Colouring the marketing world

Friday, 21 October 2011 02:26 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Lessons to be learned

Some of us believe in auspicious time, faith and luck. This is very much important in this part of the world. What about the colour? As human beings we have the ability to see different colours. Humans, apes, most old world monkeys, ground squirrels, and many species of fish, birds, and insects have well-developed colour vision.

Mammals with poor colour vision are unable to differentiate between reds and greens. They see the world as a blend of blues, yellows, and greys. Mammals with limited colour vision or none at all include mice, rats, rabbits, cats, and dogs. Nocturnal animals – such as foxes, owls, skunks, and raccoons – whose vision is specialised for dim light seldom have good colour vision.

In contrast we, humans are colour-blind in dim light. Even colour increases our memory. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture with natural colours may be worth a million, memory-wise. Psychologists have documented that “living colour” does more than appeal to the senses. It also boosts memory for scenes in the natural world. In our current state of evolution, vision is the primary source for all our experiences. (Current marketing research has reported that approximately 80% of what we assimilate through the senses is visual.)

Our nervous system requires input and stimulation. With respect to visual input, we become bored in the absence of a variety of colours and shapes. Consequently, colour addresses one of our basic neurological needs for stimulation. So colour is colouring every moments of our life!

Colours in marketing

To sell the product you need more marketing techniques. Customers are fragmented. What about using colours in brand, product and advertising? I personally like to see black with the BMW advertisement. I do not like to see pink in that. That is human nature.

Research conducted by the Secretariat of the Seoul International Colour Expo 2004 documented the following relationships between colour and marketing: 92.6 per cent said that they put more weight on visual factors when purchasing products. When asked to approximate the importance of colour when buying products, 84.7 per cent of the total respondents think that colour accounts for more than half among the various factors important for choosing products.

Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone. But most of the religions have been advocating us to value the person not on appearance but on behaviour. But that is human nature and that’s why some argued that marketing is all about gimmicks, because it is evident that marketing exploits the natural weaknesses of human beings.

Heinz success

See the following success story: Consider the phenomenal success Heinz EZ Squirt Blastin’ Green ketchup has had in the marketplace. More than 10 million bottles were sold in the first seven months following its introduction, with Heinz factories working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep up with demand. The result: $23 million in sales attributable to Heinz green ketchup [the highest sales increase in the brand’s history]. All because of a simple colour change.

Furthermore ads in colour are read up to 42% more often than the same ads in black and white. Colour can improve readership by 40 per cent, learning from 55 to 78 per cent, and comprehension by 73 per cent.

Colour and culture

Different colours have different impact in different cultures .In funerals of the Buddhists’ we can see the colour of white but it is black in some other religions. And also white is the colour of death in Chinese culture, but purple represents death in Brazil.

Yellow is sacred to the Chinese, but signified sadness in Greece and jealousy in France. In North America, green is typically associated with jealousy. People from tropical countries respond most favourably to warm colours; people from northern climates prefer the cooler colours.

Colour and mental associations

There is direct association between colour and physiological, psychological, and sociological effects.

Following are some interesting research findings on that:


  • Blue is the most calming of the primary colours, followed closely by a lighter red.
  • Test takers score higher and weight lifters lift more in blue rooms.
  • Blue text increases reading retention.
  • Reds and oranges encourage diners to eat quickly and leave. Red also makes food more appealing and influences people to eat more. (It is no coincidence that fast food restaurants almost always use these colours.)
  • Pink enhances appetites and has been shown to calm prison inmates.
  • Blue and black suppress appetite.
  • Forest green and burgundy appeal to the wealthiest three per cent of Americans and often raises the perceived price of an item.
  • Orange is often used to make an expensive item seem less expensive.
  • Red clothing can convey power.
  • White is typically associated with cool, clean and fresh.
  • Red is often associated with Christmas and orange with Halloween and Thanksgiving.
  • Red and black are often associated with sexy and seductive and are favoured by porn sites.
  • Black clothes make people look thinner.
  • Black is also associated with elegance and sophistication. It also seems mysterious.


To make decisions, even at home you need to identify the physiological and sociological association of people and colour. As mentioned earlier it is important aspect in marketing too. Customers are human beings and understanding the behaviour in a “colourful way” is very much needed to get hold of a sustainable competitive advantage.

(The writer is a Chartered Marketer and Senior Lecturer at the Open University of Sri Lanka.)



  • Embry, D. (1984) ‘The Persuasive Properties of Colour,’ Marketing Communications
  • Johnson, Virginia (1992), ‘The Power of Colour,’ Successful         =Meetings, Vol 41, No. 7, pp. 87, 90.
  • White, Jan V(1997), ‘Colour for Impact,’ Strathmoor Press
  • ‘Business Papers in Colour. Just a Shade Better,’ Modern Office Technology, July 1989, Vol. 34, No. 7, pp. 98-102 )

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