for marketers and for the setting up of retail stores and restaurants. The Kellogg researchers suggest that marketers could change the light from room to room in a store, or change the lighting in specific product ads depending on the products being offered.

They suggest that perhaps restaurants selling healthy food should increase the brightness of the light, since healthy food is considered more utilitarian.

“But for restaurants selling cheesecakes and other desserts—more indulgent food—it might be beneficial for them to dim the lights,” she says.

A similar practice could be applied to the workplace. When utilitarian tasks need to be completed businesses should ensure the workplace is brightly lit.

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