Films Claim Influence in a Color-Coded World Through Palette Usage

Exploring the influence of color psychology in film marketing.

by Nouman Rasool
Films Claim Influence in a Color-Coded World Through Palette Usage

As the late film executive Bingham Ray, known for his wisdom, insightfully shared over a casual lunch at Orso in 2009, crafty movie marketers have always aimed to dominate a distinct color scheme. This conversation has lingered with me for over a decade, as it unfolded a reality that had been hiding in plain sight.

For instance, Ray elaborated on how films like 'Juno' adopted orange stripes with contrasting green hues and 'Little Miss Sunshine' was presented in vibrant yellow. Even the ribald comedy 'Austin Powers' chose an unexpectedly subtle yet attractive velvety wine red against gold.

Fast-forward twelve years, and it seems our entire culture has become a metaphorical paintbox. This color-coded branding tactic, once restricted to sports teams, street gangs, and holiday parades, has morphed into our primary non-verbal mode of communication.

Political parties lay claim to colors with states turning red for Republicans and blue for Democrats, while a contentious mix of both signifies a swing state. The environmentalist movement is represented by green, the Black Lives Matter movement by black, and the Ukrainian crisis by a combination of blue and yellow.

The LGBTQ+ community has embraced the rainbow as their symbol, while an inclusive version of this same symbol has gained popularity recently. In today's age, our chosen colors reflect our identity.

Warner Bros: Mastering Pink's Power

Returning to the movie industry, Warner Bros' ingenious decision to monopolize the color pink is worthy of applause.

An emblem of eternal femininity, the color pink, has become almost synonymous with the Barbie franchise. Despite a recent social media fiasco involving a vibrant pink meme, the color pink's popularity has only surged, with Margot Robbie now emblematically associated with Pepto-Bismol's shade of pink.

Such an impactful color campaign inevitably permeates everyday life, as demonstrated by a recent sighting of a women's volleyball team enjoying a pink-themed day. Not to be outdone, Universal's promoters have adeptly used colors to sell their movies.

They pioneered the use of earth tones to promote 'The Sting' in the color-muted seventies. Recently, they have been using flaming tangerine, a color even more intense than fiery red, to promote 'Oppenheimer.' However, as most colors are now associated with various causes or franchises, the question arises: what's left for the remaining films on the calendar? One imagines that 'Napoleon' could utilize the French Tricolor or traditional French social symbols like the Red and Black.

Similarly, 'Ferrari' could symbolize its namesake’s black stallion on a golden shield, or opt for a checkered flag. 'Killers of the Flower Moon' will have to seek its palette in the spring green and burnt gold of the prairie.

Meanwhile, 'Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,' 'The Color Purple,' and 'Blue Beetle' have already claimed deep blue, royal purple, and indigo-ultraviolet, respectively. Personally, if seafoam green is still up for grabs, I would choose it as my color, a quiet reminder of peaceful walks on the beach.