Brands turn to mood boosting colour to come back brighter

Brenda Milis
Brenda Milis

Principal of Consumer and Creative Insights at Adobe

When I began working on Adobe’s Annual Creative Trend Forecast in early 2020, just as the pandemic hit worldwide, I identified a visual trend that we dubbed ‘Mood Boosting Colour’. As lockdown took hold, putting productions on pause and creatives in quarantine, we were struck by the number of brands using vivid palettes. Across every industry, we could see a wide spectrum of bright and neon colours being used within single images or across entire promotions. 
For me, the explanation for this wave of colour is simple. Our lives were rendered metaphorically monochrome during lockdown. We lacked excitement and choice, so creatives made a choice for us – literally to add colour and brighten our days. Opting to be colourful is one of the simplest yet most powerful choices creatives have at their disposal. And as the pandemic has continued into 2021, we’ve seen this trend continue to grow stronger and gain momentum.


Happily, the world is beginning to open up, but we still live in an era of international uncertainty. We heard the word ‘resilience’ used a lot in 2020, but for recovery to be sustained, consumers need help to feel hopeful and optimistic. And that’s fuelling a continued craving for bright, happy, joyful colours.

Look around and you’ll see a commercial environment that’s awash with colour. Fashion brands like Adidas x Pharrell and Dior have embraced rainbow brights to make a statement. Boutiques and storefronts are following suit to draw customers in. Even food and drink manufacturers have been getting in on the act, making products appear more fun, optimistic, and a touch nostalgic, playing on the innocence of childhood.

For some time we’ve noted brands using single bright colours on digital platforms, to attract viewers’ attention as they scroll through content. A quick look at social media reveals that consumers are being successfully engaged by vivid hues. But I’m seeing that what started in the digital space as a tendency to use single bright tones to command attention has spread across other platforms and print, becoming more creative and nuanced along the way. Brands are now playing with a full spectrum of colour in a single image or campaign, presenting visuals that not only attract our attention but offer us a sense of optimism and inspiration.

It’s no wonder that marketers are working with vivid colour palettes to fuel positive brand association, nurture positive brand image and drive sales. Our reaction to colour is visceral. People react quite instinctively to products or services and as much as 90% of our instant assessment is made based on aesthetic appeal and colour alone. As consumers, we’re bombarded by images on a continual basis, so engagement is a real challenge. If brands can harness colour to provoke a favourable emotional reaction, they can connect with a consumer more quickly and stimulate a positive feedback loop that creates a lasting and rewarding bond.

Successful consumer engagement involves more than just attracting viewers’ attention – you must also retain their interest in order to communicate your message. Images that present a range of vivid hues do exactly that, offering not just bright tones but a range of hues for viewers to examine, contemplate and enjoy.

This trend has long-term appeal. As consumers move back into the world to socialise, travel, shop and dine out, colour is being actively used to heighten our sense of positivity and optimism. But more importantly vibrant colour is helping us slowly regain a sense of excitement and passion as we re-emerge and it’s helping to fuel, long term, sustainable economic growth.

About Brenda Milis 

With a background in photography and creative direction, Brenda leads the research team at Adobe Stock to identify the kinds of images that are growing in marketplace appeal. Her role involves tracking shifts in the creative landscape to identify how consumers engage with imagery and using this information to help creatives remain “visually fluent”.