For centuries, Colour was considered to be a luxury for the royal and wealthy of society. Because of the labour intensive methods of extracting tints from the natural environment, colour was held in very high regard.
Fortunately those days are long gone, modern methods allow us to use colour to it’s fullest potential and in many areas previously not available. Colour is now affordable and we can truely use it to our advantage.
Yet despite this, some companies are still unaware of how colour can influence their market. Colour can still be a mark of status – brand status that is. Applied to product design, colour can influence sales to such an extent that it can make or break the sales for that year. Applied to a brand, colour makes a strong statement about corporate strategy and philosophy.
Leading marketers follow colour trends and research colour options before launching a new product line. They hire colour consultants and participate in colour forecasting organisations like the international Color Marketing Group. They also evaluate sales to determine which colours sell best and then trim or alter their product lines.
Need more evidence that color choice makes a difference? Consider these statistics from the Color Marketing Group:
- Color increases brand recognition by up to 80%.
- Color improves readership as much as 40%.
- Color ads are read up to 43% more than similar ads in black and white.
- Color can account for up to 85% of the reason people decide to buy.
Humans can only process a limited number of stimuli at one time. In order for an object or communication to get noticed, it must catch our eye.
Colour plays a critical role in drawing the eye and attracting our attention.
For decades, researchers have tried to identify human preferences and associations with colour. Results may vary, but there is no denying we have an inherent association with colour. We often describe our emotions in colour; ‘Green with envy’ and ‘feeling blue’. We associate red with anger & passion, our police officers wear navy blue and our officials wear dark coloured suits. Interestingly red is still the colour of the ‘power-tie’.
When choosing a corporate brand colour, many entrepreneurs choose with their gut, or follow the industry trend. Perhaps that is why so many brands are blue…
The best way to develop your brand, however, is to choose a color that represents your philosophy and your audience. One way to do this is to evaluate your brand attributes and compare the results to recognized color psychology associations.
Start with the list of possible brand attributes below and adapt as appropriate. Include an equal number of criteria that you believe define your brand and as well as criteria that don’t. Ask employees, stakeholders and interested friends to rate your company on a scale of 1 to 10 for each brand attribute.
Average the responses and determine which brand attributes rank the highest. Then review colour psychology literature to determine which colours best reflects your brand identity.
An excellent resource is Colour – Messages & Meanings: A PANTONE Color Resource by Letrice Eiseman.
A quick overview of common color associations is found in the table below.
|Red||Proactive, passionate, romantic, sensual, powerful, dangerous|
|Yellow||Warm, ambitious, energetic, innovative|
|Green||Natural, fertile, conservative, wealthy|
|Blue||Dependable, loyal, clean, leader, technology, cold|
|Purple||Wealthy, prosperous, spiritual, creative|
|White||Pure, innocent, clean|
|Black||Authoritative, strong, powerful, aggressive, wise|
|Brown||Natural, stable, reliable, traditional|
Recognise that associations change drastically with the saturation and hue. For example, light pink says romantic and nostalgic while a bright pink says energetic and playful. Dark green says conservative and wealthy while light yellowish-greens say natural and modern. Note, also, that colour associations can change with region and ethnicity on that later on).
Another relevant consideration is the application of your brand colors. Consider the different ways you might apply brand color across a variety of mediums (e.g. uniforms, vehicles, décor, letterhead, and signage) as these decisions may influence your ultimate color choice.
Perhaps there’s no better example of color’s impact on sales than the August 1998 launch of the teal iMac®. Consumers bought up more than 800,000 machines in less than five months, and by January of 1999 Apple had launched five more fruity colors in blueberry,grape, tangerine, lime and strawberry.
At least one manufacturer in the PC market had been considering colored computers several years before Apple launched its bright palette. In 1996, Zilba Design, Inc., a company that designed for Hewlett-Packard, asked Eiseman for color recommendations. She suggested a turquoise color—only slightly different from the iMac’s® teal launch. HP rejected it, and any colors, because they felt there wouldn’t be a market demand.
Arguably, that teal color launch set off a series of marketing innovations that the PC market has still to overcome.
“Color is often the one thing that will pull people in a particular direction,” said Eiseman. “They will choose it simply because the color speaks to them. The color gives them the message of what the product is all about.”
Attract Attention. Colours make a product look new and catch consumer attention. When product development funds are tight, changing colors is an affordable way to boost sales. The consumer is more likely to notice the product and may perceive it as new and feel the need to purchase another one.
Status Symbol. Colour can also be marketed as part of an exclusive palette to signify status. When Volkswagen offered premium priced limited edition Beetles in reflex yellow and vapor blue (available through online sales only) the carmaker sold 2,500 vehicles in just over a month. Range Rover did the same thing, offering orange on of its most expensive models.
No matter what your market, one thing holds true—colour choices matter. Flip through a Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel catalogue, stroll the home goods aisles at Target, or key up the latest iPod® colours on your computer. These companies are leaders in leveraging colour marketing to stimulate consumer desire. They know that colour translates commodity products into objects of innovation. Choose the right colour at the right time and your product sells.
We’ll say it again—colour choices matter. Look at your company logo. Would it mean the same thing if the colour were pink or brown or orange? Colour adds a layer of meaning to your brand. It’s one of the first brand elements customers will recognise and the last they’ll remember. It’s a powerful tool. What is it saying about your brand story?