Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Importance of Colors In Marketing

Color is one of the most important considerations in your brand identity system as colors have a significant impact on people’s emotional state. They also have been shown to impact people’s ability to concentrate and learn, as well as a host of other psychological associations. For instance:
  • Non-primary colors are more calming than primary colors.
  • Blue is the most calming of the primary colors, followed closely by a lighter red.
  • Blue text increases reading retention.
  • Yellow evokes cheerfulness.
  • Reds and oranges encourage diners to eat quickly and leave. Red also makes food more appealing and influences people to eat more. (It is no coincidence that fast-food restaurants often use these colors – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Sonic, KFC, Friendly’s, Pizza Hut, In-N-Out Burger, etc.)
  • Pink enhances appetites and has been shown to calm prison inmates.
  • Blue and black suppress appetites.
  • Children prefer primary colors. (Consider the brand colors for Toys “R” Us, the Lego store and Build-A-Bear Workshop. And notice that children’s toys and books often use these colors.)
  • Luxury brands almost always use use gold (and often with brown and other rich warm tones) and sometimes in combination with black in their identity systems. For example, consider the Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Rolex, Burberry, Prada and Christian Dior brands. This also happens to be the list of the most valuable luxury fashion brands.
  • Forest green and burgundy appeal to the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans, and often raise the perceived price of an item. Whole Foods, Starbucks, Jaguar, Lacoste and Fidelity Investments feature forest green as their primary brand color. Rolex not only uses the gold crown and black as mentioned above, but also forest green. Gucci not only uses gold letters and brown background as mentioned above but also with a band of burgundy and forest green stripes. Cartier uses gold, black and burgundy.
  • Green is associated with health and compassion.
  • Green is also used to indicate environmentally friendly brands. Green also works for Whole Foods in this regard. BP, Sierra Club, Animal Planet, hundreds of other brands that want to be perceived as environmentally friendly use green as their primary brand color.
  • White is typically associated with being cool, clean, and fresh. It is also associated with goodness and perfection.
  • Violet is associated with spirituality and wisdom.
  • Purple is associated with royalty, wealth, dignity and quality.
  • Orange and yellow are used to make an expensive item seem less expensive.
  • Red clothing can convey power.
  • Red trim is used in bars and casinos because it can cause people to lose track of time.
  • Most people (76 percent) associate “speed” with the color red. Notice that most sports car brands offer red as a color option.
  • Red is a strong color. It is associated with courage, aggression and even rage.
  • Red and black are often associated with being sexy and seductive and are favored by porn sites. Red and black also have a high association with fear and terror.
  • Black is associated with elegance, sophistication, and mystery.
  • “Fun” is most associated with orange, yellow, purple, and red.
  • “Trust” is most associated with blue and white. Goldman Sachs and American Express are blue and white as are GE and Oral-B.
  • “High quality,” “high technology,” and “reliability/dependability” are most associated with black and blue. IBM, Samsung, Intel, Philips, Motorola, HP, Dell, AT&T, Siemens and Nokia are blue, as are GM, Ford, Mazda, VW, Hyundai, PayPal, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Skype.

According to House Beautiful’s Color Report, America’s favorite color is blue (29 percent), followed by green (21 percent). Red and purple are tied in third place at 8 percent.

Worldwide, men’s favorite color is blue (42 percent) followed by green (25 percent) and purple (12 percent) while women’s favorite color is blue (29 percent) followed by purple (27 percent) and green (19 percent).

Even Crayola can attest to the popularity of blue. In its 2000 Crayola Color Census, blue rated #1, but six other shades of blue also rated among the top ten – cerulean, midnight blue, aquamarine, periwinkle, denim and blizzard blue.

America’s favorite colors, based on percent of d├ęcor purchased nationally (according to are as follows:
  1. Blue (7.41%)
  2. Black (6.22%)
  3. Grey (6.08%)
  4. Pink (5.15%)
  5. White (5.15%)
  6. Green (4.42%)
  7. Red (3.31%)
  8. Yellow (2.64%)
  9. Orange (3.57%)
  10. Turquois (1.82%)
  11. Purple (1.75%)
  12. Brown (1.57%)
  13. Beige (.47%)
  14. Violet (.35%)
  15. Lime (.30%)
According to the LA Times, America’s favorite car colors are as follows:
  1. White
  2. Black
  3. Silver
  4. Blue
  5. Grey
  6. Red
  7. Beige/brown
  8. Green
  9. Yellow/gold
  10. Other
Colors also have a functional impact on readability, eyestrain, the ability to attract attention, and the ability to be seen at night. These factors are important in choosing colors for signing, website pages, prints ads, and other marketing media.
  • The most visible color is yellow.
  • The most legible of all color combinations are black on yellow and green on white, followed by red on white. (It is no surprise that most traffic signs use these color combinations.)
  • Black on white is easiest to read, on paper and computer screens. “Hard” colors (red, orange, and yellow) are more visible and tend to make objects look larger and closer. They are easier to focus on. They create excitement and cause people to overestimate available time.
  • “Soft” colors (violet, blue, and green) are less visible and tend to make objects look smaller and further away. They aren’t as easy to focus on. They have a calming effect, increase concentration, and cause people to underestimate remaining time.

Color preferences vary by use/application and industry. Preferences change over time as well, often influenced by fashion designers and each year's "hot colors." According to many sources, metallics are the new neutral colors for 2018. Other hot colors in 2018 are beige, black, brown, orange, yellow and lavender. Further, there are significant regional differences in color preferences. Finally, subtle variations in hues can have widely different preferences. 

Some brands are known by their distinctive colors, for instance Tiffany's robin's egg blue boxes and bags, John Deere's green and yellow, Coca-Cola's red and white, UPS's brown, Starbuck's green and Apple's white. And French brands L'Occitane En Provence, Veuve Clicquot and Hermes all are identified by hues of French yellow orange.

Some product categories are dominated by a certain set of colors and sometimes a brand changes its color palette to stand out or make a statement. Sprint decided to change its colors from red, white and black to yellow, white and black to stand out in the crowded telecommunications category, especialy vis-a-vis Verizon. Yellow is bright and cheery and can remind one of the sun, flowers and lemons. 

Obviously, colors are an important part of any brand identity system. Testing the affect of a new brand identity system’s colors is well advised. It is important to consider that color associations will vary by individual and especially by cultural context and a person’s previous experiences with the colors. For instance, in Hinduism, white is a color used in mourning and is not appropriate for weddings.

I hope this article has made you a little bit more thoughtful when choosing colors for your brand. 

© 1999-2018 Brad VanAuken - Much of this is reprinted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

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