How important are colours for branding?

Colours are essential for branding. A bit like how coffee is essential to all my mornings. 90% of all snap judgements are based on colour alone and 80% of all the information we receive from logos come from the colours contained in it. We see colours way before we even process the design or content. Colours are basically the god of snap judgements and hugely important in decision making.

Primal purchasing

Why? Well we always use our senses as a primary decision maker when we invest in something, whether that’s sight, smell, sound, taste or touch.

We like to think we use our rational brain more, especially when we go shopping or pick a company, but we actually use our primal instincts which are governed by the senses. Sometimes we give our rational voice centre stage but only really when the red flags start to flash, or when even your primal urge to throw caution to the wind would actually make your life significantly worse. Think buying lavishly expensive trainers when your bank is already sending you passive aggressive letters.

Impulsivity over sense often wins because split decision making was essential for our survival when we were still cave dwellers. If we were in danger or if we needed to catch prey that split impulsive decision would often help save the day. The problem is that we can’t switch it off, and instead of using our impulsivity to scratch out our own survival we often use it to invest in things we don’t need or to pick one company over another for no real reason at all.

Brands bank on that impulsivity, much more than on carefully weighed up purchases. They use techniques that catch the eye and trigger an instant reaction so that they get noticed and stick in our brains, and the first thing our eyes see is colour.

Colour me pretty

Colour isn’t just the first thing our eyes notice and remember, we also have very strong emotional connections to colours. This might sound a bit out there, but we really do connect moods to colours and subconsciously connect those to something we are reading or buying into. Linking colours to our own experience of the world helps us to better connect with brands and companies. Brands know this and are basically whispering colourful sweet nothings to us all day long.

Colour psychology is actually pretty academic stuff and has been through a lot of research and debate, especially whether colour psychology is personal or generic, or whether we all experience the same thing when we look at a colour. There are theories out there that the most popular colours trigger specific emotions in all of us, for example:

Red: Excitement, youthful, bold.

Blue: Trust, dependable, strength.

Yellow: Optimism, clarity, warmth

Orange: Friendly, cheerful, confidence

Purple: creative, imaginative, wise

Green: peaceful, growth, health

Grey/Black: balance, neutral, calm

Think about some of the most famous companies and the logos they chose: Virgin, Oral B, Facebook, Lego, Carlsberg, Apple, Ikea, WordPress. Think about what emotions each company tries to sell, does it align with their brand colours?

What’s even crazier is that I don’t even need to add the logos to the brands because you’re already picturing each colour. Companies know that colours matter because they are remembered and linked to their values. It’s no coincidence that a lot of tech companies use the colour blue or that a lot of food and beverage companies implement green or yellow into their visuals.

Grey Area

The only snag with applying a broad theory over our individual colour perceptions is that we didn’t all fall from the same tree. Culture, language and personal experience mean that we can have very different emotional triggers to colour.

For example, red is a tricky colour to use in branding. The colour could be seen as exciting and fun to some but could be seen as a sign of danger (another neat evolutionary trick) or erotic to another person. There are also colours that are considered lucky or bad omens in different cultures.

So how do brands decide on a colour if there’s such variation in colour perception?

A lot of companies carry out A/B testing or traditional customer research to understand how their brand colours are perceived in a market or with their target audience. They also carry out a lot of trend analysis where they process specific data to understand general opinion. Google infamously A/B tested 41 different shades of blue for its logo to see which one performed best, which earned the search engine a cool $200m more a year.

Remember me?

In the end, brands do well when they emulate who we are and what we care about. Being remembered and establishing an emotional connection is crucial for any brand because it’s crucial for us as humans, and colour is a huge part of that decision process.

Psst! Did you know that we work on strengthening brand as well as building you a website at Bamboo? If you want to find out more give us a ring or come into Ziferblat for a chat