Colour & Food Marketing: Do Certain Colours Make Us Hungry?

Fast Food Colours
Charlotte Bowers

Some logos catch our eye more than others. This could be because of the colours they use, making them more memorable and, therefore, successful. For example, McDonald’s are students go-to on a night out and a hangover cure for that matter, or is this simply because of their affordability and tasty fries? Charlotte Bowers discusses the concept further, focussing on the emotions provoked from specific colours and the effects these may have on our preferences for certain food companies.

What is colour psychology in food marketing?
Gregory Ciotti defined colour psychology as the study of how colour influences our perception. This impacts our preferences and the decisions we make when choosing where to eat. McDonald’s, KFC, and Coca Cola all have red in their logos and are popular brands, but does colour have anything to do with their popularity?

There is an association between red and excitement

Do colours actually influence us?
We can’t specifically conclude causality for this matter, although we can infer that a colour can influence personal preferences. According to Brian Honigman, red has been used for the logo of some food companies, intending to stimulate hunger. He suggests there is an association between red and excitement, possibly explaining our response when we see a McDonald’s sign.

Of course, they are popular for many reasons, one reason being for their notoriously delicious mozzarella dippers, but ultimately, we are drawn to food companies with red in their logos.

The colour red regularly requires us to pay attention

Deliberate or coincidence?
Throughout our day-to-day lives our choices and preferences are influenced by colours. Some colours are automatically associated with a concept or emotion. For instance, the colour red symbolises a variety of different notions; in a traffic light system red indicates ‘stop’, in road signs it often suggests a warning, and fire engines are always red. In these examples, they all use red intending to catch our eye and help us act accordingly.

The colour red regularly requires us to pay attention, therefore, we may look in the direction of red if there is a red logo in the corner of our eye. For this reason, we may also remember red logos more than logos with other colours because we purposefully look towards the colour red. With this intention, food marketing regularly use red in their advertisement, influencing us whether we are aware of it or not.

Truth or myth: yellow makes us happy.
At this point you can probably gather I’m very fond of McDonald’s, so I will be using this as an example again. Their menu contains a significant amount of beige and yellow-coloured food such as chips, burger buns, and lots of deep-fried foods, but is this the only reason the logo has a yellow ‘M’?

We cannot assume the influences of colours are universal

It has been suggested that yellow is primarily associated with happiness and joy, according to Louise Myers. So, did the marketing team at McDonald’s intentionally use yellow to encourage customers to associate joy with their food? Using this perception and the points I discussed previously, the red and yellow used in the logo would draw our attention and inflict a positive association with the food company.

The colour psychology in food marketing is a subjective concept, so we cannot assume the influences of colours are universal. However, the attempts to manipulate our perceptions and preferences can be considered to explain why we remember some logos more than others. If you think of food companies, are there any that spring to mind that include red in their logo?

Charlotte Bowers

Featured image courtesy of Mehrshad Rajabi via Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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