The Language of Color

Every new year comes with predictions for “it” colors and the reasons why they were chosen. What the colors are meant to signify. What kind of meaning we can derive. This month, as we sift through the prognostications, and observe color in the world around us, we are reminded of the powerful ability of color to speak…without saying a word.

A woman holds a fanned-out set of various color card samples.

Let’s start with Purple. Inaugural Purple. The color of choice for our Madame Vice President, and former First Ladies. Much has been written about the significance of this choice, particularly about its representation of unity – a bipartisan blending of The Blue and The Red. But there is so much more to this color story. According to color psychology experts, purple “symbolizes power, nobility, luxury and ambition. It represents dignity, independence and grace, as well as has a calming effect on the mind and body.”1 In addition, purple is one of the official colors of women’s suffrage2 and though a color unpopular with men, it happens to be one they associate with courage.3 Finally, purple is thought to stand out well in social media.4 Clearly, on this day, color was a highly strategic choice.

Next, there’s the Pandemic Rainbow. The colors proposed for motivation and wellness in this year of our Lord-Help-Us 2021:

A swatch of Pantone's colors of the year for 2021: ultimate gray and illuminating yellow.

  • Ultimate Gray + Illuminating Yellow: Pantone’s recommendation for promoting “strength and optimism.”5 
  • Orange and Red: color suggestions from food and beverage manufacturers to “awaken consumers’ energy for renewal”6 and “cue vitality and create passion and positive action.”7
  • Bright colors: to “prompt feelings of happiness and excitement”, blue hues to “evoke feelings of calm”, and colors that “signal health and immune function support”, e.g., deep reds, citrusy shades and greens.8

In addition to giving us the feels, color drives consumers to act, which is why it plays such an important role in branding. Color can “influence up to 90% of a first impression”9, and is one of several devices used to convey brand personality and uniqueness, two factors that can help drive preference. In fact, color is thought to impact 85% of shopper purchase decisions.10

Aside from careful consideration of how colors can make consumers think, feel and behave, we have some practical recommendations for marketers from JTM Creative Director Matt McKenzie and Associate Design Director Nancy Hope:

  • If your color palette is similar to the palette of your competitors (as some industries tend to follow convention, e.g., red, white and blue in banking), look to create visual differentiators other than color in order to stand out (e.g., logo, font, package shape, etc.)
  • Be open to secondary colors, those colors within your palette that provide contrast to the main colors. Without a proper range and contrast, colors will blend together. This same holds true for branded food photography, where a punch of contrasting color prevents food from looking bland.
  • Be prepared to keep your main colors static, but evolve your secondary colors as needed – especially in digital media, where you must uniquely consider context and how you advance or recede based on all of the other colors around you.
  • Since color trends come and go, seek colors with longevity.
  • If your colors are iconic – an everlasting identifier of the brand – stay put.

1 “The Psychology of Colors”, ebook by Hailey van Braam, 12/07/20.
2 “A fashion psychologist explains why purple was the perfect inauguration color”, Harper’s Bazaar, 1/21/20
3 “Color code: What color is brave?”, AIGA
4 “Instagrammable shades amongst the hottest trends in natural colors”, Food Navigator, 11/18/20
5 “Why Pantone Selected Not One but Two Colors of the Year for 2021”, Time, 12/09/20
6 “Rising Orange: Sensient Technologies 2021 Color for the Year symbolizes consumers’ pursuit of renewal and optimism”, Food Navigator, 12/15/20
7 “Color trend alert: Red to reinvigorate food and beverage category in 2021”, Food Navigator, 11/25/20
8 “Eat the rainbow: ADM expects consumers to explore their palate’s comfort zones in 2021”, Food Navigator, 12/03/21
9 “63+ Color Psychology Facts for Your Branding and Marketing Projects in 2020”, Review 42, 11/21/20
10 “63+ Color Psychology Facts for Your Brand and Marketing Projects in 2020”, Review 42, 11/21/20

Shopping Goes Live

Just because we’re shopping online more doesn’t mean we’re enjoying it. While it might be safer and easier, it’s hardly more fun. Some buying experiences are just better live. This is the idea behind livestream shopping, which is entering a New Age, and the possibilities for product demonstration and buyer-seller interaction have us on the edge of our seats.

While the concept isn’t fully baked in the U.S., it’s an enormous success in China and has the U.S. retail market taking note. In fact, it is expected to take us the next three years to reach just 20% of the livestream shopping sales China realized in 2020. 

A bar chart showing livestreaming retail sales estimates between US of 2023 and China of 2020
Wall Street Journal1 and CNBC2

So, what exactly is “livestream shopping”? In a nutshell, it involves the use of live video to “share products, answer questions and close sales with customers who are joining remotely to watch, chat and buy.”3 While that sounds a lot like something we’ve seen before (think: QVC and HSN), it’s really not.

What makes the experience in China unique is the use of prominent influencers as hosts, the ability to make purchases with just one click (vs. calling in to order), and the full on game-show-meets-talk-show entertainment factor. In this new model, products are demonstrated and discussed, hosts sometimes sing and joke with the audience, celebrity guests appear, and music, gongs and drums heighten the anticipation of special “buy now” deals.4

What makes this relevant for the rest of the world is COVID-19. It eliminates the risks of brick and mortar and counteracts the sterility of e-Commerce by boosting socialization, discovery and fun. In addition, it provides an opportunity to build trust. Shoppers feel reassured by the authenticity inherent in a live experience, as well as the in-depth product demonstrations provided by influencers whose opinions they value.5

According to our resident expert – JTM’s Senior Digital Media Strategist, Sabina El-khouri – there are several livestream shopping platforms and apps to explore in the U.S.:

  • Amazon Live
  • Social behemoths Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube
  • Livby
  • Moda Operandi
  • Pop Shop Live
  • Shoclef
  • ShopShops
  • TalkShopLive
  • Livescale
  • Buywith
  • Bambuser
  • MikMak
  • Shoploop
  • Spin
  • Yeay

While most would agree that the U.S. model “isn’t there yet”6 in terms of catching up to Chinese benchmarks, and worldwide the model is still more focused on apparel and beauty, platforms are starting to see growth in other categories, e.g., food.7 That caught our attention. 

So, as livestream shopping continues to morph and grow, we encourage brands to start thinking ahead in order to be prepared for the nuances in this space. Here’s a start:

  • Long-form storytelling. While the demand in every other medium is for highly simplified storytelling to compensate for shorter attention spans and the premium consumers place on their time, this medium requires longer stories. Hosts need an abundance of information in order to engage an audience for 40–60 minutes.
  • Transparency and authenticity on steroids. Those with experience in these platforms claim that brand success comes from providing a “backstage” or unbiased look at things like how the product is made, founder struggles, and the “good, bad and the ugly” about a featured product, etc.8
  • Unscripted spontaneity. Much like user-generated content, we won’t have full control over what is shared, and we need to not only embrace, but empower it. Hosts need to build intimacy with the audience, as well as answer their questions live.
  • Gamification. New devices will need to be employed to “trigger consumer impulses”9 those that can create a sense of urgency, competition and reward for buyers.
  • Lively, charismatic partners. Hosts need to be thoroughly vetted and possess the kind of personality and stamina that can make an hour fly by.

Hopefully, the above has left you imagining what could be. It certainly did for us.

1 “Levi’s, Hilfiger Push a New Kind of Online Shopping. It Looks a Lot Like QVC,” WSJ, 10/11/20
2 “Singles Day sales to get tremendous lift from livestream events”, CNBC, 11/10/20
3 “Livestream shopping is the next big thing in retail”,, 1/07/21
4 “Livestreaming E-Commerce Is the Rage In China. Is the U.S. Next?”, Forbes, 12/10/20
5 “H&M’s millennial brand bets on livestream shopping”, Vogue Business, 11/07/19
6 “As big tech goes all in on live-stream shopping, the future may be for small brands”, Modern Retail, 11/23/20
7 “Estee Lauder Sees Success in COVID Era with Livestreaming”, MultiChannelMerchant, 1/14/21
8 “Livestream Shopping Is Here to Stay. Here’s How to Nail the Art of Making Sales Entertaining”, Inc.,
9 Shopify

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