What Colours Say About Your Brand

Nicole Carragher

Nicole Carragher, Head of Creative here at PML Group, discusses the psychology and power of colour in branding and how a pop of colour can make an immeasurable difference to a brand’s design.

A pop of colour can make an immeasurable difference to a brand’s design. From their logo, packaging and advertising campaigns, colour is an important aspect of their identity. Many brands have utilised this to their advantage even to the point where their brand can be instantly recognised by using a simple colour background.  Some of these examples include Coca Cola, where their use of red is synonymous with identifying their brand. A recent example in the Out of Home market is a campaign by Cadbury. They used their iconic purple background, with an icon of a face, heart and thumbs up and a simple copy line. No Cadbury logo was present on the design. Research carried out on the campaign as part of PML Group’s Poster Impact research showed the campaign had a recall percentage of 55% with quotes from those who took part in the research mentioning Cadbury by name; “Cadburys – the purple no more needed so recognisable”. This quote is a great example of how important a trademarked colour can be for a brand. By developing their unique colour structure, they can gain an instant response from the audience and incapsulates the theory behind colour having a psychological impact as you can almost tell from the quote that the user may have fond memories of the brand.  This is further backed by researched shown in a Psychology Today article, that “additional studies have revealed that our brains prefer recognisable brands, which makes color incredibly important when creating a brand identity.”

One of the hardest tasks bar coming up with a design is choosing the right colour palette. You want the right amount of contrast between colours but something that works harmoniously together. With an infinite amount of colours to pick from, the impact we aim for with our colour choices can sometimes fall short. For instance, picking two colours that we think will work well together and look good on screen may not be legible when printed. Colours should be a key consideration when designing for OOH. It is important to choose something that will be legible both during the day and night to ensure that illumination from panels and streetlights doesn’t hinder legibility.

To aid in choosing a colour and taking the target audience of the brand into account, the psychology of colour may be a useful insight for some designers. It is a theory that expresses through numerous research pieces that people can exhibit an emotional response to a colour. They can evoke memories from a person’s life, be it good or bad. This in turn could affect the perception that someone may have of a brand and what they stand for or the understanding of the message they are trying to tell through their designs. It also takes note of gender, ages, lifestyle and culture. In research conducted by Flonomics, 85% of consumers say colour is a main reason for why they would purchase a product.

Below, are a couple of standard colours and the meanings that may be taken from their use in design. Some results may surprise you. It is also worth noting that the below is in consideration of emotions and cultural links to colours should also be kept in mind.

  • Red

Seen as both an aggressive and energising colour. It can make people feel alert to something happening, for example an upcoming sale for a department store. Another effect this colour can evoke is the thought of love and family. The colour red is always on display for holidays like Christmas and sale stickers or price pointing in stores.

  • Yellow

According to research, this is the colour that is first recognised by infants. It gives a portrayal of happiness, joy and optimism. It is a very visible colour and an easy one to spot when used in Out of Home especially on a cold winter’s day.

  • Orange

A colour that will always remind people of summer and sunshine. It is a blend of both the red and yellow thinking. It is a colour that can represent many things, some including physical comfort like food, warmth and shelter. It can also give people a feeling of motivation. However, according to research conducted by Iconic Fox, orange is the least favourite colour among women at 33%.

  • Pink

Always thought of as a feminine colour, something that can be used to give the audience a sense of compassion, hope and unconditional love.

  • Green

A symbol of health and nature. It can help people feel calm and stress free.

  • Blue

Blue is a colour that provides people with a calming effect. It also highlights wisdom and trust.

  • Purple

Usually associated with royalty, magic, mystery and imagination.

  • White

Seen as a colour to represent innocence, purity, peace and cleanliness.

  • Black

Gives the design a sense of sophistication and class.

While the above colour explanations may provide a bit of assistance when picking what colours to use in your designs, it is important to remember that each person is unique in their thinking and the way they will interpret the reasoning behind colours used. It is also vital to make sure that your message doesn’t get lost by using colours that blend in together but rather that there is enough contrast between your selections. As seen in PML Group’s Poster Impact research for Cadbury’s, colour is a key aspect to any design especially if heavily relied on by a company for recognition.