“I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe
As with most disciplines where creative design is pivotal, choosing the right colour is a vital element of marketing. Colours communicate a distinct message to your customers that sets you apart from your competition. It reflects your brand’s personality, intent and ultimately improves overall brand recognition.
But where does this voodoo like power of colour originate from? The answer is found in the psychology of colour. What is colour psychology you ask? It is the study of how colour affects our perceptions and behaviours.
Different colours, have different meanings due to multiple factors, such as our cultural background, past experiences and mental state. In marketing, we use it to convey a message about our brand and try our level best to persuade our customers to pay us attention and ultimately invest in us.
Now here is where the problem comes in. We know that colour has a profound affect on our customers, but how do we know which colour evokes what feelings in them? How do we know if pink represents femininity and nurturing to one, but to another it stimulates anger and resentment, because the kid that bullied them in school owned a pink hula-hoop? The answer is simple, you can’t possibly know what every colour means to every person, which is precisely why, when using colour you have to be flexible and adaptable and most importantly practical.
By making sure the message you want to communicate is consistent with the rest of your brand, you will provide your audience with a context, which will also provide meaning.
We do however, have certain colours that have received enough attention regarding the emotion or topic they represent, which has in turn given them a universal meaning. For example, ‘green’ to most is connected to nature or money – if you are that way inclined. ‘Red’ is the colour of love – even though love is abstract and the human heart is actually a gross purple colour – and passion. Its bold and can even be angry. And ‘blue’, my favourite. ‘Blue’ could be seen as insipid and boyish to some, but to most, ‘blue’ represents peace, serenity and freshness and in the marketing world this is certainly the case.
Let’s look at some well-known examples from the colour emotion guide and how it illustrates the world’s general associations with colour. Pay special attention to the international powerhouses that have based their entire branding on their choice of colour.
Orange. Is this how the fruit got its name or is this how the colour got its name? Regardless, this is generally interpreted as a friendly and happy colour. Think Fanta…or even Hooters if you must.
Red. Coca-Cola, Virgin, CNN – need I say more?
Green. Here we have a perfect example of a colour, used to promote brands representing nature and the environment, as well as brands that make use of both nature and the environment. Enter, Animal Planet, John Deere agricultural vehicles, Land Rover and the giant oil company, BP.
Of course we have our brands that stick to the classy, somewhat safe neutral colours of black and white, and on the other end of the spectrum we have our multicoloured, over confident brands (quite rightfully so) like Google, eBay and NBC.
Choosing a colour for your brand, might seem completely haphazard or completely deliberate, depending on how seriously you want to take it. Either way, your colour or lack thereof, is going to communicate something, because nothing is something and you should realise by now that the world wouldn’t function half as well without colour.
So, consider these 4 questions when you are deciding on colour:
- Is it appropriate for your brand? If you are a financial institution selling investments and policies, should your colours really be pink and beige or perhaps black and silver?
- Is it aligned with your brand’s personality? If you are a funky ice-cream company with a string of parlours along beach fronts, would monochromatic colours scream ‘fun in the sun’, or would green and luminescent orange do ta better job?
- Does it appeal to your target audience? You are selling robust and durable outdoor watches for men. Will a dusty taupe with a light blue undertone persuade them to rush out and spend their money, or, might a rich bright red or yellow with black entice them more?
- Does it differentiate your brand? Now here’s a tricky scenario. You own a nursery, and all that you sell is pretty much the colour green, so what colour is the right choice for your brand, considering most other nursery’s will inevitably be green. Here’s where you can be creative and remember what you are selling…plants that bloom into beautiful bursts of flowers, all colours of the rainbow. So technically you are spoilt for choice in this department!
Regardless of what colour or colours your choose to represent your brand, you need to remember a few basic rules, namely, make sure the colour you choose, accurately and consistently represents your brand’s personality to YOU, the creator. More importantly, you have to believe in your brand’s identity and if you convey this belief consistently, via all your digital platforms, your audience will start believing in it too. Just ask our clients at Image Matters, they love the fresh, creative colour of blue on a sophisticated no-nonsense black background…[insert wink emoticon here].