Think differently

Sabine Ruaud : « We have a duty to offer a teaching approach that encourages students to free themselves from pseudo-truths »

Sabine Ruaud , Professor

Sabine Ruaud, EDHEC Professor involved in a variety of teaching programmes (Bachelor, Grande Ecole, Executive...), is working in particular on colour and the influence of humorous colour names on consumer behaviour.

Reading time :
31 Aug 2023

You are the author of a number of books and case studies - many of which have won awards: how do you choose your subjects?

I like to bring ideas to the surface, to juggle with them to mix and match, to experiment with unusual territories that broaden my spectrum of thought. To do this, I draw inspiration from many sources. In general, the triggers for producing a piece of writing, whether it's a book, an article or a case study, are based on a combination of elements: subjects that fascinate and/or intrigue me, and about which I want to learn more; questions raised during in-depth discussions with marketers or professionals who share with me the issues encountered in their companies and their expectations; observations based on the sensitivities of learners, both in initial training and in continuing education; inspiring interactions between my various daily readings.

At the same time, I rely on my 'savoir-flair' and, from there, I explore a subject in depth so as to give it some depth and come up with some teaching suggestions.


Games, words, colours (puns on colours): what have your latest marketing projects taught you?

I'm interested in colour, a complex phenomenon because it is first and foremost a percept. Colour has given rise to a wide range of multidisciplinary research. In marketing, it has been studied in a wide range of areas, from products, packaging and brand identity to the point of sale, internet shopping and advertising. It is at the heart of the marketing strategy of many companies, which are using it in increasingly sophisticated ways, as expressed in the title of a book I co-authored (1).

And yet it still raises questions and challenges. This is borne out by my latest research (2), which looked at the influence of humorous colour naming, i.e. the impact of humorous colour names on consumer behaviour. For example, 'Fa-bu-bleu', 'La vie en mauve', 'Green de star' and 'As de Pink' are the names of the new rainbow-coloured fruit juices recently launched by the Innocent brand.

In fact, no theoretical or empirical study has yet looked at commercial onomastics (3) applied to humorous colour names and the conditions of its effectiveness in terms of influencing consumer behaviour. However, in the context of a brand strategy whose objective is to use this distracting mode of expression to name a new offering and place it on the market, it seems worthwhile helping practitioners to know precisely what type of humour is to be favoured when choosing a humorous coloured name for a product. Should it involve a high level of cognitive activity, with the individual processing the nominal meaning exhaustively, or should it very clearly involve the development of peripheral signals, the emotions, and be based more on an affective process? In other words, should practitioners opt for 'cognitive' humour (I think and then I smile) or 'affective' humour (I smile and then I think) to increase purchase intention?

It's a fascinating subject. Colours are everywhere. They make up the world of people who seek them out, (re)create them, invent them. Each discipline has its own language, which varies according to the era: philosophical colours, artistic colours, literary colours, clothing colours, political colours, architectural colours... They are also "easy" to talk about to a wide audience. And colour is far from having revealed all its ins and outs.

Generally speaking, research is an exciting field, where knowledge is challenged and new knowledge is generated. This means that you need a certain freedom of spirit to come up with new experiments, while at the same time being able to demonstrate great methodological rigour (definition of operating conditions, control methods, etc.).


How have your students' expectations changed in recent years? What teaching innovations have you introduced to meet them?

EDHEC has always been committed to developing innovative and interactive teaching methods, based on an action-based approach - Learning by Doing. This approach meets the high expectations of students who want to learn how to learn by doing.

The pandemic and its periods of confinement, forcing learners and teachers into a one hundred per cent 'digital parlor', were a real accelerator in setting new standards for educational experiences. To maintain an emotional connection with learners and facilitate their engagement, I drew inspiration from the world of gaming, which is proving to be a unique way of communicating pedagogically with this generation: the first digital Escape Game was set up in a Retail course. This initiative was awarded the Prix de l'Innovation Pédagogique 2021 by the AFM (Association Française du Marketing).

In 2022, it was another edutainment system that was a finalist in the AFM Educational Innovation Awards: playing cards developed by Jeuxdenjeux (4) for learning in a different way and stimulating the generation of ideas on a given subject.

While working while playing or playing while working may seem contradictory, 'picking and choosing' from edutainment systems can have an impact on students' motivation, their sense of competence, their efforts and their in-depth processing of the content of the task. It should be remembered, however, that it is not the game that enables learning. The game serves an educational scenario that begins with the definition of learning objectives. The game activity is one of the learning activities organised to achieve these objectives.


How do you see your profession and your discipline developing?

For many years, the mission of every teacher was to mobilise didactic skills and demonstrate pedagogical rigour in order to lead learners through the labyrinth of knowledge to be acquired. For more than a decade, we have been witnessing a shift from a paradigm based on the transmission of academic knowledge to one centred on the appropriation of this knowledge and its integration into practical problems. Today, with the arrival of artificial intelligence invading the professional world (as well as the private sphere), we need more than ever to offer a teaching approach that encourages students to break free from panurgic reasoning, to free themselves from pseudo-truths or sclerotic pre-chewed certainties. This emancipatory stance involves constantly listening to learners and combining it with a reflection mechanism that awakens their curiosity, exploration and questioning.

In marketing, given the major environmental and social issues facing our society, the development of problem-solving and critical thinking skills is a permanent feature of our teaching. We cannot continue to teach the models of the past without inviting students to rethink them. This ability to learn, combined with this ability to think, should enable them to develop an intellectual position that is essential if they are to integrate effectively into the constantly changing world of business. In this way, our students can become marketers and managers who create and deliver added value, capable of 'intellectual self-defence' and cognitive agility so that they can constantly adapt to a variety of contexts.

Bypassing fixed ideas and certainties and avoiding being trapped in "knowledge bubbles" is the key to preparing this new generation, with its high intellectual velocity, for paths that are no longer linear but plural, parallel or successive.



(1) Boulocher-Passet V. & Ruaud S. (2016), La couleur au cœur de la stratégie marketing, DeBoeck.

(2) Ruaud S. & Urien B. (2023), Commercial onomastics: humorous color names. Are they appreciated and do they play a role in product purchase intention?, Décisions Marketing, n°110, April-June, pp.247-267. This research was awarded the 2021 prize for best paper at the Sixteenth Agri-Food Marketing Day organised by the AFM (Montpellier).

(3) The term "commercial onomastics" refers to all the names that circulate in the commercial sphere: brand names, product names, range names, line names, service names, as well as the names of brands, shops, etc. The term "commercial onomastics" refers to all the names that circulate in the commercial sphere: brand names, product names, range names, line names, service names, as well as the names of brands, shops, etc.

(4) Jeuxdenjeux is a publisher of cooperative card games (, specialising in issues faced by businesses: breaking down silos, translating a vision into concrete action, transforming a business model, team performance, etc.


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