Colour Me Surprised-

Colour Theory in Advertising

seven assorted-color of chalks gray surface

To a certain extent, most of us are familiar with how colours can play a huge role in enlivening things, be it a person, a picture, an outfit, or a space. The simple act of choosing just the right colour (yes, Goldilocks was right- it HAS to be just right) can make a real difference to the look, feel or style of things.

Doesn’t ring any bells?

Think about this- consider the difference between a room painted in light, cooler shades like pale blue or mint green, and a room painted in darker, warmer shades, such as dark brown, or maroon.

One leaves you with a light and airy feeling- another with a sense of coziness- and that, dear readers, is the impact of colour theory. And of course, it’s no surprise that colour theory has a role to play in advertising too!

people sitting on chair with brown wooden table
assorted-colored pencils besides green palm plants

Colour plays a role in determining the impact and reach of an advertisement (or product), as well as determining the perceptions of the audience. The different personalities (so to speak), and tonal inflections of colours can be what makes or breaks the audience’s reception to a product, and, in the long run, its success.

Brand personality is also an important factor to consider- with these personalities usually split into 5 dimensions, namely;

  • Sincerity,
  • Excitement,
  • Competence,
  • Sophistication, and
  • Ruggedness.

Once a brand’s personality has been established under each of these 5 personalities, it is easier to craft a suitable marketing persona and to plot out the appropriate traits- including colour.

For a better understanding of how colours and emotions are linked- here are some examples of colour vs. emotions generated:

Red: Fierceness, power, courageousness, energy, boldness.

(Note: Did you know that red stimulates the appetite & the pituitary gland?)

Orange: Friendliness, cheerfulness, fun, vitality.

(Note: Did you know that lighter shade of orange are used to appeal to upscale markets?)

Yellow: Optimism, clarity, warmth

(Note: Did you know that the eyes see the colour yellow first?)

Green: Balance, harmony, health, growth & freshness

(Note: Did you know that deep green is a colour commonly associated with prestige, and that green is known as the most calming shade to the human eye?)

Blue: Trustworthiness, strength, dependability, security

(Note: Did you know that blue is commonly preferred by men- and that it is a popular colour for offices?)

Purple: Wisdom, creation, imagination, royalty

(Note: Did you know that lavender is a shade which triggers nostalgia & sentimentality?)

Black: Prestige, boldness, seriousness, power, classical

(Note: Did you know that black is a popular colour choice for luxury products?)

red green and blue round plastic containers
black and white iron works
pink green and blue textile

Check out some bonus colours and learn more about their associations too!

Pink: Calmness, warmth, love, romance and femininity.

(Note: Did you know- while pink has been a popular colour choice in marketing products targeted at women, in recent years, there has been a backlash against the constant “pink-washing’ of products- pink in product design, product packaging, re-designing products specifically to include the colour pink.)

White: Innocence, purity and clarity.

(Note: Did you know that white often invokes a sense of spaciousness and order?)

Grey: Neutrality, professionalism, calmness and stability.

(Note: Did you know that grey is normally used to invoke sleekness and a feeling of high-end quality in advertising?)

It’s also important to factor in cultural considerations and their implications with colour theory too!

For example, the colour yellow symbolises hope and happiness- and it has more significance in Malaysia! In Malaysia, the colour yellow also symbolises sovereignty of the Conference of Rulers (known as the Majlis Raja-Raja) and their roles as leader of the faith in the constituent states. (Pssst- that's why there's a yellow crescent and a 14-point star on the Jalur Gemilang a.k.a the national flag!)

Meanwhile, red is a popular colour among the Chinese and Indian communities- red is known as a lucky colour among the Chinese, symbolising good fortune and prosperity, while the Indian community consider red a symbol of love, passion and fertility- making it a popular colour for bridal wear.

yellow paper artwork
gold and silver beaded bracelet