Chapter 2: Humours Theory and Advertising

6Chapter 2: Humours Theory and Advertising

(Theoretical approach)

How is Humour applied in Advertising?


As mentioned before, except the biological state the theories of four humours are related to:


the senses as the main gates of the environmental stimuli as perceived by the human’s body, the feelings as the result of the internal process of the external stimuli, and the behaviour, as the expression of this process to environmental receivers.


Advertising, through T.V, magazines, the radio, and any other means, stimulate sense organs and through them, the message sender aims to associate the product with a particular feeling. (Kotler, Pavlov, Barden and Cobé as presented later in this chapter). The closer the association of the product with the feeling, the more effective the advertisement is. And consequently, the stronger the feeling, the more simultaneously the buying response becomes.



Relevant Issues in Advertising



Advertising Decisions



Philip Kotler had referred to several elements regarding advertising decisions, such as the 5Ms concept.


According to this, Marketing Managers before developing an advertising plan should take five major decisions regarding:


Mission (What are the advertising objectives)

Money  (How much money to spend)

Message (What message should be sent)

Media (What media should be used)

Measurement (How should the results be evaluated)


The Theory of four humours is related with all these functions. In other words the Marketing Manager before taking any decisions should take into consideration the particular environmental characteristics of the specified product in relation to the selected target market, and accordingly to define the mission, the budget, the message, the media and the most appropriate methods and techniques of measuring the results of the plan.


For example, a common mistake that advertising designers make is to design the 4 P’s according to the mood that they have the time that they make the decisions, and not according to the time of the year, that they aim to promote the product. For example a book cover page, which is designed during the summer, but is going to be launched and promoted in the winter, should have dark- warm colours, in order to be attractive to a customer who according to the theory of humours will feel “cold and moist” at that time, and not, “light and cold” colours that the designers might find more attractive in the summer time while they are producing the cover page.




The communication Process

Regarding the message, Kotler has emphasized the need of clear communication as he describes, as in figure 2-1 the communication process:




The Communication Process



Sender         Encoding          MESSAGE        Decoding       Receiver





Feedback                               Response


Figure 2-1 The Communication Process. Source, P. Kotler 1997





The Message


Another interesting issue related to advertising is the application of the theory of classical conditioning and the experiment of Pavlov. Pavlov (1927) was a physiologist who noticed that dogs respond by producing secretions, not only when they see food, but also to any stimulus that have been regularly associated with food, for example the sight of the food pan.


This theory is the basis of interpreting advertising effects (Allen& Madden, 1985) Source Mac Kenna p.171.  The aim of the advertisement is to create a link, between the message (rational, emotional or moral) and the product. Every time that the consumer uses this product to get a certain feeling, and every time he or she gets the certain feeling to remember consciously or unconsciously the product.


The Galen theory regarding the allocated temperaments on the four humours, will give an insight of how, several emotions, could be related with each state. For example, the desire to drink water indicates that the body feels dry (yellow and black bile). However the desire to drink something warm (tea etc) indicates that the body feels dry and cold -the black bile state, and the desire to drink something cold like a refreshment indicates that yellow bile is in excess. The use of the Integrated Model will facilitate to link particular feelings, with certain codes. This process will be presented later in detail.


Kotler, regarding the message content defines three main types of appeal: The rational appeal, which appeal to the audience self- interest, the emotional appeals, which attempt to stir up negative or positive emotions that will motivate purchase and the moral appeals which are directed to the audience’s sense of what is right and proper. Kotler 1997 p. 612


As the examples of several products which follows in the study, indicate, that when running International Advertising, emotional appeals seems the most appropriate, because, emotions, seems to be common for everybody. On the contrary, rational and moral appeals seem not to be appropriate, because, they vary from the one person or society to the other.


Finally, Kotler noticed, that in Emotional appeals, consumers sometimes respond more to negative messages –those that cause fear, quilt and shame-, than to positive messages –those, which create “humour”, love, pride, and joy. Research shows that fear appeals up to a certain point not extremely strong, nor extremely weak, is effective to get people to do things they should or to stop doing things they shouldn’t.


In the research of Part 2, we found out that people respond more on the advertisement, which indicates the “feeling of thirst” which is -as Kotler would say a -negative meaning, comparing to the “feeling of refreshment” which is a positive meaning.


Message Encoding


Even though several studies and researches have been made, there is a gap in the communication process. Advertising agencies are the specialists who aim to eliminate this gap, by using several methods and techniques starting from the company’s strategic analysis, to the measurement of advertising on consumer impact.


Due to this specialization, nowadays the level of the advertisement effectiveness is high, and the competition among companies within the same sector requires better research and more creativity.


The research in Part 2 of the study, aims to provide an insight of highly competitive products like Coca-cola, Pepsi–cola, which aim to relate themselves with a particular feeling. We will see that advertising perception differs from product perception. Meaning the more correctly designed the 4 P’ s are (rather than the product alone), the stronger the association with the particular feeling for the consumer.


A research in Advertising Magazine (Dec 2001) referred to a gap that exists within this communication process. According to the magazine, the major gap in this process is in message encoding and decoding. Kotler found out that the audiences do not receive the intended message because of the selective attention, the selective distortion or the selective recall.


In his book Kotler states the following:


He found that people are bombarded by 1,600 commercial messages a day, of which 80 are consciously noticed and about 12 provoke some reaction. He explains that for this reason, advertisement should be designed in such a way to win attention in spite of surrounding distractions. Therefore ads with bold headlines, promising something, have a high likelihood of grabbing attention.


In case of selective distortion, he said, people twist the message to hear what they want to hear. They hear or see what fits their expectations, and their belief system. Receivers often add things to the message (a process called amplification) and do not notice other things (a process called levelling). He mentions that the communicator’s task is to strive for message simplicity, clarity, interest and repetition to get the main points across to the audience.


Finally, regarding the selective recall, Kotler noticed that people retain in long-term memory only a small fraction of the messages that reach them. Whether the message passes from the receiver’s long-term memory depends on the amount and type of message rehearsal by the receiver.


Kotler believed, that if the receiver’s initial attitude toward the object is positive and he or she rehearses support arguments, the message is likely to be accepted and to have high recall. If the receiver’s initial attitude is negative and the person rehearses counter-arguments, the message is likely to be rejected but to stay in long-term memory. Kotler, (1997) p. 606


Additionally, as presented later in the study, Semiotics is quite important in both message encoding and decoding. That is, if the Marketing Managers, have decided on the Target Group, and on the message to be sent, then they have to decide about the style of the message, taking into consideration what is the signified concept for a colour, a shape, a smell, a sound etc. A more detailed analysis will follow later on in this Chapter.

International Advertising


Techniques in international advertising can easily became a case for study, because they refer to commonly accepted norms by most people.


In today’s economic and cultural landscape with rapidly changing demographics and an over-saturated marketplace bombarded with products and messages, Marc Gobé, was one of the first to create breakthrough emotion-driven brand design strategies for clients which operate internationally such as Coca-Cola, IBM, Victoria’s Secret, Ann Taylor, Sears, Godiva, Saks, Reebok, Versace, Lancome, Starbucks and Gillette.


Marc Gobé is President, Chief Executive and Creative Director of d/g* . d/g*, proposed strategies, which aim to  stimulate clients senses by the use of meaningful emotional images.


Marc Gobé believes that words and sounds together with colours, tastes, schemes, shapes, pass messages to people. He believes that through them, an advertising company should aim to pocess a share in its clients’ emotional chart. And that competition among companies exists in the emotional arena, as well.


Marc Cobé in his book emotional branding states that the effect of colours arises both from acculturation and physiology and these influences are enforced by one another.  He says that colours with long wavelengths are arousing. As for example red, which is the most stimulating colour that will attract the eye faster than any other. On the contrary, colours with short wavelengths are soothing. As for example blue, which actually lowers blood pressure, pulse and respiration rates.


Accordingly, the following table indicates the emotions arisen by each colour:

Colours                        Cultural associations

Red                                sex & seduction

Blue                                calmness

Yellow                            attention

Orange                           friendly

Pastel Tints                     gentle

Yellow Orange                welcoming

Pale Blue                         calm

Navy Blue                      dependability

Gray                               seriousness & anonymity

Bright Red Violet           energy

Aqua                               relaxation


In addition, Hayne, (1981) had referred to the effects that the colours have on the psychological state of the individual. He noticed that some colours act as a stimulant and others act as a depressant. The various effects are shown in table 2-3.




The effects of Different Colours




Psychological Effect


Temperature Effect


Distance Effect

Violet Aggressive & tiring Cold Very Close
Blue Restful Cold Further Away
Brown Exciting Neutral Claustrophobic
Green Very Restful Cold/neutral Further Away
Yellow Exciting Very Warm Close
Orange Exciting Very Warm Very close
Red Very stimulating Warm Close

Table 2-3 The Effects of Different Colours by Heyne, (1981) source Mac Kenna 1998 p.120


See more about colour in Appendix 1.


Regarding sounds Marc Gobé said that the slow tempo arises sadness, boredom, disgust, while the fast tempo is associated with activity, surprise, happiness, pleasantness, potency, fear and anger.

In Addition, the low pitch level creates boredom, pleasantness, sadness, while the high pitch level is related with surprise, potency, anger, fear and activity. The small amplitude Modulation arises feelings of disgust, anger, fear and boredom, and the large amplitude, happiness, pleasantness, activity and surprise. (Marc Gobé Emotional Branding p. 76)


The same analysis as for colours and sounds, should be taken into consideration, for other elements, like, words, voices, shapes, smells, tastes etc, before any decision making regarding the branding and advertising strategy.


The following are three examples of brand design strategies proposed by d/g*. (source:, May, 2002)






The example of three successful stories






The challenge is to rejuvenate Kenzo’s fragrance division through a fragrance that would communicate the fashion designer’s aesthetic vision: exotic, sensual luxurious and surprising.




The selected strategy will aim to the creation of a series of fragrances and perfume bottles that follow Kenzo’s fashion collections and embody the romance of the jungle, while anchoring the brand in a urban set.





The bottles have the equivalent status as a fashion accessory. The clean lines recall a glass brick and contrast with the graphic exoticism of the stopper. The cap expresses the exoticism of the stopper. The cap expresses the exotic sensuality of each wild beast (elephant, tiger and zebra for men).



C O C A   C O L A





Coca-cola had a problem of ubiquity worldwide and had to develop a new strategy for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, its hometown. It was critical for them to reconnect with the consumer by sending a more personal and emotional message around their concept of “Refreshment”.



Relying on our belief that consumers look for personal connections with brands, we elevated the concept of refreshment from body to mind and spirit. We also studied Coca-cola’s visual communications elements and identified the contour bottle as the perfect icon to resonate into consumers’ mind.



The contour bottle became the dominant feature on the classic can as well as the common element to all their presence programs. From the Atlanta Olympics to the Tour de France or the World Cup, Coca-Cola focused its presence around the concept of “refreshment for the fans”, therefore creating an emotional bond with the consumer.




Corporate identity program for one of the world’s leading banks, infusing its image with the enterprising spirit, dynamism, the international scope and caliber that now distinguish the bank.



Credit Agricole covers all banking activities, and counts among its clients investors, corporations, and individuals, as well as the agricultural community which was at the origins of its creation. Our challenge was to bring the bank’s visual identity into harmony with the reality of its economic dimension and client diversity.




Convey the bank’s conquering spirit (movement) and the global nature of its activities and clientele (openness).




Ten years later, according to all the banking image studies carried out, the innovative character of this creation, and the great visibility of its application has led to unequalled rates of adherents from a very broad public.


Advertising Techniques, include fundamentals of semiotics. Especially the last decades, more and more media people become familiar, with developments and the new trends raided, by the study of semiotics,





How to Eliminate the gap in Communication


Theories such as the Gestalt laws which governing the organization of perception, defines certain common characteristics of how the same sign can pass different messages to different people. A list of examples are presented in the Appendix 2 at the end of the research.


Marketing Managers should be well aware of the fundamentals regarding the humans perception before deciding for any visual message.


Semiotics, on the other hand is an equally important element that Managers should know before taking any decision.  Daniel Chandler (2001) has included several communication theories and techniques in his book Semiotics For Beginners. He said that signs take the form of words, images, sounds, odours, flavours, acts or objects, but such things have no intrinsic meaning and become signs only when we invest them with meaning. ‘Nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign’, declares Peirce (Peirce 1931-58, 2.172)


Saussure defined a sign as being composed of:

a ‘signifier’ (signifiant) – the form which the sign takes; and

the ‘signified’ (signifié) – the concept it represents.


According to this the sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified (Saussure 1983, 67; Saussure 1974, 67).

For example, the word ‘Open’, when it is associated with a meaning by someone who encounters it on a shop doorway is a sign consisting of:


a signifier: the word open;

a signified concept: that the shop is open for business.



According to semiotics, someone might like a particular song, because it arises several memories feelings and emotions, but, another person can have associated the same song with bad memories feelings and emotions. Therefore it is more probable for them to dislike it.


Obviously, in Advertising, personal perceptions and associated emotions for each potential client cannot be analysed while introducing the advertising mechanism. However, physical & social characteristics should be taken very seriously into account. See also appendix 2.


For example white represents purity in the United States but in certain Asian countries, it is the colour of death.  Or in a dream analysis by Freud, he noticed that: Popular symbolism suggested that the lilies were a symbol of chastity and a woman agreed that she associated them with purity. However Freud was surprised to discover that she associated the word violet phonetically with the English word “violate” suggesting her fear of the violence of defloration. (another word alluding to flowers (Freud 1938, 382-3).





The example of Apple & IBM


The following example of Apple and IBM is an excellent presentation of Semiotics in Advertising Source:


“Binary oppositions can be traced even in visual images. Jean-Marie Floch compares and contrasts the logos of the two major computer companies, IBM and Apple, revealing their differences to be based on a series of associated binary oppositions, the most obvious of which are listed here (Floch 2000, 41). The contrast could hardly involve a clearer opposition. Appropriately, Apple’s logo seems to be defined purely in opposition to the more established/establishment image of IBM.


IBM Apple
Structure repetition non repetition
Disconnected lines joined lines
Colour monochromatic polychromatic
Cold warm
Forms substance (‘bold’) outline
straight curved



A past chairman of the Apple Products division is quoted as saying, ‘Our logo is a great mystery: it is a symbol of pleasure and knowledge, partially eaten away and displaying the colours of the rainbow, but not in the proper order. We couldn’t wish for a more fitting logo: pleasure, knowledge, hope and anarchy’ (Floch 2000, 54). Clearly, the bitten apple refers both to the story of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden and to the association of IBM with the east coast and ‘the Big Apple’ of New York. The psychedelic mixed-up rainbow (green, yellow, orange, red, violet and blue) signifies the west coast hippie era of the 1960s, with its associations of idealism and ‘doing your own thing’. Thus, despite representing a binary opposition to the IBM logo, the multi-coloured Apple logo seeks to signify a rejection of the binarism reflected in the ‘black-and-white’ (or rather monochrome) linearity of IBM’s logo. Competing companies clearly need to establish distinct identities, and such identities are typically reflected in their logos. This example may tempt the reader to compare the visual identities of other competing corporations.”














The Integrated Model


The Integrated Model as in the following figure aims to link environmental stimuli, with people’s physical and psychological state and with certain preferences and communication codes.


Therefore, for example, if one person is adult, is in a stage that yellow bile is in excess comparing to his body state when he was adolescent or how it will be at his middle age, and after.

However in a winter night his body will produce more phlegm in order to be in balance with the cold whether. Therefore, even the age indicates his yellow bile excess it is obvious, that, comparing to the other seasons of the year his body is more into the phlegm state. However due to yellow bile excess, he might found more comfortable the blue colour. But due to the winter condition, in order to remain in balance, he needs to eat hot & dry foods, or hot drinks. If he is in a supermarket, and his favourite tea is provided for example with two different covers, lets say blue-coloured and red-coloured, it is more likely during the winter to choose the red-coloured one.    The reason is that in his perception, red is related with hot and dry, representing the quality that at this particular time is appealing to his physical condition, rather than the blue-coloured which is associated with cold and moist.


It is not the same though with the tea mug. The same person might prefer a blue coloured mug, because the associated feeling with a mug is a touch of a hot tea mug (hot & dry). According to the model, he might feel more comfortable with the touch of a blue (cold & moist) rather than a red (hot & dry) tea mug as will be presented in the research of Part 2.


Since one person have defined which is the associated feeling with one condition is quite easy to apply the model and define several relations.


The basic Rules of the Model


According to Hippocrates if one wants to retain a physical condition should use elements of the same state as derived from the model. However, if one wants to change a physical condition, should choose elements of the opposite state. Thus:



  1. use analogous elements to retain a certain condition.

If a message designer wants to retain the characteristics of a certain state, is better to use analogous elements. In other words elements, which are in the same state. As: yellow bile- red- adults etc.


An application of this rule to advertising is when for example a message designer wants to promote a car to young adolescents. It is more likely to apply yellow or green or orange colours in the advertising campaign, fast tempo with high pitch and high amplitude. Also, to pass the feeling of the air (freedom, release) and why not, to have a sunrise as a background in a hot but moist environment.


  1. use opposite elements to change a certain condition.

If the message designer needs to change the state of the message receiver, then elements of the opposite state should be used.


In the case of the adolescences, it is not a matter of coincidence, that school uniforms and academic caps and gowns are mainly in grey, dark blue, or dark purple, which according to the model are associated to the opposite states.


  1. use any combination that you find applicable in nature.

Finally, as indicated in the theory of colour harmonization (see Appendix 1), apart of the scheme of analogous colours as the first rule, and the scheme of the complementary or opposite colours as the second rule, there is a third theory, which founds harmonized, whatever could be applicable in nature. The model can provide the basic lines, and a message designer is free to mach elements in a way that he/she finds more appropriate to increase receivers’ response.


However it has to be noticed, that as in harmonization theory, pairing opposites, is more likely to develop stronger feelings and to stand in people’s long-term memory, than using analogous elements.