Setting the mood – a quick guide to colour

Colour | Color

Colour is a strong and effective communication tool that can quickly deliver a message, set a mood or evoke emotion in the blink of an eye.
With this in mind, the correct colour choice is an essential aspect of brand success.

Think of the brands that have the strongest presence in today's marketplace.
For advertisers and marketers, choosing the right colour is not only an art; it is also a science.

Red is 

Sexy, dynamic, stimulating, exciting, provocative

Warm tones - high-arousal colours, red in particular creates the highest arousal threshold in humans.
When the human eye sees red the hormone epinephrine is released altering our body chemistry causing high energy and excitement.

Red is aggressive in nature, it commands attention and more importantly it demands action.
At the point of purchase, red is virtually impossible to ignore.
Word association studies and consumer response studies tell us that the consumer sees red as passionate, provocative, exciting and dynamic.
Red is seen as the sexiest colour and is therefore equally seductive in the marketplace.
Even when red shades are darkened to become a burgundy shade, they still maintain the enticement and excitement of the primary colour from which they came, but the result is more subdued.
Consumers tend to respond to these wine tones as rich, refined, expensive and are seen as more authoritative, mature, lush, opulent, and elegant than primary red making them a good choice for expensive, high involvement products.

Pink is

Romantic, youthful, happy, sweet, spirited

Pink transmits the same high energy as primary red from where it came however; it also has diverse mood swings that depend upon the value or intensity of the colour.
Pink is often seen as energetic and youthful resulting in a feeling of movement and wild abandon.
The best use for the more vivid shades of pink tends to be trendy products such as toys and novelty goods.
Be cautious of bubble gummy pinks that tend to look cheap, artificial and immature.
Pink is often perceived as a faddish colour and does not age as well as the more luxurious red.
Vibrant, sexy pinks are a favourite of the cosmetic industry and like red, they create great attention at the point of purchase when a sultry, up-scale look is the goal.
Magenta and fuchsia pinks that lean to red or purple are perceived as more "grown-up" because they're sensual yet theatrical at the same time.
Once pink becomes lighter and the raw sensuality of red is gone, the result is a romantic, soft and feminine feel.
Pink can give a rosy glow to anyone, resulting in a healthier look. For this reason pink would be an excellent choice in marketing health care products, cosmetic products and for facial salons and spas.

Orange is

Energizing, tangy, vital, friendly, inviting

Radiant glowing sunsets, autumn's burnt leaves; bright and warm orange is seen as the hottest of all the colours.
Playful and happy it is the perfect colour to choose for toys, games, inexpensive plastics or any product that is targeted towards a younger or young at heart audience.
Since it can at times give a comedic, or cartoon like impression, it is not a good choice for conveying a serious or important message.
The radiant warmth of orange tends to show very well in "ethnic" themes or products such as a Mexican salsa or an Indian Restaurant. Research indicates that orange has shown to exert a measurable effect on the appetite as it is inevitably connected to the sweet and juicy tang of the orange fruit.
This combined with the overall warmth of orange makes it the perfect colour choice for dining areas, food service and food packaging.
Further studies also indicate that lighter shades of orange such as peach, apricot, coral and melon tend to be pleasing to a more sophisticated eye and appeal to an upscale market.
Like pink, peach also tends to deliver a healthy glow to skin. With this in mind, peach is an outstanding choice for healthcare products, cosmetics, make-up salons, and beauty products.

Yellow is

Cheerful, luminous, sunny, enlightening, warm

Like the sun, yellow exudes light and warmth. When it is lightened, consumers see yellow as cheerful, mellow and soft. Even bright yellow is seen as cheerful although more energetic than the paler shades.
Unlike other colours that deepen with saturation, yellow becomes brighter when it is saturated, making it highly reflective and noticeable before any other colour.
Since the eye sees yellow first, it is the ideal colour to use on point of purchase displays to grab consumer's attention.
Yellows that are similar to food in colour such as bananas, lemons, and custards are best used in the food service arena such as food products or dining areas.
Studies show that American consumers prefer creamy, warm or sun-baked yellows to green-based yellows.
On the flip side all shades of yellow, especially green-based are pleasing to Asian consumers.
It is important to remember that the closer yellow gets to green, the more it is associated with acidic and tart tastes such as a Granny Smith apple.
Just like in the natural world, yellow and black are difficult to ignore.
Put together they have an almost dangerous connotation that forces people to beware and take notice (think stinging insects like bees).
Likewise in a marketing sense, yellow and black force the consumer to take notice and pay attention making them an outstanding choice for signage or the packaging of products that are blatantly calling out from the market shelves.

Brown is

Rustic, rich, sheltering, durable, earthy

Hearth and home, substance and stability; brown is the ultimate earth tone.
Tones of brown such as brick, tan, clay and terracotta are seen as the most protective and secure shades since they are unavoidably connected to the earth.
The brown shade of earth itself generally receives a positive response from consumers although from time to time, it can be related to dirt or being dirty which can be particularly problematic in the fashion industry.
In interior design, brown has gained enormous visibility and respect and coveys a feeling of style and richness.
People tend to feel secure in a brown interior; some say this is rooted in the days of cave dwellings, which were the only safe place from outside predators.
In the food industry, the homey and earthy aspect of brown works exceptionally well. Some of the most healthy and organic foods are brown such as brown rice, bread and grains.
Brown is also the colour of one of the world's most decadent and delicious food - chocolate! All in all, brown is well connected to fine tastes and is a good choice for food service and restaurants.

Blue is

Cool, serene, dependable, quiet, constant

Since the beginning of time, water and sky have existed here on earth. It is because of this association that blue is seen as reliable, trustworthy and committed.

It is a constant and dependable colour that inspires confidence making it an ideal choice for corporations that want to convey the same message to consumers.

Banks and financial institutions often use blue to convey a message of dependability and trust to the public.
Blue is also a very restful colour.
When humans see blue they often feel serene and calm.
Scientific evidence shows that when our eyes see blue, chemical signals that work like tranquilizers are released from the brain.
Many hospitals now use blue frequently on the walls as well as for the uniforms on doctors and nurses.
Blue is the perfect choice for use in products or services that promote relaxation and meditation.
When any hue is darkened so that it moves closer to black, it immediately gives the colour a sense of power and strength.

Navy blue is commonly used as a uniform colour for policemen and airline pilots as it conveys a message of instant authority and credibility in any area of business.
Where black can seem a little too dark and ominous, navy blue tends to be a more approachable and friendly colour.

Brilliant and electric blue add an entire new dimension of drama and exhilaration to this colour family. Periwinkle blues carry an undertone of purple incorporating the energy of red and are seen as the most playful blues.

Consumers usually see teal blue as rich, unique, upscale and pleasing to every eye. It is the least gender specific colour in the spectrum.

Traditionally blue has not been used in food packaging because of the strange association between the colour and food itself.
However, because of blue's connection to clean water, it is commonly used in packaging and/or containers for some drinks and is a popular choice for designer drinking water.

Green is

Natural, refreshing, healing, soothing, lush

Of any colour in the spectrum, green offers the widest array of choices.
Word association tests show that most people link the majority of green shades to nature.

Green provides the perfect background to plants and flowers of every conceivable colour and can therefore be used much in the same way as a neutral colour.
It is also because of this connection to nature and foliage that most consumers respond to green as fresh, especially when viewing a mint green.

Bright greens are commonly linked to grass and newness while emerald greens are seen as more elegant.
Deep greens are commonly associated with pine trees and covey the same freshness as in a pine scent.
Deep greens can also be associated with money, power and prestige. It offers a feeling of security and strength much like blue presents and is also a common choice for financial institutions.

Blue greens such as aqua always elicit a pleasant response.
There is an underlying element of warmth in aqua greens as in the temperature of warm, tropical waters.
Blue-greens are an excellent choice for the use of packaging or for the actual colour of the product itself in personal hygiene or beauty products that reveal a soothing quality.
Caution must be taken when using yellow-greens, which are best suited and accepted for gardening products or services.

Yellow-greens are sometimes associated with illness and nausea and are therefore not recommended for use in marketing healthcare, dining areas, and boat or airplane interiors.
On the flip side, children tend to love yellow-green, mainly because most adults dislike it. It's a trendy colour and when in fashion, it grabs attention and can be extremely effective when used out of context. Olive is also a shade of green that does not rate well, unless it is used in a complex way that appeals to the upscale buyer.

Responses are also more positive when it is referred to as a name other than olive such as 'Verdant Moss'. Vegetable shades of green work very well and are a good choice for food service, dining areas and especially in the packaging of environmentally healthy or organic foods.

Purple is

Sensual, mysterious, regal, spiritual, dramatic

The colour purple is something of an enigma. It conveys very different messages that depend largely upon the background of the person viewing it.
Having a touch of red and blue in it's make up, it is both sensual and tranquil at the same time.
It is a fantastic eye catcher and is very under-used in packaging, at point of purchase as well as in signage. The presence of red in the hue causes it to stand out but in a more controlled way than red.
A deep purple with navy blue undertones is a good substitute for navy blue itself which is often overused.

In it's more radiant intensities, it expresses a very futuristic quality that works well for products that involve cutting edge technologies.
It is a complex colour that embraces a diversity of hues and undertones and is linked with artistry and uniqueness.

Deep purple or royal purple is viewed by many as regal and majestic as the name implies, so the perceived value of products that use this hue are seen to be greater than with other colours.
This is especially true in the European market or for people with European backgrounds.
When gray is present as an undertone in purple, it lends a more sophisticated feel to the hue.

As pink is to red, so is lavender to purple.
This softer, diluted shade of purple carries a gentle, and sentimental tone.
With the wide acceptance of lavender in the fashion industry, it has moved away from its previous association of 'little old ladies' and is now accepted by both genders and by a diverse age group. However, there is still a soft and delicate side to lavender and it is also connected to sweet tastes such as grapes along with soft, inviting scents.

Neutrals is

Classic, natural, quiet, timeless, quality

The neutral tones of beige, gray and taupe are classified as a-chromatics, literally without colour, yet these shades succeed in delivering a message of dependability and timelessness.

These colours can be seen in ancient monuments, buildings, temples and sand, all of which are viewed as being solid, enduring, and above all classic.
These connotations are also transferred to the product or service in which neutrals are used. If the message is durability, permanence, high quality and dependability, neutrals are an ideal choice and can be used anywhere from interior design, packaging, clothing or other products.
Neutrals are timeless and never go out of style therefore they will never date a product or service.

However, depending on the undertones used, it can shift the temperature of a neutral and change its psychological impact.
For instance, a sandy beige is more welcoming and friendly than a cool white and a warm gray is never as calm and collected as a cool gray.

Light to medium grays are the most "non-committal" of all the colours in the spectrum and are highly recommended for work surfaces or areas where other colour matching takes place.
It will not compete with any other colours and works well to reduce the intensity of bright, brilliant hues.

A good alternative to black's power and presence is a charcoal gray, which is never as severe or overpowering as total black can be, particularly in living environments, clothing or packaging.
For a futuristic or techno look, silver grays are a perfect choice as they are connected to minimal and sleek images.

White is

Pure, bright, innocent, pristine, elegant

White undeniably coveys purity and simplicity but it is important to remember that the human eye sees white as a bright, brilliant colour. It is because of this that white is excellent for using as a contrasting colour in signage, packaging or at point of purchase, white will always catch the human eye. White also gives a feeling of cleanliness and is a good choice for infants' products or products involving personal hygiene and health.

When pure white is used in interiors, it tends to be rather stark and lacks any feeling of warmth. However, it is also the symbol of absolute minimalism and when contrasted to another colour, can have a dramatic and stylish effect. It is the ultimate contrast to black however in print, packaging and product design it can give a very clean, minimalist and generic look which can be very effective.

Off whites are extremely elegant and creamy whites in particular are often perceived as delicious making them an excellent choice for dining areas or food packaging.

Black is

Strong, classic, sophisticated, mysterious, powerful

Mysterious and intriguing, the powerful essence of black is viewed by every product category as the most sophisticated and stylish shade. The power of black should not be underestimated; the consumer sees black as the most powerful, dramatic, elegant and expensive presence. Where food packaging is concerned the consumer will actually pay more for this "gourmet image" that black conveys.

People's perception of black has changed dramatically over recent years and although it is still the colour of mourning in certain cultures, more people tend to identify black with sophisticated and upscale items causing the positive associations to outweigh the negative ones.

Of course too much black can be a bit overpowering and packaging, signage, and advertising in general should never be entirely black as the message itself must be visible. However, black does give the message of strength and in consumer products wherever power, longevity and weight are concerned this is a definite asset.

Black is an excellent choice for cars or appliances that imply durability and substance. The most quintessential and classic combination of colours is black and white, which conveys a message of strength, class, clarity and power.

Learn more
Colour Matters – the colour wheel, symbolism, marketing & science. How colour can sway thinking, change actions, and cause reactions.

May 11, 2020

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