In this reflective research report I will be discussing the various connections between advertising, colour and consumerism. To begin, I will look at how advertising affects a consumer and what different kinds of influences are needed for a consumer to form an opinion on a brand. This includes research into several tables and diagrams as well as books and online articles connected to design and emotion.
Secondly, this report moves onto the chapter of Consumerism. Within this chapter I will be discussing the role that consumerism has in today's advertising industry. Specifically, I will be focusing on how consumer behaviour influences the creation of advertising and on the other hand, how advertising then influences consumer behaviour. Within this chapter, there will also be a comparison between advertising today and advertising in the 80s, while paying special attention to the differences in budgets and the different kinds of digital medias which were available then and are available now. This includes the introduction of VHS and cable TV in the 80s, which enabled ad-skipping, and the use of smart phones within today's society.
In the third and last chapter of the main body, I will be discussing how colour is used in advertising. This will include a broad overview about which colours have which basic psychological influences on the consumer and on the human brain. Additionally, I will be discussing how these influences can be overtaken by more prominent personal influences of the induvial, like their religion. Moving forward, I will be conducting a small historical summary of The Coca-Cola company and its rise to success. This will also include a brief case study of their advertising and as to why it is so affective. This will conclude the research part of this report and lead into the analysis and practice part of it.
Within the analysis and practice part I will be focusing on my personal work and how this relates to the theories discussed previously. Additionally, I will be considering the different kinds of industry contexts my work could be valuable in, as well as how it would generally fit into the advertising industry and how it could be adapted to sell a product to a consumer.
Lastly, I will be concluding this research report with a small summary of the aspects and theories mentioned, as well as the conclusions I have drawn from them.
We are surrounded by adverts everywhere these days. The bright and fluorescent colours of commercials for food, products and technology are all around us, every day. From the small business around the corner advertising their services to the big fast food chain promoting their newest addition to their menu of unhealthy fast food. According to D. McDonagh, “we never buy a product without having some motive to invest our resources” (McDonagh, 2004). So how are these motives formed? What determines whether we buy something or not? I will be discussing the possible answers to these questions in the chapter below.
There are several factors that influence consumer behaviour and their opinion on a brand or product. These can be put into four main categories. The first category consists of cultural factors. This includes things like the culture and social class the consumer grew up in or is currently living in, as well as whether they might have grown up in a subculture. The second category consists of social factors in the consumer's life, such as family and their role and status within the family or their day to day social environment. The third category is about personalfactors. Age plays a role, as well as occupation, economic situation and the consumer's individual lifestyle and personality. For example, someone from a middle-class family in a westernised country will have a very different opinion on a McDonald's advert than someone from a lower-class family living in a non-westernised country would.
The fourth and last category consists of psychological influences. This includes things like perception and attitude, their beliefs and their motivation to satisfy the need of the product being advertised. (Fig.1) (Brajesh, 2012)
These factors come together to create the buyer and the different kinds of consumers that an advert is aiming to reach.
Robert Bocock summarised consumerism in the following words and said that it “is the active ideology that the meaning of life is to be found in buying things and pre-packaged experiences [...]”. Consumerism and consumption have become something almost ethereal to the point that it is the idea of purchasing something, as much as the act of purchasing that keeps the consumer motivated to do paid work well (Bocock, 1993). But what role does consumerism play in the advertising industry and how are commercials influenced by it? The
possible answers to that will be discussed in the following chapter.
What role does consumerism play in today's advertising industry?
Consumerism and advertising co-exist in a symbiosis, if you will. One cannot exist without the other as they both feed off each other as well as provide for each other. The advertising industry is influenced by consumer behaviour and bases commercials on said behaviour. On the other hand, the consumer is heavily influenced by adverts in their day to day life, and this array of
choice will make them invest their resources. This creates consumerism and thus, closes the circle. This array of choice for the consumer, the so called “freedom of choice” in market capitalism, has come to be widely considered an unquestionable good because the more choice there is, the better. However, increasing the number of choice is less about improving the well- being of the consumer than it is about expanding the market (Taylor, 2014).
Where there is an active intention to sell something, every product that is for sale becomes necessary and desirable to the consumer. They feel like they are missing a certain item in their life, which from their point of view is defined as a choice, a definite will to buy that certain item. Because of its strategic significance, will becomes a key concept that goes above and beyond needs and desires, and will lead the consumer to conduct a purchase (Falk, 2003). Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production, the interest of the consumer must be attended to, but only so far as it may be necessary to keep the consumer longing for more (Smith. 1937). This relates back to the symbiosis between advertising and consumerism discussed above and shows again how one cannot exist without the other. Consumers can also be considered “secondary producers” who are finding value in their consumption and making use of capitalist products for their own ends (Harper, 2002).
Looking at Fig. 2, 3 and 4, we can see three different advertising campaigns from the 80s. Comparing them to Fig. 5 and 6, which show advertising from 2015 and 2016, shows a clear visual difference to the campaigns from the 80s. Firstly, the advertising from today seems to have a very clear visual focus on the actual product the campaign is trying to sell, whereas the commercials from the 80s look as though the focus is more on a story connected to the product, rather than the product itself. The slash in the silk to emphasise the name of the cigarettes as well as how they apparently feel when smoking them. The light painting the cigarette box onto the floor through the doorway. Both images seem to have a lot more thought and story behind them, than the image of the iPhones. Even in a situation where a female body is clearly used to sell a product, the older advert does not have the need to show as much skin as the recent advert does. This can be related to a desensitisation in today's society, a phenomenon where adverts like they were in the 80s, are just not enough to stimulate us anymore, not enough to make the consumer invest their resources. So, advertising has become more obvious, in a way. The modern consumer seems to need a very clear representation of the product that is being sold to decide on whether to buy said product.
Although, these differences can also be related to different kinds of budgets within the industry
and throughout the years. In the 80s advertising was increasingly becoming bigger and more important, large agencies bought smaller agencies to create a handful of major advertising agencies (History 1980s, 2003). In Britain, this happened a few years later, more towards the end of the 80s and the start of the 90s, but nonetheless, it happened. Advertising was important and shiny, big ads could be found almost anywhere (ibid, 2003).
However, with the introduction of cable TV and VHS in the 80s, it gave consumers the chance to simply skip past adverts via “zapping” to another program once the ads came on. Or with VHS, it was even possible to completely skip ads through pre-recorded programs. This left not much time for advertisers to get their campaigns out there anymore and that is clearly visible in today's advertising still (ibid, 2003). Like earlier mentioned, the Apple advertisement is so much simpler than the creative and thoughtful Silk Cut advertisement from the 80s, but linked to the TV and “ad-skipping” issue discussed above it is clear as to why this might be. With consumers skipping adverts, not being taken aback by shiny prints anymore - because they are everywhere and the consumer has become “immune” to them – there is just not enough time and space for thoughtful advertisements. It is about getting the product out there and getting the consumer to recognise the advertised product as soon as possible. So, when judging these different advertisements from different decades it is important to keep the various ways of living as well as different budgets and contributors, like time, in mind.
To explain how colour is used in advertising I will make use of Fig. 7. And Fig. 8. These images clearly lay out the thoughts that go into creating a logo as well as general advertisements for TV,online and print.
Yellow generally portrays clarity and warmth. This colour is often used to grab the attention of window shoppers, while portraying a youthful and optimistic feel. Orange can be used in a friendly context, portraying cheerfulness and confidence, but it might also be used in an aggressive manner, in order to get a consumer to subscribe to something, or buy something. Then, red is used for very bold, energetic advertisements. Like yellow, it can portray youth, but also excitement. It increases the viewer's heartrate and creates urgency, which is why red can often be found in clearance sales. Now, purple or pink colours may be quite similar to a red, but have a completely different effect on the consumer. Purple is often used to portray a wise and creative brand or environment and can often be found in the advertising of anti-aging products. The slightly pinker nuance of the colour is mostly used to bring attention to a feminine product, as well as to market products to women and young girls.
Looking at blue, we can see that it is often utilised to make a brand seem trustworthy and secure - we can think of Facebook or Twitter here. But the colour is also often used with banks and businesses. Green is scientifically speaking the easiest colour for our eyes to process, and it is often associated with health and growth, as it promotes a peaceful environment.
Lastly, looking at grey and black and white nuances, we can see that especially grey is often used to promote balance and calmness, as well as neutrality within a brand. However, black and white are used more often to promote a sleek product, usually within the luxury market of products.
However, really, a colour or a composition of colours, can mean something quite different to
every person who looks at it. “Once our eyes have allowed us to experience a colour, it is everything else about ourselves that determines the meaning we attach to it” (Fraser, and Banks, 2004). Again, this relates back to the theories discussed earlier on about how an opinion on a brand is formed. How someone perceives colour depends on where they come from, what their family and social backgrounds are and even, what their religion is. The meaning someone attaches to a colour entirely relies on the list of factors above. As discussed earlier on, it is no coincidence that the strongest use of colour is often found where someone is trying to sell you something. The use of colour in advertising is no coincidence at all and nothing is left to chance; one hue of a specific colour is chosen over another merely to differentiate a brand, not so much to make any literal or symbolic associations (Fraser, and Banks, 2004).
However, colour can very much have literal or symbolic associations. Especially within religion, the same colour can have completely different meanings in two different belief systems. For example, the colour green represents life in Christianity. In Islam, however, green simply represents water. Red symbolises blood in Christianity and can be associated with martyrdom, whereas in Islam it represents fire. This clearly shows how different backgrounds can make a consumer associate different things with the same colour (ibid, 2004).
So, the theories and thoughts by Yoder, that go into the use of colour within advertising (see Fig. 7 and Fig. 8) might not be as perfectly thought out as they seem. These theories assume that everyone understands the “signs” they are using.
Saussure tells us that signs are arbitrary. It does not matter if you call a potato an “onion” or a “zorb”. There is nothing intrinsically potatoey about the word potato. As long as all communicating parties agree on their sign system, they will understand each other. (ibid, 2004).
Applying this idea to colour, we start to realise that all the values colours hold are merely the ones we have accredited to them. A green traffic light only means go because that is what we have agreed it will mean.
So, looking at the theories on colour in advertising we can see that they focus more on human psychology and what “the masses” might associate with a certain colour, rather than also considering different religious or social backgrounds of the individual consumer, even though they should. For there is no such thing as “the masses”, only ways for us to imagine people as masses (Harper, 2002).
Coca-Cola; A Case Study
“The most famous drink in the world was invented in May 1886 by a pharmacist named Pemberton. Today it is a living legend and a $9 billion industry.” (Palazzini, 1989).
The Coca-Cola syrup, still without a name at the point of its invention, was meant to be a quick remedy for headaches. Apparently, Pemberton discovered that some of his shop boys were diluting the syrup with water and drinking it on a hot summer's day. He tried it himself and discovered that the syrup, further diluted with club soda, was pleasant and refreshing to drink. Thus, Coca-Cola was born (ibid, 1989).
“By 1916, when the then-president of The Coca Cola company retired at the age of 65, Coca- Cola had become one of the country's great commercial successes” (ibid, 1989).
When it comes to Coca-Cola's advertising and dealing with rivals such as Pepsi Cola, the owner of Coca-Cola from 1919 onwards would say that the presence of a rival served function of giving “more value” to his drink and in the openness of a free market, the presence of rivals certainly can be stimulating.
“To be transformed from an obscure object into a legend, a product needs an intelligent publicity campaign, carried out continuously, concentrating on the positive values in order to captivate the consumer” (Pendergrast, 2000). Coca-Cola did have and still does have today, great strategies when it comes to marketing their product. The personality of a product is formed by a gathering of different elements. These include the name, packaging, price and advertising, as well as “that extra something”, which Coca-Cola seems to have (Palazzini, 1989).
According to Palazzini, people drink Coca-Cola because they identify perfectly with the image Coca-Cola projects to its consumers. They choose to drink it not only for the intrinsic quality of the product, but beyond that, for the image the drink creates. This image has been promoted since as early as 1904, when prestigious advertisements were placed in the main papers that had influenced restricted groups of the population – the educated and rich. And that had a spin- off effect on those who aspired to that lifestyle (Palazzini, 1989).
The American advertising agent David Ogilvy said:
Give someone some Old Crow to taste and tell them it is Old Crow; then give them another glass of Old Crow, and tell them it is Jack Daniels. Ask them which they prefer, and they'll tell you the two are very different. In effect, they were tasting images. In building an image, [...] every statement must carry the same message; the advertising of a product must constantly project the same image, year after year. (Ogilvy, 1985).
The Coca-Cola approach, with the unusual continuity of its message, is rare in the history of advertising, but it has worked exceptionally well for this company.
Now, looking at the logo and specifically the colour Coca-Cola uses to promote their product, we can see the very strong and clear use of the colour red. This red can actually not be found as a Pantone colour, but as Coca-Cola Archivist Ted Ryan states “when you see it, you know it.” (Nemer and Ryan, 2016). Ryan says the colour almost became a promise, and the introduction of the now-ubiquitous Coca-Cola red disc in 1948 helped to solidify the connection between the brand and the colour. The enduring “promise” of the colour red continues to inform Coca-Cola's contemporary approach to design, so much so that James Sommerville, VP of global design at Coca-Cola, considers it the company's “second secret” (ibid, 2016).
With the constant use of the same shade of red throughout their advertising, Coca-Cola has adopted the “One-Brand” strategy, as the red disc unites Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Light/Diet Coca- Cola, Coca-Cola Zero, and Coca-Cola Life under a single look and creative campaign. By leveraging the colour red on each variant, the system reminds consumers that regardless of the beverage they purchase, they are buying into Coca-Cola as a simple idea (ibid, 2016).
My Personal Work
Being mainly interested in still life and product photography, with an aspiration to work in the advertising industry I now have a much broader understanding of how the industry operates. Having researched the theories above, I have developed my understanding of the advertising industry and its various components, which has benefited my personal work and will continue to do so throughout the rest of my studies.
This year I am focusing on colour and on creating visually pleasing images, with a clear and
graphic look to them. Understanding colour theory and what kind of effects colour has on a consumer, for example, has informed my creative decision making process and critical judgment.
How does my work fit into the industry?
In still life, there are no lucky accidents. The position of each object, the character of it and the final overall composition design within the frame is entirely the responsibility of the photographer. The opportunity for failure is deeply inherent in this area of photographic experience. (Pinkard, 1979).
Pinkard highlights the aspirations and the aims behind my practice. Especially if a still life photograph is meant for advertising or for the commercial sector, it must demonstrate attention to detail and control in planning and practice. That sector is where I am aiming to work in after my studies, so precision within my work is vital. With this special attention to detail and control also comes the pressure of deciding what to include in the frame and what to exclude. A photograph has edges, but the world does not, so these edges are what separates what is in the picture from what is not and in still life photography this can be a difficult decision to make (Shore, 2007). “Just as monocular vision creates juxtaposition of lines and shapes within the image, edges create relationships between those lines and shapes and the frame.” (ibid, 2007).
Within still life the arrangement of shapes and forms can be so precisely placed and lit that it is possible to “draw” with the camera and produce deeply satisfying graphic designs (Pinkard, 1979). The images I have created this year, up to this point, are aiming to be just that. Satisfying and very organised looking images that have elements of graphic design within them and could
be used as such, even though I created the images with a camera - not with InDesign or similar programs. My final body of work for this first semester consists of a range of very colourful yet very simple images which I consider to fit well within the advertising industry.
Fig. 9: Lessmann, L. (2016) Personal Work
Fig. 10: Lessmann, L. (2016) Personal Work
The initial idea was to produce images advertising specific products (Fig. 9). However, having identified that my idea behind the project would be much more effective if I was not using specifically branded items, I decided to change this. Instead, I focused on trying to make very generic objects look interesting to a potential consumer through simple designs, set ups and
colour. An example here could be sponges or rubber ducks, as well as packs of mints (Fig. 10). The visual style I am in the process of adapting is very important, because the context in which a photograph is seen affects the meanings a viewer can draw from it. By consciously adopting a visual style, the photographer can reference this context and bring these meanings to the reading of the image (Shore, 2007).
This context for me is the advertising industry. I can see my images within print or online, possibly in a few select exhibitions, but more so in promoting certain products. When it comes to print, I consider my personal work to adapt well within magazines or posters as well as billboards. The vibrant colours would attract the interest of most consumers and would be able to consistently highlight the product or campaign they are selling. Specifically looking at high end magazines like Vogue or Marie Claire, I deem my images to be very fitting within those, as I could easily imagine the generic everyday items I have shot this term to be replaced with branded items such as fragrances or other beauty products. The same applies to online contexts.
However, a gallery context or exhibition environment could end in a completely different result. The colourful images would not have the need or purpose of selling products here but more so, to sell themselves. Meaning that in a gallery context, the aim is usually to sell an image as it is, as a piece of work that has value when regarding to it as art, not as advertising. Even though I personally would consider the images as art pieces in a way, I deem them more valuable in the environment that they were intended for: advertising. Thus, I believe that exhibitions or awards like the AOP Awards could be considerable for my images, however these contexts would not be the intended destination for my photography.
Throughout the above research report I have learned that advertising, colour, and consumerism are all interconnected and play significant roles within each other. One cannot be without the other which concludes that they all have a type of symbiosis with each other.
Within advertising, I have analysed how an opinion on a brand is formed and which factors play into a consumer wanting to spend their resources on a product. This includes aspects such as their social circumstances, their upbringing, their culture, age and lifestyle. Moving on, I analysed the role consumerism plays in the advertising industry, thus beginning to connect two of the three main components of this research report. My findings concluded that the advertising industry could not be without consumerism and vice versa. To further strengthen this argument, I compared popular advertisements from the 1980s to advertisements from today, or to be more specific, from 2015 and 16. Within this chapter, it became clear that a lot has changed throughout the years, especially when looking at the differences in available budgets and the diversity of technology available in the 1980s, versus what is available today.
Following these arguments, I moved onto the role of colour in advertising, which connected the three main points of this research report. This chapter explained the different psychological effects that colour supposedly has on the human brain and how this aids the colour choice of the branding of most companies. To strengthen this chapter's argument, I conducted a small case study regarding Coca-Cola. After a brief summary of their history, the chapter moved onto their advertising strategies and how their consistent use of the same shade of red unites all the different version of Coca-Cola under one umbrella.
This chapter concluded the research part of this report, after which I moved onto the analysis part. Here I examined my personal work and which role it might play within the industry. This
also considered how the research that had previously been conducted, and the knowledge I had gained from said research, could aid me in my personal photography work. This concluded that my work would fit best within advertising, specifically product advertising photography, but that it could also succeed within a gallery context.
To conclude this research report, it is important to mention that the findings and conclusions I drew from my research and throughout its analysis have been surprising at times, but expected at others. For example, the thoughts that go into deciding on which colour a brand may use as their identity were new to me and I had not previously known about these theories, thus I was surprised to learn about the different roles each colour plays. However, looking at the factors that play into consumer behaviour, I was not surprised at all, even though this was also unknown territory for me. I found these different aspects to be very logical conclusions to draw from the simple question of “what brings a consumer to invest their resources?”.
Advertising, Colour, and Consumerism – how do they connect? Do they connect? Looking at the above research and analysis it is evident to conclude that they undeniably do connect and that one could not be or would succeed without the other. The three main components of this research report form a strong symbiosis, while still playing significant individual roles.
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