The colour of money | The Time Traveller’s Dog on

brain-5987641In a previous post, I touched on the issue of colour and branding.  The context was Coca Cola and the move toward a green can, designed to suggest a new variant was better for us even though it had more sugar than the diet version.

The psychology of colour is, of course, a topic that has been studied for decades and it’s of particular interest to marketers as it forms an essential part of a brand’s identity.  Get it right and this can generate “big bucks”, especially if it permeates popular culture – never forget, Santa Claus is only in red because a very long time ago Coca Cola dressed him that way for a campaign and it stuck in our psyche!

Particular colours are associated with particular things, of course, even though the association is not always what it seems.  Here in the West, for instance, we typically talk about a “white wedding”, but there are many countries around the world where this is just not so; in China, for instance, the bride traditionally wears red.  Similarly, sticking with red, bulls stereotypically charge the red cloak, something cartoons often derive great humour from when, actually, bulls are colourblind and it’s simply the movement of the cloak that is the source of the bull’s annoyance.

Where do these associations come from?  In many cases, its a process of conditioning over time.  From a young age here in England, i’ve seen brides in white so I come to associate white with weddings.  I think red for Christmas because of dear old Santa.  Marketers know about this and often talk about red conveying “excitement” in a brand whilst blue suggests “competence”.

It’s a bit more complicated than that, of course, and many other factors come into play.  A lot of it is about our own personal experiences of a brand and a colour.  It’s also about context, too.  In e-commerce, a lot of nonsense is talked about red buttons generating more “clicks” than other colours when really it’s just that the button stands out that prompts us to action.  If a web page is predominantly red, for example, a stark white button would work much better because it stands out; psychologists call this the isolation effect.  Same principle applies when a long-associated brand colour dramatically changes (our green can of Coke again).

Bottom line?  No colour is endowed with magic properties.  Colours work in branding in many different ways and, really, it’s down to how well a chosen colour fits with brand image/personality that determines its effectiveness.  There’s a fascinating piece on this by Greg Clotti over on the Huffington Post that’s well worth a read if you’re selecting a colour scheme.  In the meantime, just remember – don’t wave your jacket in front of a bull, the fact that it’s a green anorak and not a red one wont protect you from its wrath!!!