ROB’S RULES: Color Coded

June 25, 2010

Rob Schaefer

We all know that color affects mood. Red is the number one impulse buying color and is used to make candy and front-of-the-store displays. Blue is known for tranquility, and the color green, growth and nature. But for some, blue means depression and green indicates nausea and envy. Have you thought about how color can affect your meetings? Over the years I have noticed that people can react in a very positive or negative fashion to color choice. Used correctly, a simple tablecloth can give you a professional advantage!

Red can suggest passion, love, warmth and sexuality, but can also conjure images of the devil. It is associated with Valentine’s Day and Christmas. The color red has been found to increase reaction time in humans and initiate an immediate response in the brain. Red also has the highest visibility of all colors. This is why stop signs are red and why candy is frequently a variation of red – it makes you want to buy some immediately! Red is my favorite color as it makes me feel vibrant and alive. However, for some people it raises the pulse and tempers flare. I use red when merchandising for charity auctions and fund raisers as I believe it helps people let go of the dough! It helps increase the immediate temptation to buy something.
Orange is known for its artistic and creative properties. It can indicate change, like the turning of fall leaves. Orange is associated with Halloween, juice and energy. The color orange increases the level of oxygen to the brain and stimulates mental activity. You will find that many products introduced to the consumer market have orange packaging. It indicates the item is new and improved. However, many people associate orange with warning cones (visibility) and hazard signs (attention). I use shades of orange and rust for brainstorming meetings and events that discuss change, such as new marketing and promotions.
Yellow is a happy color. It immediately bounces light around a room and makes people think of sunshine. Yellow has been proven to improve concentration and is the adopted color of legal pads, highlighters and Post-It notes. It also has the ability to get things noticed such as taxicabs. However, some people associate yellow with illness or cowardice. For me, yellow works well when the nature of the event requires testing or teaching. Using yellow during the winter months has also garnered positive reactions due to the shorter days and lack of natural sunlight.
Green means wealth and prosperity. Bankers and finance professionals love green tablecloths. Green also works well for forestry, conservation and health-care professions. Since ancient times, healers and shamans have worn green. Even today, those in the medical profession wear green scrubs. On the negative side, green can indicate lack of experience or an upset tummy. I love to use the color green for pharmaceutical dinners, with any financial institution or client who needs to feel they are “growing” as a company.
Blue is the working-class color because it represents hard work. It is the most popular color in the world and often has religious or patriotic significance. Farm equipment and machinery are often blue to indicate toughness and dependability – and don’t forget Superman. Blue absorbs light and is used in bedrooms to create a restful atmosphere. It evokes tranquility and calmness – like the sky or water. However, blue can make some people feel sad and others feel cold. I use blue quite often at trade shows, job fairs, union meetings and business lunches. It is the accepted masculine, corporate color and can be either casual or quite serious.
Brown has become a color so connected with reliability that UPS has adopted it into their corporate identity, “What can brown do for you?” It reminds us of the earth, safety, solidity and practicality. On the other hand, some people view brown as industrial, commercial or old-fashioned. I use brown at many social events as the new neutral. I have noticed people think of warmth, home and chocolate when they see brown. I get many compliments when I use brown because it makes people feel at home.
Purple is a regal color and has deep connections to kings, queens and disco machines. It is a rare and magical color that is associated with the inner goddess or feminine aspect of the personality. It has always been connected with luxury and wealth. I love using purple for ladies’ luncheons, summer parties, holiday parties and social dinners. Purple is now the hottest fashion color on the market and I have been using it for weddings and social events with great results.
Black is a formal color and is connected to power, wealth and refinement. Black can make you look thinner and more authoritative. Obviously it is used in the evening and at glamorous affairs such as galas and black-tie events. White or brilliant toned centerpieces act like jewels against it. Black can magnify the details of an event and be quite chic, but remember, black may invoke thoughts of death, evil and Johnny Cash to others.
Whatever color you choose for your client, always research the company history and ethnicity of any organization before you commit. A color may mean one thing to you but may have an entirely different meaning to someone else.

RobsRulesW08 for meetmag

For new ideas and to learn more about the effect of color, please watch my video on  Meet-TV at:
This column is meant to provide you with practical advice, tips and rules of engagement you need in the meeting and event planning industry. If you have a question, whether it’s how to dress, how to address your guests or what to serve as the main course, e-mail Rob at [email protected].

Your question might just inspire the topic of his next column!

(By Rob Schaefer, Vice President of Steven Becker Fine Dining in St. Louis.)

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