In colors creates an accessible polarity within the


In
the remoteness of a cold winter night, a humble yet warm cabin is covered in
snow. A poised and saturated royal blue background of the night sky, with
nuances of twinkling stars relays a beautiful contrast of color with the
slightly off angle and centralized hero image of a warmly colored bottle of
apricot liqueur. “Cordially Yours” (figure 1) was published by
The American Distilling Co. of  Pekins,
Illinois in c.1940. Although
“Cordially Yours” utilizes an array of design elements including excellent use
of color, illustration, uniform layout, and hierarchy of type, all fulfilling a
beautiful ascetic, beneath the surface, lies a mind game scheme to trap the
American consumer. Using the poster as a case study, I will explore consumer psychology
and how Cordially Yours epitomizes systematic societal conditioning for
commercial gain.

Although
on the surface, Cordially Yours holds
a beautiful narrative portrayed in an engaging illustration, the use of warm
and cool colors creates an accessible polarity within the piece, lending much
success to the typographical hierarchy and in evoking an emotional response in
the consumer. The role reversal of colored type and the extension of color from
subjects to type, contribute to the aesthetic cohesiveness. “Cordially yours”
is in a yellow, bold, and elegant script font, matching the warmth of the
bottle while simultaneously contrasting the night sky.  The largest type, “Piping Rock” is in a bold,
fat-face type on top of the white snowy ground. It is in blue, imitating the
prominent night sky, while drawing your eye to it due to it contrasting the cold
white snow. The snow covers much of the background implying it is winter, which
is often associated with the feelings of coldness and sadness. The warm orange
colored liqueur bottle is the hero image. It implies that it will warm you or
make you feel happy during winter or while your feeling sad. Although the
humble cabin is cold and covered in snow on the outside, it is warm and cozy on
the inside. Warm light peaks through the door and window, mimicking the color
of the bottle. It is a reflection of the effect of drinking this particular
brand of alcohol and the effects of alcohol in general.

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            Although
the designer is unknown, the American Distilling Company understood the nature
of consumption or the nature of the consumer and deployed these psychological
theories in Cordially yours. Factors
such as situational influences, demographics, social status, and emotions all affect
consumer behavior. Situational influences are circumstances that ta point in
time influences a consumer’s buying decisions. A situational influence that is
applicable is temporal aspects, such as weather conditions. The environment in Cordially yours is during a cold and
snowy winter. So during wintertime, the consumer will be more inclined to
purchase the alcohol because it is an environmental reflection of the visual
advertisement. Social status is the cultural structure rankings of people
according to value such as, source of income, education, and occupation.  The snow-covered cabin evokes a feeling of humility,
which if the target audience was middle and lower class consumers, they would
most likely feel more associated and be more prone to purchase. Taking
advantage of consumer emotions provides an opportunity to make sales. It
provides product positioning, sales presentation and advertisement further
strengthening the companies branding campaigns. “Cross-culturally, the most highly favored color is very
saturated blue,” says Steve
Palmer, professor at the
University of California. That color is favored because it’s associated with
things that are almost all good—a deep clean lake, a clear sky or a beautiful
sapphire

Apruebo, Dr. Roxel A. Applied
Consumer Psychology. First ed. Manila: Rex Book Store, 2005.

Textbook
referencing Freudian personality theories relating to consumer psychology.

Useful for analyzing average consumer’s psychology.

Ault, Alicia. “How
Do Colors Affect Our Moods?” Smithsonion.com. December 15, 2015. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/ask-smithsonian-how-do-colors-affect-our-moods-180957504/.

Article that examines color psychology. Useful for analyzing the emotional
effect of color in “Cordially Yours”.

           

The
saturated blue sky in Cordially yours
creates positive feelings in the consumer, generating a positive association
with the brand and type of alcohol advertised.

Similar aesthetic formulas and consumer
psych theories were employed in Cheret’s Fleur de Lotus (figure 2) and
in Lucian Bernhard’s, Bosch (figure 3). Cordially
yours and Fleur de Lotus share
the same layout guidelines called the rule of thirds.  The rule of thirds is used in creating designs, photographs
and paintings. Aligning a subject with it creates
more energy and tension in the composition rather than just basically centering
it. In each piece there are segments of three invisible horizontal guides
dividing the pages. The tops contain large type. The Middles each include a
hero image and the in the bottom portions, more important type. Prownian analysis suggests that humans connect to an object
based on fundamental human experience, engagement with the physical world,
sense of self, and common human emotions. The most persistent object metaphors expressive
of belief seem embedded in polarities. In all pieces, a
polarity of the same colors is present. The colors red and blue are primary
opposite colors. In Fleur de Lotus, the
largest and most important type is in red, while the background of the hero
image is blue. In Bosch, the
background is red while the logo and part of the
illustration of the spark plug in the foreground, is blue. In Cordially yours, the night sky in the
background is blue, while the bottle of alcohol is a warm orange. Humans tend
to patternize, to make visual connections and find comfort when successful. The
use of polarity in all three pieces, which activates emotional and associational
attachments, evokes a primal connection from the consumer to them because from micro
to macro perspectives, our environment is sexed. The human perspective
organically connects to these pieces making them a powerful device to trap and
condition the consumer due to its universal accessibility based on the nature itself.

Prown,
David, “The Truth of Material Culture History or Fiction?” published by the
Smithsonian

   Institution Press,
Washington, D.C., copyright 1993 Insight on how humans visually connect to an
object.

While Cordially
Yours  employed consumer
psychological theories to trap the minds of American consumers, the buyers were
already vulnerable  due to the societal
constructions that surrounded alcohol. Pre prohibition, Americans would drink during breakfast, whiskey
was typical during lunchtime, ale with supper and the day ended with a
nightcap. Continuous drinking built up a tolerance in most Americans and by
seventeen ninety an American consumed an average of five point eight gallons of
alcohol in a year. Alcohol
was even endorsed by people who held power in religious institutions and even
in politics. The Founding Fathers liked a
drink – Samuel Adams was a partner in his father’s malt house and Thomas
Jefferson was famed for importing European wines. The average American didn’t stand a
chance against high-powered branding campaigns for alcohol because they were
most likely already drunk, and people who have social power have great
influence on the public. The conditioning had already happened long before
advertisements like Cordially Yours
launched because alcohol was already so engrained into American and global societal
behaviors.

Cordially
Yours fulfills a
beautiful ascetic, but beneath the surface of the accessible visual narrative,
lies a mind game scheme to trap the American consumer. Human psychology and social constructs
were employed and taken advantage of by the American Distilling Company to successfully
advertise for their apricot flavored liqueur. Cordially Yours was and
forever will be “bright yet dark”. 

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