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The success of a business can often be traced back to the little things that aid in this success. Choosing an appropriate color scheme when forming advertisements and creating a brand logo may seem like a minute stage in the formation of a business, however, it is an important stage that can be beneficial if chosen properly. This report will focus on the development of the theory of color, color in a marketing stand point, brand personality, and the meanings behind each color and how it effects the human mind.
The introduction of a new theory always leaves room for interpretation. The theory of color and how it is connected to brain processes has been changed and expanded on numerous times due to studies and new knowledge arising about the subject. The connection between color and psychological functioning can be traced back to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German poet, and his work “Theory of Colors,” (Elliot 97). In “Theory of Colors,” Goethe discussed the relationship between the effect of color and a person’s emotions. He categorized colors as being “plus colors” and “minus colors,” plus colors being a mix between yellow and red, and minus colors being a mix of blue and red (97). Plus colors can be associated more with what society knows of as warm colors, which are lively and thought to induce positive feelings in a person. On the other hand, minus colors are more cold colors, and can be linked to more negative feelings.
Goethe’s theory of plus colors and minus colors was later embellished on by a psychiatrist, Kurt Goldstein. Goldstein used Goethe’s ideas about color to bring about the first clinical observation about color perception and its’ effect on the body (97). The results of the study brought up a whole new idea that had not been thought about prior to the observation. These outcomes let to the idea that a color’s wavelength can be accounted for why people feel a certain way with different colors compared to other colors. Goldstein’s ideas were formulated around the ideal that wavelength and arousal are connected (97). The wavelength of color comes from the amount of energy the color produces. For example, colors such as red and yellow have longer wavelengths and therefore have a higher energy, whereas blue and violet have less energy and lower wavelengths. Longer wavelengths are thought to be more arousing than shorter wavelengths and as a result are also more stimulating than these shorter wavelengths (“Color and” 1). “The experiential states induced by wavelength are presumed to influence performance on achievement tasks, with longer, relative to shorter, wavelength colors inducing states that impair performance on complex tasks but facilitate performance on simple tasks,” (Elliot 97). Other theorists have since elaborated on the ideas around color and its effect on the emotional experience of an individual, however, one theory stuck out the most.
Ivan Pavlov, a well-known psychologist, thought of a way in which individuals could understand why colors are often associated with certain “behind-the-scenes” meanings, this being through associative learning. Associative learning is the idea that color associations form in the semantic memory, and are the reasons why color has such a significant impact on a person’s emotions (Labrecque 713). A person’s semantic memory is the knowledge that an individual has accumulated throughout his/her lifetime (713). These memories lead to color-emotion pairings, such as the color yellow is often associated with positive and cheerful thoughts. Color-emotion pairings play a big impact in the marketing world and choosing what colors to use in advertisements and brand logos.
Color can be used as a strong persuasive force in the marketing world by catching an individual’s eye, and/or triggering his/her semantic color pairings. “The right colors empower and contribute to the success of an advertising campaign, a product, a service, or even an interior space,” (Singh 201). This being said, choosing the wrong colors can also put a company at a significant disadvantage. So what colors should a brand use for their company logo or advertisements? An important factor to consider when choosing color is target audience. The target audience for a company is the group of people that the company is trying to sell to. For example, Kylie Jenner targets young adults for her makeup collection by using mainly Instagram and snapchat for her advertising campaigns. Instagram and snapchat are mainly used by millennials, therefore her target audience would be millennials that wear makeup and follow her accounts. Certain target audiences are more attracted to certain colors than others. For example, females are more attracted to warmer colors than males, and both sexes tend to lose interest in the intensity of colors (201). Unlike the older generation (over 65 years), children tend to be more attracted to brighter colors and also pastels (201). Using colors that are attractive to certain groups of people can be a key marketing tool that businesses can take advantage of. Also, by using repetitive colors in marketing strategies, companies can improve their brand personality.
Brand personality is crucial when trying to create a successful business. “Consumers use brand personality dimensions as relevant determinants of the brand’s added value,” (Valette-Florence, et al. 24). Having a powerful and clear identity for a company is the best way to both bring back loyal customers and also draw the attention of new potential customers. According the ThriveHive, the six ways to develop a brand’s personality are as follows, decide who you are first as a brand, know your audience, choose your voice, craft your message, be consistent, and use feedback. When looking into marketing and the different colors that target certain emotions in individuals this falls under the first three stages, which are the beginning stages of starting a company. It is important to know what colors a business wants to represent itself before starting the company because once customers start to use that businesses services, his/her semantic memory will associate the business with the colors that they choose. This is also why it is important to use colors that will appeal to the customers’ eye. “Brand loyalists thus become attached to a brand’s visual identity and may complain in response to changes in a brand’s color scheme,” (Labrecque 712). For example, Victoria’s Secret is known for their pink and black colors that their brand has chosen to use. If the company decided to change their logo to green and white, the company’s brand loyalists may be upset by the change and then have a negative connotation of the company. “Like a carefully chosen brand name, color carries intrinsic meaning that becomes central to the brand’s identity, contributes to brand recognition, and communicates the desired image,” (712).
This essay focusses mainly on color and its effect on emotions, but what are these different colors and the emotions that they evoke? According to Nayanika Singh, the following descriptions explain why certain individuals react to certain colors in certain ways (Singh 201-203);
- Blue – As mentioned before, blue has a shorter wavelength and thus has less energy than other colors. As a result, it does not evoke as many emotions as other colors, thus being why blue is more of a calming color. Singh describes blue as being a color that symbolizes “water, depression, tranquility, trust, confidence, conservatism, dependability, wisdom, wealth, royalty, truthfulness, creativity, and plays a significant role in religious beliefs and ceremonies (202). Companies are hopeful that individuals have confidence and trust in their businesses, and this could be why companies such as JPMorgan, Bell, AT&T, and IBM use blue as their main brand color.
- Red – Intensity surrounds the color red, and the effect it has on human emotions. Red is a vibrant and powerful color that “is used to indicate celebration, purity, passion, strength, energy, fire, sex, love, excitement, speed, heat, arrogance, ambition, leadership, masculinity, power, danger, blood, war, anger, revolution and communalism,” (201). Unlike the color blue, red has a long wavelength and this can explain the arousal that comes with the color, and also explains why the color red can raise an individual’s blood pressure. Companies that use the color red include, Coca-Cola, Target, CNN, and YouTube.
- Green – The color green “signifies a balanced and a rejuvenated mind. It symbolizes growth, rebirth, renewal, nature, fertility, youth, good luck, generosity, health, abundance, stability, and creative intelligence,” (202). Healthy food companies often use green as a color in their advertisements because of what the color green stands for. Whole Foods, Tropicana, and the Animal Planet are just three of the many companies that use green for its’ symbols of growth and health.
- Yellow – One of the most positive colors is yellow, however when presented too much can also signify anger. Yellow is used to “represent sunlight, joy, earth, optimism, intelligence, hope, liberalism, wealth, dishonesty, weakness, greed, decay aging, gladness, sociability, and friendship,” (202). When combined with red, yellow can also inspire individuals to keep moving. McDonalds is a popular food chain that uses this color scheme technique because they are promoting fast food.
- White – The color white is a calming color that does not stand out as much as other colors. “White represents purity, peace, neutrality, and tranquility of the mind and body. Furthermore, it symbolizes the portrayal of youth, sterility, light, reverence, truth, snow, air, cleanliness, coldness, fearfulness, and humility,” (202). White is often used to symbolize vanilla flavored things. This can be attributed to its’ aspect of tranquility of the mind and body because the flavor vanilla is not very strong.
- Black – Black is a color that can be perceived in multiple different ways. It is used to symbolize “absence, rebellion, modernity, power, sophistication, formality, elegance, mystery, style, evil, emptiness, darkness, seriousness, conventionality, unity, sorrow, professionalism, sleekness and mourning,” (202). The wide array of interpretations of the color black explains why most companies do not choose to use black as their main company color. In most cases, black is used as more as a secondary color because it does pair well with other colors.
- Orange – Along with yellow and red, orange has a longer wavelength and thus provokes more emotions within individuals. Orange “signifies a happy, balanced, an enthusiastic mind. It is used to portray energy, heat, fire, playfulness, gaudiness, arrogance, warning, danger, desire, royalty, and religious ceremonies,” (202). Orange is used in a wide variety of advertisement campaigns, ranging from children’s tv shows, soda flavors, restaurants, and websites. Some of the more common companies that use orange in their brand image is Nickelodeon, Fanta, Harley Davidson, and Shutterfly.
- Pink – Pink can be seen as a sister color to red. “It is used to symbolize gratitude, appreciation, admiration, sympathy, socialism, health, love, marriage, joy, innocence, flirtatiousness, child-like behavior, and symbolizes sweet taste,” (203). Victoria’s Secret uses both pink and black in their advertising efforts. Both capture different sides of the company.
- Purple – Not many companies use purple as their color of choice for their brand’s advertising campaigns. However, the color purple does signify royalty and wealth, and is “used to portray nobility, humility, spirituality, ceremony, mystery, wisdom, enlightenment, flamboyance, exaggeration, sensuality, and pride (203). Hallmark uses purple as their main color, and also has a crown in their logo which ties together the color and the logo.
- Brown – Along with the color green, brown has an earthy look to it. It represents “skin tones, calmness, boldness, depth, natural, organisms, richness, tradition, heaviness, poverty, dullness, roughness, steadfastness, simplicity, dependability, friendliness, and aids in stimulating appetite,” (202). Most companies do tend to partner the color brown with different shades of green when using the color in their advertisements.
History shows that color psychology is a newer field that is constantly being elaborated on by different theorists. The colors a company chooses to identify themselves with ties directly into a company’s brand personality. By building a strong brand personality, companies put themselves at an advantage when accumulating brand loyalists and bringing in new customers. This simple step, if done correctly can be very advantageous for a business. Further research is being done on the psychology of color and its effect on the human mind.
- Elliot, Andrew J. “Color and Psychological Functioning: A Review of Theoretical and Empirical Work.” Frontiers in Psychology 6 (2015): 368. PMC. Web. 12 Oct. 2018.
- Elliot, Andrew J., and Markus A. Maier. “Color Psychology: Effects of Perceiving Color on Psychological Functioning in Humans.” Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 65, no. 1, 2014, pp. 95–120.
- Gozli, et al. “Visual Attention to Features by Associative Learning.” Cognition, vol. 133, no. 2, 2014, pp. 488–501.
- Labrecque, Lauren, and I. Milne. “Exciting Red and Competent Blue: the Importance of Color in Marketing.” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 40, no. 5, 2012, pp. 711–727.
- Singh, Nayanika, and S. K Srivastava. “Impact of Colors on the Psychology of Marketing — A Comprehensive over View.” Management and Labour Studies, vol. 36, no. 2, 2011, pp. 199–209.
- Terry, Michael. “How to Develop Your Brand’s Personality.” ThriveHive, 30 Jan. 2018, thrivehive.com/how-to-develop-your-brands-personality/.
- Valette-Florence, et al. “The Impact of Brand Personality and Sales Promotions on Brand Equity.” Journal of Business Research, vol. 64, no. 1, 2011, pp. 24–28.
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