The sudden rush of hot pink in advertising isn’t out of the blue – thanks to a certain Barbara (Barbie) Roberts – but are the stereotypes of the colour really changing or do we just love a trend?
Right now, pink is the colour of empowerment, fun and for many, out-of-stock: a bubblegum tidal wave brought forth by the Barbie movie behemoth. But like most things, our thoughts on pink have changed over time. Once emotively gendered to women and girls, our attitudes have changed and are still changing.
Can pink be a bridge to connect our comms, or is it a divisive colour that’s being exploited?
In traditional colour theory models, pink can reflect several different moods and behaviours. It’s connected with romance, innocence, playfulness and sweetness. But compare that with immaturity, deception and materialism and you have a very mixed bag of behaviours all represented by one colour. So where do we get these associations?
A century ago, people dressed babies in white or pastels with no gender association but then, suddenly, pink became feminine. There are a whole host of theories on why this came about. One suggestion is that post World War II, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower wore pink on a regular basis, liking how it set off her skin tone, with many following the trend she started.
Since then pink has been everywhere, but is still noticeably missing from one world – namely the world of football.
Football has a peculiar relationship with pink, especially in men’s leagues. Very few home kits favour pink. One exception is the Italian side, Palermo. Its pink strip stood more or less alone until the late 90s explosion of vivid colours in shirts and boots. Pink boots are easier to pick out during a match helping to spot opposition or team mates and bright pink goalkeeper jerseys are thought to be psychologically intimidating.
David Beckham’s Inter Miami team have adopted the colour too. Is this a nod to the famous Palermo kit? Could it be related to Miami’s pink coral reefs? Or could it simply be that Beckham, who set fashion trends in his heyday, spotted an opportunity to stand out?
It might’ve been chosen to challenge the traditional masculine image of football however this is doubtful; in America the women’s game is much bigger than the men’s. Notably this kit now adorns one of the greatest players of all time, Lionel Messi, who scored on his Inter Miami debut and appeared, decked in pink, on every front page across the globe.
Joining Messi’s image across the media are the unmistakable pink tones of the Barbie movie smashing the box office battle with the Oppenheimer biopic. The pinker film ties directly back to nostalgic feelings of playful innocence and merges them with immaturity and materialism. But the movie also showcases hot pink as a symbol of confidence and independence inspiring viewers young and old, across every gender.
This reflects a shift in society’s perceptions of gender and social norms. Historically associated with specific gender roles, pink is now transformed into a symbol of empowerment, inclusivity and individuality.
So when it comes to comms, maybe it’s time to ditch subtle colouring and embrace the bold, the neon and even the garish. Barbie embodies confidence and inspiration and isn’t that what we want our people to feel?
Let’s stop playing it safe. Out with the corporate, in with the colour theory: it’s time to have fun. Come on Barbie, let’s go party!