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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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Brand And Marketing: Finding The Balance For SMEs

For some entrepreneurs, this can be quite a sobering thing to do whilst for others it reinforces that they are on the right path to success.

Gary Harwood

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Being in business is about more than just hitting the bottom line. Sure, financial growth is imperative to continued success. But if nobody knows about you, then your achievements will be limited to the short-term. Enter the world of brand and marketing.

To the uninitiated, these concepts might seem interrelated. And to a certain extent they are. However, branding revolves around delivering on a promise, it is what defines you as an SME and what makes you different from your competitors.

Marketing is about how you do it – your tactics and your strategic goals. It is about promoting a product or service to sell and earn revenue.

Both are equally important, and no entrepreneur can afford to ignore one in favour of the other. But how do you balance a limited budget and resources to finding the right balance? In some ways, it is best to take a step back and view your business from the perspective of your customers.

Related: The Secret Ingredients to a Successful Branding Strategy

For some entrepreneurs, this can be quite a sobering thing to do whilst for others it reinforces that they are on the right path to success.

Emotional versus rationale

Cynics might argue that branding is all about emotions while marketing is a more rationale (and logical) pursuit. After all, how do you ‘know’ your customer? How do you analyse the effectiveness of your brand promise?

It might be an easy thing for large organisations to measure, but for a business just starting out, it is quite a challenging prospect. Given how data has exploded in recent years, organisations have a wealth of information at their disposal to analyse, scrutinise, and draw insight from in getting to grips with the effectiveness of their brand promise.

And while this might seem daunting for your SME, it does not have to be the case. While there are more than enough models to measure brand equity, most are challenging (not to mention costly) to implement and they all require extensive research.

Fortunately, things like internal staff surveys (questions like what do your employees think your brand identity and promise is), how integrated your brand and marketing efforts are (do your tactics reflect what you want to achieve), and how you compare to the competitors, can be reviewed relatively quickly and cost effectively.

Related: The Economics of Branding

The business of marketing

Marketing can add a dynamic component to this mix. By focusing on the tactical elements of how to achieve business growth (specific to your brand promise), the SME can develop a more nuanced strategy that factors in both emotional and rationale elements.

We all want to make money but that hardly has the makings of a solid marketing strategy. In fact, marketing is less about flashiness and more about implementing solid business principles.

Sure, the sexiness comes in some of the tactical executions but it all revolves around delivering value to shareholders, marketing to the strengths of your business, and setting yourself apart from your competitors.

A successful marketing campaign revolves around bringing customers to your business. And this is where the brand promise is so important. You must understand what the customer requirements are if you are to deliver tactics that fulfil them.

Business today requires branding and marketing to work together. By compromising the one in favour of the other will not result in any significant long-term gains but risk your SME losing ground to competitors.

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5 Steps To Building Your Personal Brand From Scratch

Whenever you engage, shine a light on your values.

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What would you like people to say about you?

As Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Your personal brand is the sum total of what you do, how you do it and why you do it. It’s not something you can fake. It’s authentic and deep-seated.

If you get it right, your personal brand will make you stand out from the crowd, shine a spotlight on your expertise and enhance your value. You’ll have an energy and a buzz about you that people can’t help being drawn to.

So how can you build your personal brand?

For starters, don’t make the mistake of thinking your personal brand is all about you. It’s not. Your personal brand is not about your work experience or your personal accomplishments. Your personal brand should be about other people, specifically what you can do for other people.

Start by asking yourself a few questions: What needs can you address? What are the areas where you can offer the most value? What makes you different from the rest?

Related: 6 Personal Branding Rules To Being Popular And Profitable

With a little thought and planning, you can build your personal brand from scratch. Just follow these five steps:

1Discover your opportunity

Passion is not enough. You might have a passion for rock climbing, or playing the ukulele. But having a passion does not automatically translate to recognition and success.

Instead of focussing on your passions, study the needs of the people in your circles. What are they trying to achieve? What are they struggling with? What are their frustrations?

Think about how you could best help these people.

Dig deep into who you are. Identify what you can bring to the table. Evaluate not just the skills and experience you’ve acquired but also the values that guide and inform you.

Study your competition. Can you serve a need that in an area that doesn’t have lots of competition?

If there’s lots of competition wherever you look, don’t be discouraged. Can you serve a need in a way that’s distinctive and noteworthy?

You’ve identified your opportunity when you’ve found a significant need that you can serve, in a way that sets you apart from the competition.

2Know your audience

personal-audience

Everything starts with your audience. Find out as much as you can about them. This includes standard demographic data such as what jobs they do, how much they earn and where they live.

Equally, if not more importantly, you need to know what their beliefs and values are, their hopes and dreams and the challenges they are facing.

Talk to your audience. Take them out for a coffee or set up a Skype call. Study them by reading what they’re saying on relevant social media, forums and review sites.

Is your audience more interested in quality or value? What’s more important to them, making a difference or making money? What public figures do they admire?

How much do your audience know about what you can offer them? Will you need to educate them for them to appreciate your value?

Identify who your core audience is. Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Identify which audience segments are most likely to become long-term customers and advocates. These are the people you should focus on.

Related: Personal Branding Pitfalls Women Should Avoid

3Craft your message

In Hollywood, budding filmmakers learn to prepare an “elevator pitch” to sell their movie ideas to busy studio executives. The key is to summarize their idea in a short, memorable phrase that could be pitched even if they had to do it in an elevator.

For example, the movie Alien was initially pitched as, “Jaws in space.”

You want to tell your audience about what you do, about what makes you different and exciting. But they probably won’t have time to listen to your life story.

Instead, you should create a short message that sums up what you’re about in a way which connects with your audience. Keep it simple and memorable. Think of it as your elevator pitch. Your message should reflect the people you serve, the values that you embody and the results you achieve.

If you have any testimonials, study them. What were the things about you that people valued the most? Observe the exact phrases people use when talking about you. Often, these are the precisely the phrases you should use when describing yourself.

Use your message to brand yourself on your professional profiles. Most importantly, embody it in everything you do.

4Hone your uniqueness

Maybe you can do something highly useful that very few people can do. Well, that’s your unique quality, and you should tell your audience about it.

But perhaps there are plenty of people who do what you do, and you’ll be competing for the same audience. Being able to demonstrate a point of uniqueness is your key to success in a competitive market.

The most obvious point of uniqueness is to be the best. There are many ways of being the best. Find out which way plays to your strengths. Are you the most experienced, most creative, most efficient? Do you excel at customer service?

Related: [PODCAST]: Listen To Rich Mullholland Share Tips On Building Your Personal Brand

If you can’t be the best in some way, becoming more specialised can make you unique. For example, instead of offering a marketing service to small business owners in general, you could offer a marketing service targeted at chiropractors.

And don’t be afraid to be controversial to stand out. If you hold different opinions from the others, don’t be afraid to voice them. Just stay away from topics that are likely to cause offense, like religion and politics.

5Define your values

Authenticity is the cornerstone of personal branding. Your authenticity is what allows your audience to trust you, to engage with you, to tell their friends about you. Being authentic is about having stated values and being true to them.

So what are your values? You should include business values, such as driving innovation or personal accountability. You might also add ethical values, such as care for the environment.

How you speak and write is also a reflection of your values. Are you serious or informal? Do you address the layman or expert? What are your cultural reference points?

Guard against inconsistency, such as saying one thing and doing another, as this will cast doubt on your values and undermine your brand.

Keep your values at the heart of everything you do, as you interact with people, network on social media, or publish blog posts. Wherever and whenever you engage, ensure you do so in a way that shines a light on your values.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Wrapping Up Profits With Niche Vinyl Wraps

Marketers always want to grab consumers’ attention while business owners may want to differentiate their company’s fleet.

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Marketers always want to grab consumers’ attention while business owners may want to differentiate their company’s fleet.

Cars are used as form of self-expression, and some individuals will pay a small fortune to make their wheels unique. All of this can be achieved with speciality vinyls, which allow a range of attention-grabbing special effects.

Robbie Fuchs from World Signs said that these unique effects are sought after and that matte black finishes are popular, and are being used in some campaigns to tone down shiny chrome.

Popular requests include partial wraps for select sections of cars, such as: mirrors, stripes on the sides of vehicles, bonnets and high gloss black vinyl on roofs, which gives a panoramic look and feel.

‘There are a handful of people who will spend a lot of money on a car and then spend more money on making it look fancy,’ he says.

Related: Celebrating Women In The Signage And Printing Industry

Fuchs added that vinyls for home owners and private use is a niche market. ‘We have also had requests to wrap toilet seat covers, fridges and kitchen cupboards.’

Different textures such as chrome, wood grain, carbon fibre and a variety of metallic effects, glitter, ultra matt finishes and ‘sandpaper-like’ non-slip surface finishes are also available. One can also create pearlescent effects and even velvet, while colour changing vinyls also provide really unique wraps.

‘Vehicle advertising is good for any business size, and some small-business owners feel it legitimises their company by getting their brand and logo out where potential customers can see them,’ said Rakesh Rosen, Midcomp.

‘When smaller businesses use vehicle wraps, it puts them on the same playing field as franchises and companies that are large enough to maintain vehicle fleets. Vehicle vinyl wrapping is definitely on the increase in South Africa and will continue to grow.’

Henri Robert from Sign Wonder, said, ‘Vehicle branding is an effective promotion tool because it combines the key elements of marketing, advertising and branding into one convenient and proven solution. It is high impact, cost effective and they work for all types of businesses. Vehicle branding allows a vehicle to serve as a low-cost mobile billboard seen everywhere a vehicle typically goes.’

You can see vinyl wrapping solutions and business opportunities at the FESPA Africa and Sign Africa Expo at Gallagher Convention Centre from 13-15 September.


Visit http://www.signafricaexpo.com/wraps for more information. 

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