- Brand identify is rooted in colours and emotion to build trust with users. Colours, and why blues and reds are so common are explored.
- Understanding seasonal psychology and the influence of colours.
- Seasonal colours explained with Hex colourcodes and examples.
- Breaking down colour theory, the impact of colour and emotions.
- How to build effective seasonal ads. breakdown of Coca Cola and Starbucks most iconic campaigns.
How can you get the most out of using seasonal colours in ads?
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but also to amp up your creative ads. How? Seasonal colours. And like a dog, they’re not just for Christmas.
Colour is a huge part of your brand’s identity. Combined with your logo, font, and brand guidelines, the colours you use are part of what makes you memorable to your customers.
When you read the word ‘autumn’, what comes to mind? I’m no mind reader but I’m sure that warm, earthy colours from the changing of the leaves were in there somewhere. Maybe a thick slice of pumpkin pie if you’re a bit peckish right now.
You see, people’s brains are aware of seasonal changes, holidays, and festivals which makes them more receptive to an ad when it uses colours and designs that are related to the time of year.
If you want to maximise your creative advertisements and make them more relatable (which I’m sure you do), using a seasonal colour palette is an easy way to do that.
What are seasonal ads?
Depending on your business, you might have noticed that at certain times of the year, your website traffic and sales fluctuate. For example, if you run a flower business, your sales for red roses are probably through the roof around Valentine’s Day.
Seasonal ads or seasonal marketing is the process of marketing specific services or products at specific times of the year. Like increasing the number of ads you share that offer discounts on red roses during February.
Some popular holidays that companies like to tailor their campaigns to include:
- Christmas Day
- New Years Day
- Valentine’s Day
- Chinese New Year
- Cinco de Mayo
The holidays offer the perfect opportunity to brighten up your ads and make them more memorable by making a subtle (or not-so-subtle) nod to a season or event.
With so many holidays or events taking place worldwide each year, you might think it’s an easy job to create ads for them. But because these events happen...well, every year, there’s only so many times you can use the same slogan or design before your customers start getting bored.
Sweater weather. Spooky season. Hop into Easter.
It can be really easy for your seasonal ads to start to feel monotonous. However, once you’re armed with a deeper understanding of seasonal colours and how to maximise their use, you can combine them with the rest of your creative marketing plan. The result? Relevant, eye-catching ads all year round.
Not sure where to start? Make use of Foreplay’s software by pulling together and organising ads you’ve been inspired by in one tidy folder. From there, transform your campaign plans into actional storyboards ready to tackle each season’s advertisements.
What is colour theory?
Before you start throwing random colours at your ads, we’re going back to basics with colour theory.
It’s not as serious as it sounds, don’t worry.
Put simply, colour theory is the study of how colours work together and how they impact our emotions and perceptions. Applying colour theory to your advertisements allows you to convey the right messages or encourage a desirable mood. Used properly, it will help you to gain an edge over your competitors who know nothing about colours.
Have you ever noticed how most fast-food restaurant’s logos use the colour red or yellow?
- McDonald's- Red and yellow
(McDonald’s stores in Europe have a green and yellow logo to appear more eco-friendly!)
- KFC- Red, white, and black
- Burger King- Red, yellow, and blue (previous logo), red and orange (new logo)
Red symbolises heightened emotions- love, passion, lust, and energy. It encourages us to take action, like pulling into a fast-food car park and grabbing some fries. As for yellow, it’s warm and eye-catching: sunshine, daffodils, that massive McDonald’s ‘M’.
Maybe you’ve spotted that social media platforms tend to use a lot of blue?
- Facebook (meta)
- Even X (Twitter) has kept hints of blue across its site despite its new black logo.
Blue is known for evoking feelings of trust, loyalty, and peace. This is exactly what you want people to feel as they fall into a midnight scroll hole on your social media platform.
Whether we realise it or not, colour is a form of communication. When a brand uses colours that match its image (this is why you need a consistent colour scheme!) or a specific season, our brain then starts to build an association with the two. Incorporating seasonal colours into your advertisements can lead to more traffic, sales, or bookings.
What colours represent each season or holiday?
Colours that represent or are associated with different seasons, holidays, or festivals vary across the globe. A Christmas ad campaign that features snow and a roaring fire will not resonate with people who live in Australia, for example.
As you know, it’s always important to consider who your audience is, but with seasonal colours, you also need to consider where your audience is. For example, in the United Kingdom white represents purity and is linked to weddings but in parts of Asia, it is associated with death and mourning.
Autumn represents the end of the lifecycle for many plants and is the time when animals go off into hibernation. Its colour palette is warm and mirrors the environment at this time of year:
- Earth tones- terracotta, chocolate brown, and ochre
- Warm oranges and yellows
- Deep red
These colours also represent many of the autumnal holidays like Halloween and Harvest Festival. Even though it doesn’t take place in autumn, Thanksgiving advertisements should take inspiration from this colour palette.
When winter comes, we tend to retreat indoors a bit more. With the influx of colder weather, it’s a season for slowing down. Winter is the time for your campaigns to incorporate more cool tones:
- Icy blue, dark purple, and navy
- Silver, grey, and white
- Forest green and dark brown
Despite winter’s cool-toned palette, Christmas colours tend to be a bit brighter. Green, gold, silver, and red are Christmas colours for many of us. Silver and gold represent feelings of celebration whilst red is recognised through popular Christmas characters.
Spring is all about new beginnings and rebirth which is represented in its colour scheme. For your ads, it’s the best time to use fresh and light colours like:
- Soft pastels- duck egg blue, sage green, lilac, and baby pink
- Light browns and beiges
- Pale yellows and oranges
These colours also work well for holiday campaigns during this season like Easter/Ostara, Spring Equinox, and May Day.
Spring is the perfect time for pastel colours, and Valentine’s Day does incorporate some of those. However, most colours associated with Valentine’s Day are bolder to highlight passion and love. For February 14th, red, pink, and white are the best colours to use. Try incorporating them in your campaigns with pictures of roses, love hearts, or even Cupid.
Sunshine, BBQs, beach days, and ice cream. Summer is when the days are longer and the nights are shorter. It’s also a brilliant time to start incorporating brighter colours in your ads like:
- Sunshine yellow
- Turquoise and sky blue
- Bright crimson and magenta
- Emerald and grass green
Summer events you can incorporate into your marketing plan are The Fourth of July, Cinco de Mayo, Summer Solstice, or the Summer Holidays (in the UK.)
We would be here forever if I went through every holiday and its corresponding colours, so it’s worth doing some research into some previous seasonal ads from brands you admire.
Foreplay can help you streamline that task. Create your own swipe file filled with your favourite creative pieces so that you’re never stuck for ideas. Instead of scrolling through multiple platforms for hours, Foreplay’s Discovery mode lets you search through over two million ads.
With the Chrome extension, you can save ads from Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, and more with the ease of a single click.
Two impressive seasonal ads.
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte
There’s no way we could talk about seasonal ad design without mentioning Starbucks’ famous seasonal range. You guessed it, invented in 2003, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (or PSL) is still insanely popular 20 years later.
It is so recognisable, that all Starbucks did was release a photo of a pumpkin with a date on it, and all of the pumpkin spice lovers went wild. In another ad, they gave a nod to recent TikTok trends with their written copy: ‘Reentering our pumpkin era’ and a simple photo of two pumpkin-based drinks surrounded by pumpkins.
Why did these ads work?
- Seasonal colours. Orange is associated with the changing of the seasons as leaves turn from green to orange, then brown. Pumpkins are in season during autumn, so it makes sense to feature one. Starbucks didn’t only use seasonal colours though. The brand also used white text on top of a green text box which are the colours of the brand’s logo.
- Recognition. For many, the release of a PSL signals the start of autumn and cosy nights. Pumpkin Spiced Lattes have become synonymous with Halloween or autumn and these ads scream both of those things. According to Delish, a PSL is such a popular drink because it brings back feelings of nostalgia for spending time with family and eating pumpkin pie.
- Simplicity. Everyone already knows what a PSL is, and Starbucks know that. A picture of a pumpkin joined by a simple date or the drink itself is enough to get customers excited.
Coca-Cola Christmas Ad
Coca-Cola has been releasing Christmas ads since the early 1900s but it wasn’t until the 90s that they released their iconic ‘Wonderful Dream (Holidays are Coming)’ ad. Featuring Coca-Cola trucks and Santa himself, the brand created a lasting association with Christmas. Like Starbucks, Cola can release a photo of their truck and consumers immediately think of Christmas.
In 2023, Coca-Cola released their Christmas campaign which was filled to the brim with Santas. The ad was called ‘The World Needs More Santas’ and demonstrates the idea that through random acts of kindness, anyone can release their inner Santa Claus.
Why do Coca-Cola’s Christmas ads work?
- Consistency. For decades now, Cola has been featuring Santa Claus and their memorable Cola trucks. When customers see the Christmas truck their brain immediately thinks ‘Christmas!’.
- Colour scheme. From Santa’s red outfit to Rudolph the Reindeer’s red nose, it’s unquestionable that red is a Christmas colour. Coca-Cola’s logo is black, red, and white which makes it easy for them to translate those brand colours into a Christmas ad.
- Nostalgia. Santa Claus is a memorable character, there’s no question about that. For many children, Santa represents joy, presents, and family time, and for plenty of adults, Santa still does. By re-using and hinting at their original iconic Christmas ad, Cola invokes feelings of nostalgia which makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Part of what makes these advertisements so effective is their emphasis on what customers already know, love and recognise. Both Starbucks’ drinks and Coca-Cola are famous products, but so are the colours the brands have used. Even if the products were removed from the ad’s design, you would still be able to identify the time of year/event the advert was for.
How to create an effective seasonal ad.
Keep it simple.
Don’t make your seasonal ad a headache-inducing explosion of colour just for the sake of it. Pick one or two colours that customers will associate with the season and combine them with your brand’s- like what Starbucks did. The result will be simple yet striking.
Have a strong CTA.
Keeping simplicity in mind, use a strong call to action (CTA) in your ad campaign. Think about what you want your customers to do, then write it. Holidays and changing seasons are a great time to use funny puns, but only if they’re actually funny or clever. Otherwise, your audience will just be rolling their eyes as they click out of your website.
Most of your competitors will be bringing out their own seasonal campaigns so try to be original. Nobody wants to see the same picture of a pumpkin five times in a row. Try to think outside of the usual phrases that come with the change of seasons too.
Create a few different versions of your ad for different platforms with tiny tweaks in each. This will help to keep people engaged, especially if they follow you across multiple platforms.
Use festive visuals.
Take advantage of your consumer’s festive mood by using relevant visuals. It’s a great way to evoke a positive reaction and make your campaign instantly relevant to the time of year. The visuals don’t have to overwhelm your brand’s image either, just a small nod to the season will trigger an association.
Christmas: fir trees, presents, and Santa’s red hat
Valentine’s Day: hearts and flowers
Easter: eggs, bunnies, and chocolate
Halloween/Autumn: pumpkins and leaves
Timing and relevance.
Everyone hates it when the Easter Eggs are on the shelf as soon as Christmas is over. When it’s raining and all the plants are dead, it’s too soon to be thinking about Spring.
The same goes for ads.
If you’re releasing seasonal ads way before the season has started, you’ll likely be missing the mark. According to a study by YouGov, most people in the United Kingdom prefer to see Christmas ads from the start of December.
Schedule your creative ads in advance so that they go live just before the season starts. Foreplay can help you get started with an inspiration board so when the time comes, your campaign is ready to go.
Create your own swipe file of seasonal ads.
You know how to use seasonal colours and how to create an effective ad, all that’s left to do is get started.
Running a campaign is a multifaceted job before you even start to design your ads. By building a swipe file, you can have all of your ad inspiration at your fingertips whenever creativity strikes.
With Foreplay you can:
- Create different boards for each season or campaign you’re working on. Title each board so that it’s easy to find and give it a brief description- you can return to it each year.
- Search for your favourite brands and fill your folder with ads that catch your eye. Refine your search further by filtering for brand industries or ads from experts, brands, or the community. The result is a fully personalised folder that represents the creative concepts your brand admires or takes inspiration from.
- Transform your ad inspiration into creative briefs and storyboards that the whole team can work with. Skip the faff of manually creating a board for every campaign and save time with Foreplay’s AI Brief Generator.
Get started with building your Foreplay swipe file now to fully maximise your time, and enhance your creative ads.