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“Art has connotations of excellence, luxury, and sophistication that spill over onto products with which the art is associated...”

Vanessa M. Patrick
Terry College of Business







Art sells: A simple, classy
route to ad success

By Sam Fahmy


Advertisers looking to give their products more appeal need look no further than the nearest art museum, according to a new University of Georgia report. Published in the July 2008 issue of the Journal of Marketing Research, it concludes that even a superficial connection between art and products tends to makes consumers evaluate them more positively.

statue“Art has connotations of excellence, luxury, and sophistication that spill over onto products with which the art is associated,” said coauthor Vanessa M. Patrick, an assistant professor in UGA’s Terry College of Business. “We call this the ‘art-infusion effect.’ It does not stem from the artistic content—that is, what is depicted in the artwork—but from general connotations of art itself.”

“Visual art has historically been used as a tool of persuasion,” noted coauthor Henrik Hagtvedt, a doctoral student who is himself a critically acclaimed visual artist. “It has been used to sell everything from religion to politics to spaghetti sauce. It’s about time we developed a scientific basis for understanding how this actually works.”

The researchers investigated the phenomenon by means of three studies. First they posed as servers at a local restaurant and showed 100 patrons sets of silverware in black velvet boxes. The top of the box bore either a print of Vincent Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night or a workaday photograph of a similar scene. Even after a brief exposure to one or the other of the images, the diners rated the silverware in the box with the painting as more luxurious.

The second study revealed that a relatively unfamiliar artwork can successfully compete with a famous celebrity in conveying a luxury appeal; and the third study demonstrated that the content of the specific artwork is not necessarily important—it’s the nature of art itself that matters. Indeed, even a painting of a burning building on the face of a soap dispenser resulted in its being perceived as luxurious.

“The art-infusion effect is based on the human ability to recognize the creativity and skill involved in artistic expression,” said Hagtvedt. “It’s a universal phenomenon, and it stands out, even with all the stimuli competing for attention in contemporary society.” Thus art is a uniquely powerful marketing tool.

Celebrity endorsements, long a common tool in advertising, may appeal only to certain segments of the population; and such ads’ effectiveness—dependent, in large part, on the celebrity’s latest movie or fashion shoot—is unpredictable. Art, on the other hand, is timeless.

The study results also suggest that the art-infusion effect is all-encompassing. “The products that we used in our studies were relatively ordinary items such as bathroom fixtures—not product categories you would typically associate with art,” said Patrick. “This suggests the possibility of a broad use of art in successful marketing.”

For more information, contact Vanessa Patrick at:
or Henrik Hagtvedt at:


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