Importance of Color Theory in Advertising

Importance of Color Theory in Advertising

In the visual arts, color theory is both the science and art of color. It explains how humans perceive color, how colors mix, and the subliminal (and often cultural) messages colors communicate. Terms like complementary, warm, cool, achromatic, and color harmony are all used to describe the relationships between colors in the visual arts.

Color plays a vitally important role in marketing and advertising. Color can sway thinking, change actions, and cause reactions. It can irritate or soothe your eyes, raise your blood pressure, and even suppress your appetite. Color is a powerful form of communication that is critical when creating strategic plans for branding, consumer participation, and engagement. According to research conducted by the secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo, 92.6% of respondents said that they put the most importance on visual factors when purchasing products. Only 5.6% said that the physical feel via the sense of touch was most important. Hearing and smell each drew 0.9%. These statistics are important not only for selling products on a shelf, but for aiding in brand recognition as well.

Graphic design in marketing and advertising isn't just about being able to create pretty pictures for social media or print, but also about creating the combination of colors and visuals needed to change consumer actions. The colors should be pleasing to the viewer (they shouldn’t clash in a distasteful way), and  easy to see and understand. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” shouldn’t be taken lightly. We can get more information in a shorter amount of time from one image than we can from a paragraph because we perceive an image all at once, whereas we often take significantly longer to process the same information through reading or listening. Visuals are imperative to communicating information in the modern age of technology and social media, and it is important to create images that accurately convey the message your business wants to convey.

When choosing a color to represent your brand and/or products, you may want to consider the following symbolisms of each color (keep in mind that the meaning and symbolism of colors change between cultures, and this information is western-centric):

  • Red — passion, importance, attention
  • Orange — playfulness, friendly, vitality
  • Yellow — happiness, optimism, warning
  • Green — nature, stability, prosperity (growth)
  • Light Blue — tranquility, trust, openness
  • Dark Blue — professionalism, security, formality
  • Purple — royalty, creativity, luxury
  • Pink — femininity, youth, innocence
  • Brown — ruggedness, earthiness, old-fashioned vibe
  • White — cleanliness, virtue, health
  • Gray — neutrality, gloom, subdued tone
  • Black — power, sophistication, edginess

The color your business uses not only sets the tone for your brand, but makes your products and services more identifiable to the public as well. Companies like Tiffany & Co, which is known for its  blue boxes and bags, and Apple, with its sleek silver products, are examples of the importance of color in brand recognition.

Colors in branding have even shaped our culture! For example, before the 1930s, Santa Claus was not depicted as a jolly old man with a white beard and red coat—and then Coca-Cola started displaying advertisements of Santa with this imagery. Red coat for the red Coca-Cola logo! This branding move is responsible for the conception of Santa that we have today.  This also demonstrates the importance of maintaining homogeneity across all your logos, products, services, flyers, etc.

“At The Pod,” says our Art Director Melissa Lidsky, “we like to think we're not just making ads--we're creating art that moves people, and color choice plays a huge part in that. We can utilize certain colors to inspire action or influence the way people feel about a particular brand or product. Before we recommend a color palette for a campaign or brand identity, we really do our research to determine the best fit for the goal we want to achieve.” This attitude paves the way toward marketing success.