The Psychology of Colour in Marketing and Branding (no really)

Attributing meaning to our business choices is both crucial and a bit of a stab in the dark.

Yes, it’s important to name our company something relevant, memorable and non-offensive but there’s no real right or wrong answer.

Yes, we need exciting logos that express our brand, products/services and our ‘vibe’ and yes, our marketing efforts must convey the same …. it’s just that agonising over them for longer than is necessary can become unproductive and quite frankly, a real head f*#k.

At the end of the day, these things must appeal to us and ideally, to our target audience as well.

There are many guides out there espousing the meanings of different colours; the emotions they evoke and the ones that will subconsciously make people go out and spend approximately one trillion dollars on our wares. And to be honest, I’ve written one such guide - it’s on another of my hard drives and it’s probably not worth me dredging it up. Not because it’s not well written (OBVIOUSLY! *winking emoticon*) but because I recently read an article that has given me a whole new appreciation of colour and its role in marketing and branding.

It was written by a clever chap by the name of Gregory Ciotti and this is what he wrote:

Why does color psychology invoke so much conversation … but is backed with so little factual data?
As research shows, it’s likely because elements such as personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, context, etc., often muddy the effect individual colors have on us. So the idea that colors such as yellow or purple are able to invoke some sort of hyper-specific emotion is about as accurate as your standard Tarot card reading.
Gregory goes on to cite research backed insights on how colour plays a part in persuasion. Including:

And in regards to the role that color plays in branding, results from studies such asThe Interactive Effects of Colors show that the relationship between brands and color hinges on the perceived appropriateness of the color being used for the particular brand (in other words, does the color "fit" what is being sold).

The study Exciting Red and Competent Blue also confirms that purchasing intent is greatly affected by colors due to the impact they have on how a brand is perceived. This means that colors influence how consumers view the "personality" of the brand in question (after all, who would want to buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle if they didn’t get the feeling that Harleys were rugged and cool?).

Additional studies have revealed that our brains prefer recognizable brands, which makes color incredibly important when creating a brand identity. It has even been suggested in Color Research & Application that it is of paramount importance for new brands to specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors (if the competition all uses blue, you'll stand out by using purple).
The problem, he says, is when people start painting colours with a broad, generalising brush:

Certain colors DO broadly align with specific traits (e.g., brown with ruggedness, purple with sophistication, and red with excitement). But nearly every academic study on colors and branding will tell you that it’s far more important for your brand’s colors to support the personality you want to portray instead of trying to align with stereotypical color associations.

Consider the inaccuracy of making broad statements such as “green means calm.”The context is missing; sometimes green is used to brand environmental issues such as Timberland’s G.R.E.E.N standard, but other times it’s meant to brand financial spaces such as
The article is very comprehensive and in some sections, quite technical. It goes on to discuss different reactions to colour by men and women and the importance of a name (eg. I hate ‘brown’ but am partial to ‘mocha’).  

The upshot is that colour is important and can be used as an association with a particular brand and its personality – but only in context – and there is no magic rule book out there that can tell you black = evil, white = good.

You can read the article in its entirety [here]. 

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