christmas wrapping paper… the psychology of colour

Karen Haller 01
Karen Haller

Christmas wrapping paper - brown paper natural. This opens a new browser window.

One of my favourite things about Christmas is wrapping presents for my friends and family in beautifully coloured paper, ribbons and bows.

Colour is the first thing we see and we instantly have an emotional reaction.  It can have an influence on our mood, feelings and behaviour. So choosing wrapping paper and all the trimmings with thought and meaning can make the moment of receiving a gift filled with joy and happiness.

According to a study that was published 15 years ago by Daniel Howard, professor of marketing at Southern Methodist University in Dallas “Gift wrapping, through repeated pairing with joyous events in people’s lives, has utility in cuing a happy mood which, in turn, positively biases attitudes.”

There are three ways we can react to colour, either through conscious association, colour symbolism and colour psychology.

Have you ever received or seen a woman’s reaction when they receive a ‘robin egg’ blue box? We all know that means Tiffany & Co. We get excited because we know there’ll be something beautiful inside. This is what is known as conscious colour association.

If you live in the UK you may have seen the Cadbury’ s Christmas commercial where they’ve wrapped an entire street in their ‘brand’ purple like a giant present. It certainly takes shows how you can take the ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary with colour. Check out the video here

Cadbury's Christmas purple wrapping of Plumstead. This opens a new browser window.

If we look at how colour can play a significant role in culture you don’t have to look much further than China. Gifts are typically wrapped in red as this is the cultural symbol for good fortune and prosperity.

In western culture red and green is used at Christmas time to signify Christ’s blood, shed during his crucifixion and the green to represent eternal life, specifically the evergreen tree and how it remains green throughout winter.

Christmas wrapping paper - red and green. This opens a new browser window.

When it comes to colour psychology, every colour has positive and negative psychological qualities so it not only has an effect on the receiver; it can also express how you are feeling towards that person. For example, wrapping a gift in pink expresses your caring, loving side or the love you have for that person. Wrapped in red can express excitement, celebration or passion.

We have moved away from using just traditional red and green to a rainbow of colour. Here are a few colours and some of their positive psychological qualities:

Purple– luxury and opulence
Silver– elegance and sophistication
Gold – luxury and high quality
White – represents all that is pure, as snow
Red – warm, stimulating, making your festivities full of life!
Green – calming, balancing.

If you have no idea what colour to pick, if you wrap their gift in their favourite colour you can’ go wrong.

Christmas wrapping paper - colour me in. This opens a new browser window.

You may like to read my other Christmas related articles:

The Colours of Christmas
Interiors – Personalising Christmas with Colour
Business Branding Colour – How Coca Cola turned Santa red
Personal Branding Colours – How to Stand out at this year’s Work Christmas Party

Images sourced via Pinterest

Howard, D. (1992). Gift-Wrapping Effects on Product Attitudes: A Mood-Biasing Explanation. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 1 (3), 197-223

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