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The Psychology of Colour in Marketing and Branding

The psychology of colour as it relates to persuasion is one of the most interesting – and most controversial – aspects of marketing.

Gregory Ciotti

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Most of today’s conversations on colours and persuasion consist of hunches, anecdotal evidence and advertisers blowing smoke about “colours and the mind.”

To alleviate this trend and give proper treatment to a truly fascinating element of human behaviour, today we’re going to cover a selection of the most reliable research on colour theory and persuasion.

Misconceptions around the Psychology of Colour

Why does colour psychology invoke so much conversation … but is backed with so little factual data?

As research shows, it’s likely because elements such as personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, context, etc., often muddy the effect individual colours have on us.

So the idea that colours such as yellow or purple are able to invoke some sort of hyper-specific emotion is about as accurate as your standard Tarot card reading.

The conversation is only worsened by incredibly vapid visuals that sum up colour psychology with awesome “facts” such as this one:

The colour yellow

Don’t fret, though. Now it’s time to take a look at some research-backed insights on how colour plays a role in persuasion.

The Importance of Colours in Branding

First, let’s address branding, which is one of the most important issues relating to colour perception and the area where many articles on this subject run into problems.

There have been numerous attempts to classify consumer responses to different individual colours:

Colour Emotion Guide

… but the truth of the matter is that colour is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings.

But there are broader messaging patterns to be found in colour perceptions. For instance, colours play a fairly substantial role in purchases and branding.

In an appropriately titled study called Impact of Color in Marketing, researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on colour alone (depending on the product).

And in regards to the role that colour plays in branding, results from studies such as The Interactive Effects of Colors show that the relationship between brands and colour hinges on the perceived appropriateness of the colour being used for the particular brand (in other words, does the colour “fit” what is being sold).

The study Exciting Red and Competent Blue also confirms that purchasing intent is greatly affected by colours due to the impact they have on how a brand is perceived. This means that colours influence how consumers view the “personality” of the brand in question (after all, who would want to buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle if they didn’t get the feeling that Harleys were rugged and cool?).

Additional studies have revealed that our brains prefer recognisable brands, which makes colour incredibly important when creating a brand identity.

It has even been suggested in Color Research & Application that it is of paramount importance for new brands to specifically target logo colours that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors (if the competition all uses blue, you’ll stand out by using purple).

When it comes to picking the “right” colour, research has found that predicting consumer reaction to colour appropriateness in relation to the product is far more important than the individual colour itself. So, if Harley owners buy the product in order to feel rugged, you could assume that the pink + glitter edition wouldn’t sell all that well.

Psychologist and Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker has conducted studies on this very topic via research on Dimensions of Brand Personality, and her studies have found five core dimensions that play a role in a brand’s personality:

Brand personality

(Brands can sometimes cross between two traits, but they are mostly dominated by one. High fashion clothing feels sophisticated, camping gear feels rugged.)

Additional research has shown that there is a real connection between the use of colours and customers’ perceptions of a brand’s personality.

Certain colours DO broadly align with specific traits (e.g., brown with ruggedness, purple with sophistication, and red with excitement).

But nearly every academic study on colours and branding will tell you that it’s far more important for your brand’s colours to support the personality you want to portray instead of trying to align with stereotypical colour associations.

Consider the inaccuracy of making broad statements such as “green means calm.” The context is missing; sometimes green is used to brand environmental issues such as Timberland’s G.R.E.E.N standard, but other times it’s meant to brand financial spaces such as Mint.com.

And while brown may be useful for a rugged appeal (think Saddleback Leather), when positioned in another context brown can be used to create a warm, inviting feeling (Thanksgiving) or to stir your appetite (every chocolate commercial you’ve ever seen).

Bottom line: I can’t offer you an easy, clear-cut set of guidelines for choosing your brand’s colours, but I can assure you that the context you’re working within is an absolutely essential consideration.

It’s the feeling, mood, and image that your brand creates that play a role in persuasion. Be sure to recognise that colours only come into play when they can be used to match a brand’s desired personality (i.e., the use of white to communicate Apple’s love of clean, simple design).

Without this context, choosing one colour over another doesn’t make much sense, and there is very little evidence to support that ‘orange’ will universally make people purchase a product more often than ‘silver’.

Colour Preferences by Gender

Perceived appropriateness may explain why the most popular car colours are white, black, silver and gray … but is there something else at work that explains why there aren’t very many purple power tools?

One of the better studies on this topic is Joe Hallock’s Colour Assignments. Hallock’s data showcases some clear preferences in certain colours across gender.

It’s important to note that one’s environment – and especially cultural perceptions – plays a strong role in dictating colour appropriateness for gender, which in turn can influence individual choices.

Consider, for instance, this coverage by Smithsonian magazine detailing how blue became the colour for boys and pink was eventually deemed the colour for girls (and how it used to be the reverse!).

Here were Hallock’s findings for the most and least favourite colours of men and women:

Gender Favourite colours

 

Gender least favourite colours

The most notable points in these images is the supremacy of blue across both genders (it was the favourite colour for both groups) and the disparity between groups on purple.

Women list purple as a top-tier colour, but no men list purple as a favourite colour. (Perhaps this is why we have no purple power tools, a product largely associated with men?)

Additional research in studies on colour perception and colour preferences show that when it comes to shades, tints and hues men seem to prefer bold colours while women prefer softer colours.

Also, men were more likely to select shades of colours as their favourites (colours with black added), whereas women were more receptive to tints of colours (colours with white added):

Tints vs shades

The above infographic from KISSmetrics showcases the disparity in men and women’s colour preferences.

Keep this information in mind when choosing your brand’s primary colour palette. Given the starkly different taste preferences shown, it pays to appeal more to men or women if they make up a larger percentage of your ideal buyers.

Colour Coordination + Conversions

Debunking the “best” colour for conversion rates on websites has recently been a very popular topic (started here and later here). They make some excellent points, because it is definitely true that there is no single best colour for conversions.

The psychological principle known as the Isolation Effect states that an item that “stands out like a sore thumb” is more likely to be remembered. Research clearly shows that participants are able to recognise and recall an item far better (be it text or an image) when it blatantly sticks out from its surroundings.

Blurred image

(The sign-up button stands out because it’s like a red “island” in a sea of blue.)

The studies Aesthetic Response to Color Combinations and Consumer Preferences for Color Combinations also find that while a large majority of consumers prefer colour patterns with similar hues, they favor palettes with a highly contrasting accent colour.

In terms of colour coordination (as highlighted in this KISSmetrics graphic), this would mean creating a visual structure consisting of base analogous colours and contrasting them with accent complementary colours (or you can use tertiary colours):

Tertiary colour chart

Another way to think of this is to utilise background, base and accent colours to create a hierarchy(as Josh from StudioPress showcases below) on your site that “coaches” customers on which colour means take action:

Background base accent

Why this matters: Although you may start to feel like an interior decorator after reading this section, this stuff is actually incredibly important in helping you understand the why behind conversion jumps and slumps. As a bonus, it will help keep you from drinking the conversion rate optimization Kool-Aid that misleads so many people.

Consider, for instance, this often-cited example of a boost in conversions due to a change in button colour:

Button colour

 

The button change to red boosted conversions by 21 percent, but that doesn’t mean that red holds some sort of magic power to get people to take action.

Take a closer look at the image: It’s obvious that the rest of the page is geared toward a green palette, which means a green call to action simply blends in with the surroundings. Red, meanwhile, provides a stark visual contrast (and is a complementary colour to green).

We find additional evidence of the isolation effect in a myriad of multivariate tests, including this one conducted by Paras Chopra and published in Smashing magazine. Chopra was testing to see how he could get more downloads for his PDFProducer program, and included the following variations in his test:

Download button colour test

Can you guess which combination performed the best? (Hint: remember, contrast is important.)

Here were the results:

Download colour button results

As you can see, example #10 outperformed the others by a large margin. It’s probably not a coincidence that it creates the most contrast out of all of the examples. You’ll notice that the PDF Producer text is small and light gray in colour, but the action text (“Download for Free”) is large and red, creating the contrast needed for high conversions.

While this is but one study of many, the isolation effect should be kept in mind when testing colour palettes to create contrast in your web design and guide people to important action areas.

Why We Love “Mocha” but Hate “Brown”

Although different colours can be perceived in different ways, the names of those colours matters as well!

According to this study, when subjects were asked to evaluate products with different colour names (such as makeup), “fancy” names were preferred far more often. For example, mocha was found to be significantly more likeable than brown – despite the fact that the researchers showed subjects the same colour!

Additional research finds that the same effect applies to a wide variety of products; consumers rated elaborately named paint colours as more pleasing to the eye than their simply named counterparts.

It has also been shown that more unusual and unique colour names can increase the intent to purchase. For instance, jelly beans with names such as razzmatazz were more likely to be chosen than jelly beans names such as lemon yellow. This effect was also found in non-food items such as sweatshirts.

As strange as it may seem, choosing creative, descriptive and memorable names to describe certain colours (such as “sky blue” over “light blue”) can be an important part of making sure the colour of the product achieves its biggest impact.

Wilmington, Del.,-based Gregory Ciotti is the marketing strategist at Help Scout, the invisible email support software for small businesses. He also writes about behavioral psychology at his blog Sparring Mind.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Claire Brandon

    Jun 2, 2014 at 11:57

    Excellent article. There is still so much ignorance about this. I’ve seen businesses increase their turnover by following the principles you speak about.

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Branding

5 Ways To Make Your Personal Branding Statement Stand Out

If you have a LinkedIn account, you have a brand statement. But does it make you easily discoverable and motivate others to connect?

Mel Carson

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If you’re reading this, you likely already have a personal branding statement: If you have a LinkedIn account, for instance, you have a branding statement. But, is yours the kind of summary that makes you easily discoverable and motivates others to reach out and connect?

Maybe yes, but maybe no.

A strong personal branding statement is connected to your professional purpose, or the reason you do what you do. While your professional purpose serves as an internal compass, pointing your passion in the right direction, a personal branding statement is above all your calling card.

It’s the first impression of you that you offer on paper and the thing on which many will base their “Do I engage or not?” decision.

So, yes, your branding statement is a big deal. It’s a living statement about you, your passions and your capabilities and should therefore be written with thought and care. But, honestly, for all that’s riding on crafting a strong branding statement, it’s not that hard to do.

Here are five quick ways to make sure yours stands out in a crowd.

Move beyond your professional purpose

Do you have a professional purpose? A statement that describes the why behind your work? If you don’t, that’s step one.  A personal branding statement combines your purpose with some relevant data about your professional world to accurately describe who you are, what you do and why you do it. To gather that data, take a few minutes to free-write about the following:

  • Your education experience
  • Your work experience
  • What you love about what you do
  • What you find hard about what you do
  • Where you want to be in three years

Here’s the formula: purpose + data = personal branding statement.

Related: The 3 Biggest Mistakes CEOs Make With Their Personal Brand (And How To Turn Those Mistakes Around)

Pull out the mission

This is your opportunity to be bold and clear about what direction you want your career to go in. Look at all the information you’ve written down and use it to flesh out a mission – this should be a powerful sentence or phrase that tells people who you are.

Your mission sentence can be helpful for two reasons: It serves as a personal reminder to you and carries with it an element of accountability, but also helps prospective employers or clients quickly assess if you’d be a good match or not.

Identify your value

Within your personal branding statement, identify your professional value.

A subjective term, this “value” could be described in the following ways: Your experience, industry expertise, noteworthy clients, education level and personal passion.

At this juncture, I would encourage you to take a moment and empathise with prospective clients, customers and employers. What would be a strong value indicator in your field of work? What are they looking for? Don’t be fictitious, of course (an immediate career killer); but do be choosy. Include points of value geared toward both your professional career goals and your industry niche.

Be real

Sounds simple, right? Be real, be you, but it’s it one of the hardest things to do. Writing about ourselves is uncomfortable. It’s difficult to find the right balance between not saying enough and saying too much. Here are a couple of pieces of advice I would offer toward the goal of being real:

  • Avoid the fluff and stay away from fancy claims you can’t back up. They will bite back.
  • Stay away from buzzwords. (Here’s a list of words to avoid in your LinkedIn profile.) They will do the opposite of what you intended.
  • Be self-aware and write a statement that accurately reflects your experience, passions and capabilities. Simplicity is OK. Short statements are, too.

Here’s an example of my own personal branding statement broken down: “Focusing on helping businesses and individuals achieve success through enduring social media, digital PR and personal branding strategies …”

Next, I put the customer (my target audience) first and mention my fields of expertise: “My 18 years of online advertising industry experience and seven years at Microsoft as digital marketing evangelist, enable me to provide counsel to my clients that is truly relevant, robust and real-time.”

Notice that I make sure to draw attention to my seven years at Microsoft (a value indicator) and state my mission:  “Always striving to keep pace with the ever-changing nature of digital media and technology, I aim to improve my clients’ competitive position through partnership, tenacity and accountability.”

I continue on about my mission, but also describe my aim for achieving clarity, using my own words without sounding over-stated.

Related: Personal Brand Or Business Brand: Which Is More Important?

Revisit the statement on a quarterly basis

Your personal branding statement should grow with you.  As you rise in your career and work with new, interesting clients, take on new projects or learn a valuable skill, your personal branding statement should reflect those changes. I would encourage you to revisit it every three months or so to double-check that your purpose, mission and values still ring true in the present day.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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The First Thing You Should Do When Building Your Brand (Hint: It Isn’t Pick Out A Logo)

The best way to build your brand is to start from the inside out.

Rebecca Horan

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When you’re launching a new business, it’s tempting to go straight to the fun stuff – the logo, the colours, the mood board. But, before going down the Pinterest rabbit hole, it’s important to establish the core purpose and belief system of your brand.

Indeed, studies show that companies with purpose grow twice as fast as those with a low sense of purpose. So, a beautifully designed visual brand identity without a clearly defined purpose is like an exquisitely wrapped present that’s … well, empty.

Despite this, a Gallup survey shows that only 41 percent of workers know what their company stands for and how it differs from competitor brands. That’s a problem. Because informed and engaged employees are often the front line ambassadors for a brand, this disconnect can lead to customer confusion or worse, indifference. The snazziest logo in the world can’t save the business that neglects the heart of its brand.

As a brand strategist, one of the first steps I take in developing entrepreneurs’ brands is to help them to establish their core purpose. Having a clearly defined and expressed purpose not only serves as an internal compass that guides their decision-making and strategic direction, but it also acts as a beacon for their ideal customers – making it easier to understand, relate to and remember what the business represents.

Related: Are You A Commodity Or A Brand?

The best way to build your brand is to start from the inside out. It’s like constructing a building: You need a strong foundation. The following three steps will help you to understand and articulate the heart and soul of your brand.

1. Create your mission statement

Articulating your mission is one of the most important, yet often overlooked steps in creating a powerful brand. Simply put, your mission reflects what you’ve set out to do.

What makes a great mission statement? It should be clear, provide some strategic direction and inspire. When crafting your mission, think about your business goals, the value you’d like to bring, whom you serve and how you do it. Ideally, your mission will also be clear enough for people outside your organisation to understand and concise enough for you – and your employees – to remember.

Let’s take a look at how Honest Tea does it:

“Honest Tea seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity we use to craft our recipes, with sustainability and great taste for all.”

The first sentence describes what’s being produced (great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages), while the second sentence touches on important elements of the value the business brings (honesty, integrity and sustainability) and who it serves (for all).

After you’ve written your mission statement, revisit it regularly as you build your brand. You might find that it needs some tweaks as your business grows.

define-your-vision

2. Define your vision

If mission is the “what,” then your brand’s vision is the “why.” Your vision is a future-focused statement that paints a vivid picture of what the world will look like once you’ve accomplished your mission. It’s not just inspirational, it’s aspirational. Rallying around a powerful vision can help everyone in an organisation stay motivated, inspired and focused on the big picture when things get tough.

A great way to approach the vision statement is to think about the ultimate impact of the product or service you provide. A good strategy is to focus on the benefit of what you offer. Then dig a little deeper … What is the benefit of that benefit? Keep going until you have a clear picture of what the future will look like when you’ve succeeded. Above all, think big.

Ikea’s vision is:

“To create a better everyday life for the people.”

It’s a deceptively simple-looking statement. For anyone familiar with Ikea, the explanatory statement that follows is unnecessary, but it explains each component of the simple vision statement:

“Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

Related: How To Build A Community Around Your Brand

3. Identify your values

Your brand (or core) values are like the pillars of your company. They are going to help guide your organisation’s actions, influence the workplace culture, help your team to make sourcing and hiring decisions and ultimately impact customer loyalty. Why? Because it’s in our nature to want to align ourselves with people, products and organisations that share our values.

Think about what you stand for – and what you’ll never compromise on. Consider the beliefs and qualities that have a unique, direct and meaningful impact on the way you do business. While there’s no “magic number,” for brand values, more than five can be difficult to remember and internalise, and fewer than three isn’t really enough to give the full picture of your business.

Once you’ve determined your brand values, write them as statements that exemplify how they’re implemented in your business. A great example of this is Starbucks’ values:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

Imagine the difference if they had simply listed words like “Inclusion,” “Courage,” “Transparency” and “Accountability,” instead of illustrating these concepts with these descriptive sentences.

It’s not enough to simply slap some values up on your website and call it a day. Successful business owners know that it’s all in the implementation. We must weave our brand’s mission, vision and values into the fabric of our business. Everything we do and say, from our offerings to our marketing to our hiring approach, should not only align with, but reinforce our mission, vision and values.

Once you’ve laid the foundation, other elements, like a logo, will come easier to you, your team and any outside partners.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How A Branded Car Can Boost Your Business

Below are just some of the ways a branded car can boost your business.

Amy Galbraith

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If you own a small business or you have a franchise to run, you know the power of branding. And you likely use it on a regular basis to draw in more clients and retain your current ones. If you understand that getting your brand out there in the eye of the public is important, then you will have looked into unique ways to do so. One of these is to invest in a branded vehicle for your company.

You can speak to the used car dealers in Gauteng and surrounds about which cars are the easiest to brand and move on from there. Be sure to choose branding that reflects your company or you could choose to have your logo incorporated on the vinyl. If you are looking at pre-owned vehicles, a luxury car will help to improve the message of your brand, depending on your industry.

Awareness of your brand is increased

Roadside advertisements are eye-catching, especially if they are on billboards or larger signposts. But when was the last time you actually stopped and noticed one? This is likely because, as a driver, you are paying attention to the other cars rather than advertisements on boards and poles.

Branded vehicles are much more effective at increasing brand awareness because they are noticed more often by other drivers and passengers. If you are sending your company car into the traffic every day, then your brand will be getting more exposure than it would with a billboard. This is because other drivers are noticing it and can spend longer looking your logo and contact details.

People will become familiar with your brand

Consumers would rather purchase from a brand they know or have heard of than from one they know nothing about. And by branding your vehicle, you will create familiarity in consumers, leading to trust and eventually to more customers.

If people know your brand, they will buy from you. You can breed this familiarity by branding your company car so that whenever your staff are out at meetings or making deliveries, the public will notice your brand and company details.

For example, if you sell bespoke wedding cakes and you drive around a certain geographical location on a daily basis, the next bride who lives in that area will recognise your brand and might use you to create their wedding masterpiece.

Related: 6 Personal Branding Rules To Being Popular And Profitable

It creates a positive association

Having a positive brand association is ideal for every business. And vehicle branding can help with this. Once you have chosen your company car from one of your local second-hand car dealerships, you can create a vehicle wrap with your company logo, branding and details on it.

An effective way to create a positive brand association is to ask your staff to park in front of health and wellness centres when going to meetings or high-end shopping centres. You should also always ensure that whoever is driving the company car obeys the road rules and does not cause any accidents on the road. This will show the public that your business or company values people and thus values consumers, giving them a positive association with your brand. It is a simple but effective way to garner new clients and impress current ones.

You will look professional

There is nothing more embarrassing than turning up to a client meeting in a dilapidated car. The first impression that you make on the client will not be positive and you will be entering into an agreement with someone who views your company in a negative light, which is never a good sign.

Having a branded car will make you look professional and will set you aside from the competition. You should look for cars for sale in Gauteng and surrounds with little to no rust or damage before branding the vehicle. You will show the clients that you take your business seriously and want to make an impression on them.

If you are making house calls or delivering goods to a customer, they will feel reassured when seeing a branded car pull up outside. Not only will you look professional, but you will be proud of your company and will want to show it off.

Related: The Economics of Branding

Show the world your style

Aside from helping you look professional, a branded vehicle will show the world your company’s style. You will be able to show clients that you take your work seriously and, because your car is out in traffic, you will garner familiarity with consumers.

People will become more aware of your brand and will have a positive association with your brand and image. So, if you want to boost your business and stand out from the crowd, be sure to look into branding your vehicle and making it shine among normal cars.

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