Colours of marketing – Red and Yellow

Autumn is one season when nature really puts on a display of colour which can be truly breathtaking, evoking feelings of warmth as tree leaves turn red and yellow, in readiness to hibernate and conserve their energy for the impending winter. In marketing, however, the colours red and yellow are used across a wide range of brands to evoke a much wider range of emotions.

The “golden arches” are easily one of the biggest success stories in the use of colour in marketing, immediately leading most to envision the bright yellow ‘M’ on an equally bright red background, promising burgers, fries and nuggets of all sizes for all appetites.

If you haven’t yet realised we are talking about McDonalds, you would most certainly be in the minority. A story published in Reader’s Digest in 2022, The Real Reason the McDonald’s Logo is Yellow and Red, writer Morgan Cutolo investigates the psychology of the use of red and yellow by the multi-national.

“The colors red and yellow were chosen for a specific reason—and no, it wasn’t because they looked nice with Ronald McDonald’s clown-like face,” Cutolo writes. “It actually has to do with science.

“The color red is stimulating and is associated with being active. It also increases heart rate, which helps to jumpstart your appetite.

“The color yellow is associated with happiness and is the most visible color in daylight, so that’s why a McDonald’s logo is so easy to spot on a crowded road.”

Others famous brands to employ the red and yellow colour combination include Cuppa Chups, Lipton (as in the tea), Maggi (as in the noodles), Lego, service station chain Shell, McDonalds’ competitor Burger King and credit card company Mastercard.

Looking at the colour red alone, it is perhaps most famously used by Coca Cola, Levi’s, KFC, Target and K-Mart, Netflix and the Red Cross, all extremely distinctive brands.

As for the colour yellow, this is used by JB Hi-Fi, Mailchimp, Snapchat, Optus, Yellow Pages, Post-It (as in post-it notes).

These two vivid colours have been used since the beginnings of marketing and advertising because they are attention grabbing and bold, helping companies using them to stand out from their competition.

When used in isolation, they can be compelling; when used together, red and yellow make big statements. No wonder our eyes are naturally drawn to these fabulously loud colours and companies love to use them.