The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Category: Branding and Colors
Consider a red can of cola; blue striped capital letters, a black apple, and yellow arches –what brands come to mind? In each instance, color is the predominate element of identification and association with a brand. Color enables us to instantly recognize and draw emotional associations to a brand.
Effective and comprehensive brand strategy must consider the critical importance of color. Color is far more than a simple aesthetic consideration in the tool kit of components that make up brand identity and experience. Color is the very first perception customers will have with your brand, and along with perception comes a whole host of emotional associations.
The color of your brand is an essential character in your brand’s story. When choosing a color to represent your brand, you must think far beyond your personal, subjective preferences.
Color And The Brain
Visual perception is the primary sense humans have for exploring and making sense of their environment. Colors trigger a diverse set of responses within the cerebral cortex of the brain and throughout the central nervous system. The proper perception of color has been one of the key drivers of human evolution. If color is that important to human evolution, just think how important it is to building the value of your brand.
Once we humans identify a color, we instantly have a chemical reaction in our brain that produces an emotional response. This response triggers a multitude of thoughts, memories and associations to people, places and events. Color affects us in profound ways. Our brains are designed to respond to color. This all happens instantly under our conscious awareness.
We all know color is nothing more than the reflection of certain light waves picked up by your optic nerve, transmitted through nerves to your brain. Color doesn’t really exist; it’s only its reflection. Within our conscious minds, we have all been predisposed and indoctrinated to give meanings and feelings to particular colors within the context of what the culture at large values. These cultural associations to specific colors need to be a big driver of your strategic and creative decisions when forming the foundation of your brand’s identity in the marketplace.
Within the spectrum of visible light, there is a physiological effect. Colors with long wavelengths (red for example) illicit the faster recognition response in the brain. While colors with shorter wavelengths (blue) are more soothing and can actually lower pulse, respiration and blood pressure. It’s no accident that an insurance brand like Progressive would have blue as the primary color it its visual identity system.
The same is true for other colors in the spectrum. Yellow is a middle wavelength color detected by the eye. Consequently yellow, because it is the brightest, commands attention more easily. This is why yellow is used in road signs and the Yellow Pages. Yellow is about attention, even caution, while red powerfully represents sex and seduction.
Colors Convey A Mood And Defined Emotional State
Colors affect us in many different ways but all colors create a specific frame of mind for people–it’s called a mood. Having people be in the most receptive mood is essential for their engagement with your brand. Color sets the mood of brand expression, and more importantly, creates mental associations to the meaning of your brand within the context of the world it lives in.
John Deere owns green which means tractor. IBM has a royal blue, which means stability and reliability. Fed Ex chose two clashing colors (orange and purple) which means something important has dependably been delivered to you worthy of your attention–and your signature.
Color And Visual Identity
Color is foundational to the visual identity of your brand in all its expressions and executions–logos, packaging, products, environments and all forms of marketing communications. UPS built their whole brand story around the proposition “what can brown do for you?” Apple transformed how we think of desktop computers through the creative use of color.
It’s amazing when you look back at the profound impact this simple little innovation had in building the foundation of what Apple has become today. For strong ,well managed brands, color is more than a subjective choice–it’s a strategic business imperative.
Selecting The Right Color For Your Brand
To convey a simple idea of meaning and differentiation requires you select a color that properly fits your strategic positioning. Selecting a color (and color scheme) for your brand must represent the audience emotional associations and desires, and the value proposition or promise your brand brings to those desires.
Selecting the appropriate color to represent and differentiate your brand must be based on several criteria. Here are three of the most important:
The Target Audience
Who are those people, what do they care about, what mood do they need to be in to engage with your brand? Different consumers are affected by color in different ways and cultural trends are always in transition. What color best anchors the meaning of your value to your audience and distinguishes your brand from the competition in the category?
The Brand Archetype
If you have determined the appropriate archetype for your brand, what color best represents the attributes of the archetype? For example, if your brand archetype is the Explorer, you probably will consider colors that represent the outdoors or anything that is associated with the persona of that archetype. Red probably would not be a wise choice.
Color means different things to people in different parts of the world, in different cultures. In the US, white represents purity, while in some regions of Asia it is the color of mourning. Color perceptions and meanings change with race, age, social class, gender and religion. The demographics and psychographics that are most dominate in the culture will be an important consideration in selecting the color that represents your brand in markets the brand serves.
The Bottom Line
Selecting colors to represent your brand should never be an exercise in trendiness, or coolness, driven by the whims of your ad agency creative director or the personal taste of the CEO’s spouse. Properly chosen colors define your brand’s value, strengthen and support your brand positioning, enable greater awareness and customer recall, and distinguish your brand among its alternatives. Picking the right color should never be underestimated.
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education
Today’s retail environment is unlike any we have ever experienced. The complexity of brand SKUs and myriad POP materials bombards the shopper, making it almost impossible for individual products to stand out on shelf.
Despite brand marketers’ belief that the words on pack are the most important driver of purchase intent, recent studies demonstrate that they are actually the least important component of the packaging mix. In fact, the operative communications hierarchy puts color atop the list, with shapes, symbols and words following in that sequence. When approaching a package redesign it is this hierarchy of semiotics that ultimately drives sales in the store aisles.
Studies show that on average shoppers take just five seconds to locate and select a given product, generally at a distance of from three-to-six feet. Locating that product occurs when it is visible to the passing shopper. Here visibility is measured by contrast and the physiological driver that creates contrast is color. Color is one of the brain’s three visual pathways and, since we process every object within view simultaneously, color is the mechanism that places emphasis on certain areas. In addition to enhancing on-shelf visibility, the appropriate use of color can increase brand recognition by some 80%, while also serving as an important brand identifier.
While color works on one level, it is not the only factor leading to product selection. Memorable shapes also initiate a cognitive process of evaluation and brand preference. Shapes often determine the first impression of a product while metaphorically communicating key benefits and advantages. In combination, color and shape combinations can signal quality, while enhancing perception. For instance, symmetrical shapes pair well with passive colors… triangular and diamond shapes with active colors. Color /shape combinations can also communicate brand personality, so like color, the use of shape in brand identity and design plays a role well beyond on-shelf visibility.
Two marketing professors have been studying these shades of meaning and publishing provocative papers on color-coding and what it does to buyers’ expectations. So we went to Barbara E. Kahn (at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania) and Elizabeth G. Miller (at Boston College) for some answers.
Q: Is there anything wrong with good old “Fire Engine Red” to identify a nail polish?
We find in our research that consumers tend to react positively to ambiguous names and specific, unexpected names. If Fire Engine Red is surprising to consumers, then they will react more positively to it. If it’s not, then it’s similar to just calling it “red.”
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this description, but with the multitude of choices that a consumer faces every day, marketers are increasingly looking for ways to stand out and coming out with an unusual name is one way.
Q: You have commented that it’s astonishing when Crayola comes out with names that don’t describe the color of crayons. Why so?Read More
What colors have you chosen for your marketing materials? What were your reasons for making that particular choice? Was it because you liked those particular colors, or did you have a particular marketing message in mind? While visual appeal is an important consideration, your color choices could be sending a specific message to the people who view them. Are you sure you know what that message is?
You'd be wise to consider the psychology of color when designing your marketing materials. Be it business card, brochure, web site, posters or other material, you'll be making color choices. Colors not only enhance the appearance of the item — they also influence our behavior. You will do well to consider the impact that the colors you use will have on your target audience.
For instance, have you noticed that most fast food restaurants are decorated with vivid reds and oranges? It's no accident that these colors show up so frequently. Studies have shown that reds and oranges encourage diners to eat quickly and leave — and that's exactly what fast food outlets want you to do.
It's also no accident that you see a lot of reds and blacks on adult web sites. These colors are thought to have sexual connotations.
Ever notice that toys, books and children's web sites usually contain large blocks of bright, primary colors? Young children prefer these colors and respond more positively than they do to to pastels or muted blends.
Market researchers have had a field day identifying the colors and the likely effect they have upon us.Read More