Colour & Character: Purple

Colour & Character is an LMPR blog series that looks at the emotional and psychological associations different colours possess and the ways in which marketers and costume designers utilize them. The series is inspired by an episode of the brilliant CBC radio program 'Under the Influence.'

In previous Colour & Character posts, we looked at how different hues are inherently associated with certain emotions and ideas. With this post, we look at a colour whose associations are historic in nature. In fact, one might even describe them as fabricated


What it is Used for:

In ancient Rome, emperors and magistrates wore robes and togas that had been dyed purple. Later, the Roman Catholic Church would adopt it as the hue to be worn by bishops.

Due to this, purple has come to be associated with royalty and affluence. It has therefore become the go-to colour for marketers and designers wanting to create a sense of someone or something being regal.

Famous Examples in Marketing:

When it comes to product names, it doesn't get much more regal than 'Crown Royal.' The two words do not even fit grammatically, but instantly evoke images of monarchy.

It is perhaps no surprise then, that the brand should make such extensive use of the hue- right down to its signature velvet bag.

A royal connection that is more surprising however, is Cadbury's Chocolate- who even went so far as to trademark the colour in 2008.

Their use of the colour can be traced all the way back to 1800's, when Queen Victoria bestowed the Cadbury brothers with a Royal Warrant to produce their treat (Her Majesty was known to have a sweet tooth). In 1914, the company began using the colour as a way of honouring the late monarch.

Finally, we here at LMPR have also made use of the shade's special association while working with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Far from being a just fancy sounding name, the ballet company's Royal title was vested upon it by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. As we worked with the company to develop imagery for its upcoming season, we couldn't help but make sure the regal hue was present in the creative.

Famous Examples in Costuming:

Purple is an interesting colour in costuming, as its associations are not emotional or psychological, but drawn from actual history.

As such, it tends to be used very literally, whether to indicate emperors…

Ciarán Hinds as Julius Caesar in Rome & Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator

… or denote some connection to the idea of royalty.

If you have a favourite purple brand or character (or want to take a stab at what its significance was when it came to Barney), why not let us know in the comments?

Categories: Musings