How Color Is Used in Marketing
Everyone has a favorite color. When someone asks us what it is, we usually answer without hesitation. As consumers, we gravitate toward that color in just about everything-clothing, room décor, automobiles, and the like. (Do you have a friend who always wears black? Or a roommate who insists on decorating entirely in purple?) We're also drawn to our favorite color when we see it in packaging. Marketers know this. They do a great deal of research to determine greater complexities in the perception of color, as well as cultural determinants of color preferences. To break through consumers' perceptual screens so they are attracted to the products being offered, marketers need to understand how color is perceived in order to use it effectively.
Scientists know that color literally affects the body and mind. Colors stimulate the nervous system and create emotional states. For example, red increases the heart and breathing rate. It also represents danger or caution. Advertisements that display words or product details-such as tooth decay prevention-against a red background may cause consumers to respond with a purchase in order to avoid getting cavities. McDonald's use of red in its color scheme subliminally encourages consumers to order and eat their food quickly-the whole idea of fast food.
On the other hand, blue has a calming influence on the nervous system and evokes peace, freedom, optimism, trustworthiness, and creativity. If marketers want to emphasize the teeth-whitening properties of the toothpaste described earlier, using advertisements or packaging with a blue background would likely be most effective. The color blue also suggests intelligence. IBM has always been known as "Big Blue." For a firm that develops and promotes high-tech products, the link to trustworthiness, creativity, and intelligence helps create a positive attitude among consumers. Green is another positive marketing color, commonly representing nature, freshness, health, abundance, and money. General Mills has a green "G" as part of its logo. Freshness, health, nature, and abundance are all qualities that consumers would like to find in the food they buy.
Color has certain meanings in different cultures-in the U.S., white signifies cleanliness and purity; but in China, white is associated with funerals and mourning. So, a U.S. manufacturer of bedding or tablecloths would not want to try to market its crisp white linens to Chinese consumers. And whereas yellow signifies happiness in the U.S., the color symbolizes sadness in Greece and jealousy in France. This presents a difficulty for global marketers such as McDonald's, whose signature brand colors are red and yellow. Although the golden arches remain their true color at the restaurants themselves, visitors to the McDonald's France Web site will find that pale blue and pale yellow are the predominant colors that appear on the site.
Understanding the psychology of color-the way it can be used to affect perception and shape consumer attitudes toward goods and services-is an important tool for marketers. The next time you find yourself reaching for the green bottle of vitamins or asking to test drive the blue car, at least you'll know why.
Choose one of the following companies. What colors does it use predominantly in its logo or packaging? How do these colors affect the perception of its products?
c. L.L. Bean