ATLANTA, GA – Circle Solutions presented an abstract on “Colors, Culture, Gender and Effective Health Promotion” at the 2014 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media. Sponsored by the National Public Health Information Coalition and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual conference took place August 19-21, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, GA.

Circle’s Bill Weger, MA, presented the following as part of a panel on “Affecting Outcomes through Attention to Branding.”

Program Background

The emotions and moods that colors evoke depend on past experiences, culture, nationality and personal preferences — sometimes gender-based. Is blue only for boys and is pink only for girls? And remember, too, that some people don’t see color at all. Color affects mood, stirs emotions, whets appetites and even raises blood pressure. We even dream in color. So it’s important to review the psychology of colors in the practice and implementation of program-based health initiatives. Color should be carefully considered for effective design, cultural competency and emotional/physiological impact.

So what methodologies and color considerations should be weighed for effective product development? For this presentation, colors and their potential effect on public health and social marketing campaigns will be discussed. The presentation will help participants to think carefully about color use, exploring such factors as:

Evaluation Methods and Results

  1. Whether you are communicating locally or globally
  2. The culture and gender of the audience
  3. The meaning of colors and symbols
  4. The positive and negative impact of using particular colors
  5. Considerations for the visually impaired


The effective use of colors can play a powerful role in striking an emotional chord with audiences and moving them to take action. It’s true that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” So are people’s emotional and individual responses to colors and their combinations. So this makes it all the more important to conduct research to identify which colors are more likely to strike a responsive chord with the intended audience.

Implications for research and/or practice

The question whether color can change behavior or influence health decisions is a fascinating one. Although research on the psychology and meaning of colors spans decades, it’s difficult to say with certainty how it applies to each individual, given their gender, culture, environment and life experience. For example, while the color red resonates strongly with many American Indian tribes, it may not with all.

Hence, there is significant opportunity to conduct more research on how colors impact public health, especially across cultures, subcultures, gender, psychographics and demographics. Along with new color investigation, existing methods for measuring color impact on behavior change and health outcomes should also include formative research, such as focus group and concept testing to gauge audience perceptions of colors and their combinations for use in public health promotion.



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