The role of colour in marketing
Colour is key when considering the brand identity of a business. Whilst a good colour pallet can make all aspects of a brand sit harmoniously together, a bad one can make a company look disjointed and generally quite unappealing. Studies have shown that colour increases our brand recognition by 80%. It is unsurprising then, that we are able to recognise many brands by their colours alone.
Colour quite obviously has an important role in marketing, but it is important to remember that there are no hard and fast rules. Choosing the right colour won’t automatically make your brand the one people flock to. Orange, for instance, is not universally known as the colour that promotes the purchasing of a mobile phone. Even if this was the case, colour meanings are often not universal. Some colours even have different meanings within a single culture, red for instance, often represents both love and war.
Most of us will have grown up in a culture that assigns colours to genders, blue for boys and pink for girls. We think of this assigning as quite a universal trait, you may find it surprising then, that this assignment was not used until the 1940’s. Previous to that, boys wore pink because it was considered a stronger colour.
Whilst not usually assigning meanings to specific colours, we certainly seem to correlate them with feelings. An infographic by Logo Company shows the general meaning of colours alongside logos of which that is the primary colour.
Many fit well and are what we would expect; Nintendo, Netflix, and Lego all use red which is said to portray excitement. Whilst Animal planet and Tropicana use green, which means growth and peacefulness. More sinisterly, colour semiotics can also be used by companies who wish to represent themselves as something they are not. If we look again at green section we will see that BP also use green in their branding.
No hard and fast rules
There are now several studies attempting to find colours that attract different shoppers, many try to discover which colours appeal specifically to males and females. Ultimately there seems to be no specific rule, both genders seem to favour the same colour in different quantities. Joe Hallock’s study on colour assignments presents this well.
It does seem though that different colours attract different types of shoppers. When creating a companies branding it is very important to consider the audience. Who does the brand aspire to appeal to?
If we look at the technology sector we see very little colour and those that are used, predominantly greys and deep blues, are clean and clinical. These colours don’t represent technology as such, but rather reinforce the notion of clean and simple design.
With 93% of customers stating that their main purchasing decisions are based on colour, it is important to carefully consider the colour pallet you wish to use. They may not influence us into buying a product or trusting a company, but they do effect how we all view a brands personality.
A brands personality is all part of the overall brand myth, which is often portrayed solely through visuals. When considering potential colours you need to think about the perceived appropriateness of the colour, does it fit what is being sold? There is little point using red or yellow to represent yourself if you are a corporate company selling software. In such a case the brand should be represented as modern and sleek, a grey and muted blue pallet would be far better suited.
As well as attracting people to a brand, colours can be used as a tool to aid in the navigation of a website. Colour can be used to make certain aspects of a website stand out. For example, on a muted background with black text it is obvious that the viewer’s eye will be drawn to a green button. But, if a red button is placed next to the green, then the red will then take precedence in our attention.
This is known as the isolation effect. In a colour pallet of similar tones, the contrasting colour will stand out to us the most. It can be a useful tool in marketing. A correctly coloured button could increase interaction by over 20%.
Colour hierarchy has influenced a key web design aspect we see regularly, the hyperlink. Often underlined, with the default of blue, the hyperlink received its colour due to the contrast blue had with the grey background of Internet past.
It is not just the colours we use that influence how we perceive a product. Studies have shown that we prefer colours that are more elaborately named. Mocha is far better received that brown, it is even found that sky blue is preferred to light blue. This shows that it is not a single aspect that influences the way we see a brand but the overall way in which it is presented to us.
Context affects the way in which we perceive colours so it is important to consider a company as a whole whilst creating the branding. But it is clear that colour can influence our feelings towards a company, but be cautious, you may think that by branding an oil company green you are able to fool people into thinking you are less environmentally damaging, but colours are not the only thing that influences our perceptions.
It is clear that we are, to some degree, influenced by colours. There are exceptions to every rule, and so there should be. The times of gender specific colours are quickly falling behind us. Designers will have to become far more inventive if they wish to appeal to specific sectors of the consuming public.
Written by Richard O’Flynn, originally for Hitchhiker’s Guide to Digital Business.