The Power of Colour in Marketing - Ideas for Leaders
Idea #201

The Power of Colour in Marketing

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Seeing red and yellow together is likely to make you think of McDonalds, according to this Idea. Such is the power of colours on brand recognition and long-term storage of advertisement information. Certain colours in particular are more stimulating than others, and marketing executives can use this information to build stronger advertising campaigns.


Colour has been found to affect cognition, moods and feelings, all of which in turn can influence consumer decision-making. According to the US-based Color Marketing Group, it can increase brand recognition by up to 80 per cent. Not surprisingly then, numerous studies have focused on the effects of colour in marketing and advertising, clearly demonstrating that colours do act as a stimulating device.

From a biological perspective, the reticular activating system (a set of nuclei connected in the brain) has been linked to the cerebral cortex, in which memory is also a function; this implies that stimulation may enhance long-term memory, short-term memory, or both. Building on this, Thomas Shi suggests that colours could be used as a tool to potentially induce long-term storage of advertisement information.

Why should marketing executives be interested in this? According to Shi, recall of an advertisement can lead to recall of the product, which can further lead to brand loyalty and continued publicity via word-of-mouth, thus rendering an advertising campaign successful — all through maximization of the right colours.

However, choosing the right colours can be a difficult task, mainly due to the unpredictability of consumer behaviour. Nevertheless, certain patterns have emerged through studies and experimental findings in this area; for example, red has consistently been shown to be more arousing than a colour in the middle of the visible spectrum, like green. Blue has also demonstrated similar results; Shi reasons that as blue is a cooler colour, it may be perceived as relaxing and pleasant, which would increase the favourability of a product to a buyer.

But Shi also points out, that in a highly globalized business world, one major downside to focusing on colour in marketing campaigns is the need to rethink everything when entering foreign markets. Colours have distinctly different meanings across cultures; some cultures view white, for example, as a pure or holy colour, whereas others associate it with death. Such considerations must be taken into account when entering foreign markets.


Depending on the goals of an advertisement, product, or company, as well as cultural factors, different colours can be used. As such, there is no set list of colours that work and those that don’t. However, certain colours have been shown to evoke certain moods and feelings, which in turn create a higher chance of making a positive purchasing-decision, such as red and blue. 

But, according to Shi, just because there is strong support for a particular colour, such as the use of blue in a purchasing environment, it does not suggest that storeowners should repaint the walls of their entire store blue. Rather, taking note of certain colours and colour combinations and incorporating them into ad campaigns will be more useful. It is clear that colours on the extreme end of the visible spectrum of light seem to be winners in this regard.

Other factors that may affect the effectiveness of colour include hue and saturation, how bright or concentrated the colour is, and any variances. 




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Idea conceived

June 1, 2013

Idea posted

Sep 2013
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