The psychology of colour as it relates to persuasion is one of the most interesting and most controversial aspects of marketing especially when we are relating it to branding.

The colour red is one colour you should not rule out when branding and marketing your business. Red is thought to be the colour to provoke the most response among humans. Red is considered a warm colour along with orange and yellow. This intense colour is also known to induce emotions from passion to violence.

How can we be sure that red is the sure bet to get the desired response from our audience?

Independent studies have shown that in the sporting universe athletes who wear red outperform those in other colours. Researchers usually attribute this to an innate association of red with power, assertiveness and dominance. In the 1980’s, when Michael Jordan appeared on a glistening basketball court in a solid red uniform with the word BULLS across his jersey, opponents ran for cover.

So what does marketing have to do with one of the most common colours used in sport and on national flags? The answer is: everything! In brand conversations, colour matters. In a frenzied world where your advertising must shout loudest, red is the surest way to hit the decibel level, visually that is. Market research indicates that over 80% of all visual information is related to colour. Brands with legacy colour constructs like Marlboro and Coca-Cola take their colours very seriously. In fact, according to Cokelore, Santa Claus wore green until the cola giant began to promote Santa in red garb in the 1950’s.

In an appropriately titled study called Impact of Colour in Marketing, researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgements 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 Colours 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?).

But red’s popularity is its menace. Human predisposition for all things sangria red, candy apple, sassy cherry, crazy plum, raspberry glow and straight-up red, means more red in logos, packaging , web-sites and advertising. Take the telecom sector for instance, Vodafone, Virgin and Airtel, all scream red. A colour, which one associates with all from Saint Valentine to Ernesto Guevara, marketers must use with caution. While the fiery colour works for Bono’s (Product) Red, the Red Cross and Red Bull and brands that want to send a strong message, it might not be suitable for a company in a slump. Although nowadays colours in marketing mainstream are hues of eco green, purity blue and calm pink, red still boasts some serious power when it comes to brands. For one it’s the quickest way to get eyeballs.

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.

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.


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