With St. Patrick’s Day come and gone, and the green frenzy beginning to subside, we can finish off the last of our green beer, put away that one green tie or green shirt we own, and settle back to think about why we place so much importance on color in the first place. Is it not interesting that for the weeks before and after St. Patrick’s Day the whole country goes green? And I’d bet that whether your blood runs green and you speak in limericks or your mother’s grandfather’s cousin is 1/18th Irish on their father’s side, you wore some kind of green on St. Patty’s day this year (even if it was just to avoid being pinched). Why is color so important that it represents patriotism, ancestry, religion, and anything else we can imagine?
Humans have an affinity for color; we love it. That is because what we associate with it means something to us. Green for instance, is associated with ideas such as money, jealousy, the environment, and of course Irish pride. Beyond all the symbolic meanings we give it, green also means something to us psychologically. A study done on the relationship between color and emotion found the color green is associated with relaxation and calmness, happiness, comfort, peace, and excitement (Kaya & Epps, 2004). It actually received the highest number of positive responses compared to other colors. (No wonder everyone is so happy on St. Patty’s day – I thought it had to do with the green beer). Another study by Terwogt and Hoeksma (1995) found that as we get older, our preference for green increases! So not only do we feel certain things because of colors, but trends have been found as to when you’ll like a certain color more than another one! Come back to me when you’re 80 and let me know how awesome green is.
Green isn’t the only color that affects how we are feeling or thinking though; every color has a different emotional or psychological effect on us, and people are catching on. Do you ever notice that brands that are specifically geared towards men or women have completely different color schemes? A study done on the associations between color and brand perception found that lighter colors like pink and pastel that are associated with femininity are used to attract female buyers and darker colors that are associated with masculinity are used to attract male buyers. The color scheme of the brand is a predictor of positive perception by the sex it’s geared towards (Lieven, Grohmann, Herrmann, Landwehr, & Van Tilburg, 2015). Doubtless, thousands of companies have considered what their colors will mean to consumers when choosing their logo and brand, and now they have the tools to know what will attract certain types of people (perhaps green on products for the elderly?).
Color is used strategically everywhere you look, whether it be in the marketing of masculine cologne and feminine perfume, or as propaganda or a symbol of a country’s pride. So, next time you wear a green shirt to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or buy a pink card for Valentine’s day, you can think about what that color means; there may be more to it than you think.
Lieven, T. , Grohmann, B. , Herrmann, A. , Landwehr, J. , & van Tilburg, M. (2015). The effect of brand design on brand gender perceptions and brand preference.European Journal of Marketing, 49(1/2), 146-169.
Kaya, N., & Epps, H. H. (2004). Relationsihp between color and emotion: a study of college students. College Student Journal, 38(3), 396-405.
Terwogt, M. M., & Hoeksma, J. B. (1995). Colors and emotions: Preferences and combinations. The Journal of General Psychology,122(1), 5-17. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213647210?accountid=13758