How to Choose the Best Colour For Your Brand
Marketing is all about persuasion. Regardless of what you’re selling or how you’re selling it, the goal is the same — to convince people to invest in your product.
Colour has always been an important component of marketing. Research has shown that up to 90% of snap decisions by customers are based on colour alone. The way consumers respond to colour should therefore inform how you market your brand. But how do you decide which colours are best? Are there certain colours that should be avoided?
The way we use and think about colour, both as marketers and consumers, has evolved over time. Understanding and utilising colour psychology can put you a step ahead of your competitors, but it’s no longer enough on its own.
Here’s how to use colour most effectively in today’s market, which can play a significant role in furthering the success of your business.
The Power of Individual Colours
Colour psychology explores the effect that individual colours have on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Each colour is associated with certain characteristics: red is passionate, yellow is happy, green is calming.
The idea that different colours can invoke certain emotions in people is hugely powerful from a marketing perspective. It suggests that some colours might be more effective than others when convincing consumers to buy your product.
This diagram, courtesy of The Logo Company, groups the logos of several successful companies according to colour. Each colour is also aligned with the traits it supposedly represents.
On the surface, it seems simple — all you have to do is pick the colour that best matches the desired effect of your product. If you want to come across as creative, use purple. If it’s a calming meditation app, use grey or white. Presented in this way, it’s a winning formula for choosing the perfect colour.
However, there are notable drawbacks and reasons to be sceptical about this one-size-fits-all formula. There’s perhaps some truth to it based on general trends and first impressions, but overall it’s not strong enough to base colour decisions on alone.
The idea that a colour automatically has a certain effect on your audience needs to be debunked. It’s far too general an approach — colours can’t universally invoke a singular emotion in everyone. Research has shown that it’s much more likely that factors such as upbringing, experiences, cultural differences, and personal preferences hugely influence the way we respond to individual colours.
Furthermore, looking at the diagram more closely, there are several disparities. As a brand, BP has hardly got much to do with health, nor is Canon particularly exciting. It’s not as if all trustworthy brands come under the colour blue.
Individual colour preferences can be useful — for instance, studies have shown that women are much more attracted to the colour purple than men. If your target audience is primarily women, that may be something to take into consideration. But in terms of colours inciting emotions, it’s not reliable enough to be informing your decisions.
To use colour to your advantage in today’s market, you need to be guided by context.
Context is More Important than Colour
Context is infinitely more important than colour when it comes to influencing the decisions of consumers. Colours are at their most powerful when they are used effectively in a given context.
There are two keys ways in which this can be implemented:
1. Personality of the product
It’s vital that the way you market your product reflects not only its purpose, but its personality.
People are not just drawn to the colour itself, but they way in which they feel the chosen colour matches the product. One study proved that a positive approval rate in terms of brand colour is linked to how appropriate the consumer perceives the colour to be, in relation to the product. In other words, is the colour a good match to what is being sold?
The appropriateness of the colour, then, is more important than the specific choice of colour. It’s not as if all trustworthy business come under the colour blue. It’s the metaphorical image that your brand creates that plays the biggest part is persuading consumers to invest. For example, Apple uses white in order to match its clean, sleek, sophisticated products.
Psychologist Jennifer L. Aaker created a spin-off of the Big Five personality traits, fashioning a similar model for brand personality. The five core components are Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, and Ruggedness. Analysing and understanding your brand’s personality will enable you to market it more effectively, and heighten your ability to sell the product as a consequence.
2. Ensuring your product stands out
In most sectors, today’s market is the most saturated it has ever been. It’s therefore vital that your business or product stands out if it wants to be successful.
A study on The Isolation Effect, in which the psychological principle was applied to recall and recognition, showed that the items which glaringly stood out from their surroundings were much more likely to be remembered by participants. It’s unlikely that making your logo purple rather than red will directly impact sales. But, in a world full or reds, being a purple will likely make it sell better.
Colours also bring with them reputations and associations from previous successful marketing strategies. For example, red swirling italicised writing will always remind people of Coca-Cola. Knock-off versions of the soda try to replicate the original logo as closely as possible, because people might mistake it for the original.
However, for your own product that you want to stand out on its own, you should go in the opposite direction. Create a logo that stands out. If all of your main competitors focus on red, use purple instead. Your product will stand out like a sore thumb as a result when it’s next to all the others on the shelf — and that’s a good thing.
Marketing is competitive, and it’s ever-changing. Even the most successful business slowly adapt their branding over time, in order to remain as interesting and eye-catching as possible.
Having a greater understanding of how consumers respond to different colours will help you to market your brand more effectively. Branding needs to be alluring, striking, and representative of the product. Context is far more important that the specific colour itself — it doesn’t matter which colour you choose, if you’re not thinking about your product within the wider market.
The most important takeaway, however, is this: ensure that your brand stands out. Being memorable and being unique are the most effective marketing strategies of all.