The Power of Colour

reWORD   •   SEPTEMBER 28, 2013

Companies wishing to communicate a positive, dynamic and irresistible image need to know just how vital a role colour plays in determining the effectiveness of a message. Nothing conveys a meaning or compels an emotional response as instantaneously as the astute use of colour. In design, as in nature, colour is an integral part of the identification process. For example, IBM will forever be known as the Big Blue: trustworthy and dependable. Coke is red: energy and exuberance. Colours not only identify, they idealize.

The subliminal effect of colour on humans makes most of us unaware of its persuasive and suggestive powers when choosing one product over another. The power of colour stems from its inherent ability to stimulate all of our senses and physiologically alter our body chemistry. For example, when you see the colour red, a chemical message is immediately sent to your adrenal medulla gland and releases the hormone epinephrine, which invariably causes you to breath faster and increases your blood pressure, pulse rate, heartbeat and flow of adrenaline. And no matter how hard you try, you have no control over these physiological reactions.This phenomenon explains why we perceive the colour red as being stimulating, exciting, energetic, powerful, and sometimes dangerous.

From Childhood to Adulthood

How we feel about colour is directly connected to our childhood memories, which are forever imprinted on our psyches from early on. As we reach adulthood, we will continue to respond to colours, positively or negatively, much the way we did as kids, unaware of the fact that our brains are associating the colours we are seeing with childhood events.

Kids and teenagers gain status and recognition from their peers by complying with the accepted trends. Thus, choosing and wearing colours is based on what’s “in”. And choosing outrageous colours ensures they’ll attract attention. Electric Blue hair anyone? To market successfully to these intense trend-driven age groups, it is vital for designers and manufacturers to keep in tune with future colour directions and industry forecasts. As teenagers mature into adulthood, their need for self-expression increases significantly and, although trends still influence their choices, personal tastes and preferences play an increasingly greater role.

“Our cultural backgrounds and traditions influence our learned response and reaction to colour as well. For example, Indian mystics believe green is the colour that brings great harmony. If you had been raised believing that green brings harmony, this colour family would evoke positive responses however and wherever it is used.

Each culture has its own unique heritage of colour symbolism and each of you is a product of your early environment and so are your clients. When you are dealing with specific cultural groups, it behooves you to do some homework on the background and perception of colour in a given culture. As people move from place to place they will often carry their colour baggage with them, but some individuals will try very hard to integrate into a newly adopted society by emulating the colours they see around them, so it is best not to make the assumption that all peoples of a particular culture will have exactly the same reaction to colour.”

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive director of the Pantone colour Institute® and founder of the Eiseman Center for Colour Information and Training

Historically, white has been a colour associated with mourning in the Chinese culture. Currently, white is being used not only in everything from T-shirts to wedding gowns, but on airplanes as well. This change in attitude is especially true for younger people in many cultures who are less bound to tradition and more open to change.

The Power of Colour Marketing

When consumers speed down the aisles, their eyes race from label to label, taking a fraction of a second to instinctively decide whether they should pay closer attention or move on. In that fraction of a second, if your product label or package fails to rivet the eye, appeal to their psyches, and inform them of the package content, then don’t expect to sell a lot of products. With countless products lining market shelves and millions of dollars at stake, how you use colour can make or break a product line.

Companies fundamentally use marketing communication to attract and persuade consumers at large to become customers by making them respond positively to the conveyed message. The clever use of colour in designing brands, packaging, point-of-purchase concepts, advertising, signage, logos and products is a must if you intend to edge the competition.

As globalization shrinks social and cultural barriers, and information is exchanged at ever increasing speeds, old cultural colour concepts are changing and expanding. For example, Leatrice Eiseman’s book, the Pantone DESIGN 101 is a resourceful tool designed to help you appreciate the influence design has on society and business, and how to use it in achieving your objectives and growing your business.

By |2017-06-13T06:16:36+00:00September 28th, 2013|Branding, Design, My Articles|