Colors of Economy

in Strategy & Trends | by David Capece


By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

Weight lifters can lift more in a blue room; dangerous criminals are more subdued in pink prison cells; red makes our heart beat faster.

Before we even understand lines and object definition, we see color. Whether we’re aware of it or not, color has a profound affect on our emotions. That’s why we’ve created a color list—to get entrepreneurs thinking about what colors mean and how they affect consumers.

The color of 2009? Pantone Inc. says orange, we say no. We vote blue and gray. While Pantone predicts consumers will be drawn to the optimism and enthusiasm of orange, we think consumers will go the other way. Why will blue and gray be the colors of 2009?

Black: Always the New Classic

Emotional Value
Fear, Depression, Anger

•    Black is a multi-dimensional color that can mean classic or new.
•    It has an ominous characteristic, symbolizing death. Particularly Western cultures use black for funerals.
•    It has an air of intelligence (graduation robes), marked with rebellion (the bad guy), shrouded in mystery (space).
•    Black’s evil symbolism, compliments the good in the world. Whatever the social, economic, political environment, black will always be a popular color in all industries.

Key Words
Classic, New, Death, Intelligence, Rebellion, Mystery,

Blue: The Color of Recession/Progression

Emotional Value
Peace, Calm, Security


•    The best color to wear to an interview is blue. Blue is non-threatening, yet confident, stable and loyal. No wonder it’s the color for the “power suit.”
•    Many police uniforms are blue because the color says confident, security, while being non-threatening.
•    As we aim to maximize our every minute, blue will become a more popular color because it enhances productivity. Weightlifters have proven to lift heavier weights in blue rooms.
•    Security is very important today. As we face difficult times, knowing that it’ll be OK is crucial.
•    With the good there’s the bad. Blue can also signify depression. “You’ve got the blues” is a nod to this attribute.
•    It is also the color of corporate and technology. As corporate entities recede into the background, technology will take center stage—keeping blue in the forefront.

Key Words
Confident, Loyal, Stability, Security, Productive, Depression, Technology

Brown: Simple Comfort

Emotional Value

•    Chocolate… what a perfect indulgence. It’s small, sweet and delicious. Though it’s the bane of many dieters, it still has a seductive, yet comforting quality that makes us, even for a minute, feel like everything is OK.
•    It’s also the color of dirt, giving it an earthy, environmental quality popularly coupled with green. Companies seeking to align their company with eco-friendly causes could benefit from brown.
•    For businesses that are going Back to Basics, brown is the color of choice. Its nature qualities give it a simple, outdoorsy feel.

Key Words
Comfort, Earthy, Eco, Simplicity, Nature

Green: Business Renewal

Emotional Value
Envy, Jealousy, Calm

•    Green will continue its rise in eco-conscious businesses. Green says nature as well as initiative, or go—particularly for western cultures (i.e. traffic lights).
•    It’s also the color of spring, a time of rebirth and renewal. For companies providing a pampered escape, green is a color that will signify rejuvenation and energy for your brand.
•    Spring implies youth and adolescents. Though green will continue to be the color of eco-friendly businesses, its uses in other industries will decline—as other connotations of the color are for personal gratification and envy.

Key Words
Eco, Nature, Go/Initiative, Rebirth, Renewal, Escape, Youth, Envy

Orange: Optimism in a Time of Pessimism

Emotional Value

•    America’s attitude is orange. Orange is energy, enthusiasm, get-it-done and balance. Though these are flattering attributes, the tradition of enthusiasm has been dampened by the current economic condition.
•    Orange, though very inspirational, is not going to be favored in general. The somber national tone desperately wants orange, but is struggling to stay optimistic.

Key Words
Optimism, Enthusiasm, Balance

Pink: The Innocent Tranquilizer Dart

Emotional Value

•    Pink, a sister of red, but could not be more different than if they were complimentary.
•    Pink is a tranquilizing color. Often times, prisons will paint the cells of their most dangerous residents the color pink.
•    Pink symbolizes innocence and child-like flirtatiousness.
•    Pink, not even highlights of the color, will not be a popular pick for many businesses. Of course, it will continue to win the favor of pre-teen and baby companies, but areas outside this demographic might find it difficult to sell pink.

Key Words
Innocence, Flirtatiousness, Calming

Purple: High-Class

Emotional Value

•    Thailand considers purple to be the color of mourning. Not so in western cultures. Quite the opposite in fact. Purple is the color of royalty and wisdom. The Purple Heart, a high military honor for those wounded or killed in enemy combat with America, embodies both purple attributes.
•    Purple will continue to play its part in the upper echelons of society, while being a footnote in many brand colors.

Key Words
Wisdom, Royalty

Red: Accent of Bold

Emotional Value
Love, Infatuation, Danger, Intensifier of Emotions, Strength, Aggression, Sexuality

•    It’s said, red makes the heart beat faster. No wonder sports cars are typically red.
•    Red strikes a chord with more cultures than many other colors because it’s intense, passionate and invokes an inherent physiological response.
•    Red is the color of celebration and good luck (China), purity and integrity (India), mourning (S. Africa) or communism (Russia).
•    Red, when used with a wide brush, typically makes whatever it’s painted on look larger—whether it’s your torso or a wingback chair.
•    It is so bold and audacious; it usually dilutes the colors around it. That’s why it’s used to accent and highlight objects of importance.
•    Red is a color that will never leave the color palette. It’s an integral part of human emotion. No matter what the economy outlook might be, red will always be accented in the landscape.

Key Words
Aggression, Celebration, Purity, Mourning, Communism, Bold

Silver/Grey: Reliably Boring, Yet Essential

Emotional Value
Boredom, Security

•    Grey, somewhere between white (good) and black (evil), is a blasé color.
•    Grey says security and reliability—two important features businesses will need to adopt in the future.
•    However, grey is very gloomy. Though nothing says depressing and blah like a cold, cloudy, grey day, the color can be a brand asset—as is very relevant in today’s economic climate.

Key Words
Reliability, Security

White: The “Color” Behind the Color

Emotional Value

•    White is the color (or lack thereof) that represents purity, neutrality, sterility and youth.
•    Often associated with white is cleanliness or sterility. Doctors wear white to convey these attributes of white (also, white is easier to bleach).
•    White is also associated with neutrality—hence a white flag for surrender. White is a neutral color that will continue to be the preferred backdrop on websites and the “color” behind the color.

Key Words
Purity, Neutrality, Sterility, Youth, Neutrality

Yellow: Bite-Size Happiness

Emotional Value
Joy, Optimism, Happiness, Idealism, Anger

•    Yellow echoes the duality nature of red. Though yellow evokes feelings of happiness, when we are confronted with too much yellow, we become annoyed or angered.
•    Fun, interesting companies will capitalize on the jocular characteristics of yellow in product and brand development.

Key Words
Aggression, Happiness

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Color Psychology, Info Please

Color Psychology and Marketing, Precision Intermedia

Color Psychology, How Stuff Works

Color Meaning, Symbolism and Psychology, Sensational Color