The Monday Morning Quarterback

Advertising, Marketing and Colors

The advertising world revolves around the principle of attraction.

The fact of the matter is, no matter how well an ad is written or photographed, if it’s to be successful, it has to be attractive.

What makes an ad attractive is not its particular contents, but its color.

How ads manage to attract attention can be with a snappy headline or a provocative photo. But in the end, our catch-as-catch-can culture, where so little is worth any of our time, it’s the basic color combinations of the ad that really, truly attract viewers and readers.

In fact, one of the first things you notice about any advertisement is the colors. In many ads, the colors are the only things holding the ad together. Colors are one of the things that advertising professionals care about most, especially since they can have so many different connotations in different contexts. It’s essential to use colors to project an image of the advertiser – are they warm, family oriented? Are they bright and colorful and youthful? A novelty? A cool teen thing? All of these factors are portrayed by the color schemes of advertising, which connects the colors to the simplest human emotions.

Thanks to some research by the Oracle Foundation, here are some generalities – and specifics – about colors, color choices, and the reasons why certain colors are so strongly  associated with certain kinds of products.

Red is an extremely powerful color. It is the bang that hits your eyes, and as a result, it symbolizes energy, power, vitality and vigor. Red is an attractive color to nearly everyone. It’s the first color babies can see, the most popular color among children, and generally liked by adults as well. Since it has the ability to physically affect humans by increasing the breathing and pulse rate, it can be used for anything exciting and able. Sometimes the power of advertising is described by the use of red, with active use of red in the motor industry and its associated products. Red is speed, and danger. In addition, red is used to arouse adult men and women. Therefore, it’s used in beauty products for  nail polish, lipstick and perfume. Red’s ability to stimulate the appetite makes it an excellent color in food products as well. Sometimes red is used to symbolize fast-acting pills. Since red is associated with the more passionate emotions (both love and hate!) it’s the only color that can really portray any vigorous reaction – you can’t use green, blue or purple for those red hearts or that red-faced dog in cartoons.

Green is the color of nature. In today’s world, green has a very strong association with health and environment movements. As a result, green portrays health and nature more than ever. Along with this, green has the nurturing and tranquil effect, as it happens to be the easiest color for the eye to see. Green is synonymous with harmony. If you can recollect those green check marks and the red x marks you see in advertisements, you’ll agree that green also stands for the right thing. In some contexts, green is like the green traffic light signaling go; so that’s another way ads can subtly manipulate green. Of course, the lighter shades of green are strongly connected to freshness and vitality. A lot of revitalizing creams and refreshing drinks like tea are advertised in green. On the other hand, green is also associated with money and financial power, so sometimes it can be used to depict fast-earning schemes and investment plans.

Blue may be a universal favorite. As a cool shade, it not only promotes serenity and clarity, it also denotes intellect and precision. Blue has a lot of significance in formality and elegance, especially in its deeper shades. You might have noticed the many ads using blue luxury cars, navy-blue suits and rich blue office rooms. Since it increases the concentration ability, blue can also be used to highlight the effectiveness of a product in terms of its smooth running. The cold side of blue is used to show refreshing cool drinks and icy cold mountain water. It’s also associated with purity and clarity, which is why window cleaners, mineral water, and glasses are all given blue tints. Blue is also associated with masculinity and can be used accordingly. Although it is a versatile color, blue loses out on food products as it suppresses the appetite. Therefore, it is unwise to use blue in the field of food products.

Yellow is a two-faced advertising color. Although it is the most eye-catching color, yellow can be fatiguing to the eye and overbearing to the mind. The use of yellow for important things, though, can be a good property as well. Yellow is a happy, energetic color, that sometimes symbolizes rejuvenation; the use of the color yellow in beauty products is prominent. But the color remains distasteful to men, maybe because of its conventional “cheap” connotation. Yellow is also used to show the scrumptious attraction of buttery food products, the sunshiny cheerfulness of toys and games, and the happy child’s atmosphere in general. People tend to associate yellow to sunshine and happiness, so towards that effect, it remains a good advertising color tool.

Purple is the luxury color. High quality in its elegance, it’s often used to attract women, who find the color irresistible. Because of its costly appearance, it can affect perception of bargain hunters, while at the same time giving quality to cheaper products. As a result, purple is overall a regal mark of the feminine; with teenage girls forming the largest proportion of purple fans.

Orange is a more neutral shade of red. It has all the energetic warmth of the warmer half of the color wheel, but it doesn’t have red’s association with negative emotions. It is used as an adrenaline power shot, with a lot of use in energy drinks, orange-flavorings and children-associated products. On the negative side, though, orange can give a very strong impression of shoddy cheapness, so although it shouldn’t be used on luxury products, it can be used for low-price things like fast-food and bargains. While orange also stimulates the appetite, it shouldn’t be used for the more expensive food products. It’s usually reserved for the candy and the soft drinks.

Pink is the number one feminine color in the world. Known for its attractive quality, pink is used all over as the “in” advertising color for all things girl-related. Also used as a pastel color, pale pink is a baby-color as well. Pale pink is used in baby lotions and powders, and it can also represent silky smoothness in other lotions for women. Although it can have a calming effect, men often find pink an irritating reminder of female existence! Maybe because of its feminine quality, pink also represents sweetness and angelic cherubs. As a result, pink food products can entice the sweet-teeth of consumers all around.

Black is the smooth shade of exclusivity. Shiny black is a mark of excellence, while black on the whole is a very formal color in advertising, hinting of corporate touches. Although black tends to be a more traditional color, it can be used to give class to advertisement as well. Black text is one of the most conventional bromides of advertising, but experts are finding it useful to change traditional black on white writing as it makes information pop out better.

White, on the other hand, is the cool airy shade of purity. Used a lot to depict cleaning substances, it’s also often used to give a calm look to a room shown in an advertisement. Modern and abstract, white remains a favorite where clear-cut lines play a role.

So there you go. Have you thought about how colors are used in advertising? Take a look around you today and you’ll start to notice the familiar consistency of color uses. As you walk through the supermarket, you’ll see how some aisles are filled with certain colors, while other aisles a dominated by another. There’s a reason for this. Advertising professionals, from account executives to graphic designers, are well aware of how color affects consumers.

– Art Reker, Account and Creative Executive