When I was working for Coca Cola in Italy, I learned a valuable marketing lesson; colour and design affects people’s purchasing decisions.
Coca-Cola had just launched Fanta Zero, a new product to expand the company’s line of no-sugar drinks. Coke-zero and Sprite-zero performed well in the market. As Fanta was also popular, we automatically expected Fanta-zero would too. It didn’t. At least not at first.
The original label and marketing designs for Fanta-zero featured a blue Fanta logo over a grey label. Sales were poor and, to us, it appeared as though consumers were not enjoying the drink.
Consequently, the marketing department decided to change the colour of the label. The new design featured an electric blue background and a super-bright orange logo. Sales increased by 35%. In that moment, I understood how colour and design in marketing can affect how people perceive merchandise.
Colour communicates with the subconscious mind.
The average consumer may not be consciously aware of the effect colour has on them when they visit a website, read a brochure or visit a social media website. Marketers and designers, on the other hand, understand the role of colour and consistently use the same shades across all advertising channels.
Scientific research revealed that colour has the power to attract consumers because we make buying decisions based on personal preference, experiences, upbringings and cultural differences. According to data, 90% of snap decisions are made on colour alone.
You probably know this from experience. When you’re in the supermarket buying pasta let’s say, which brand do you go for? For most people, all pasta tastes the same. Unless you are familiar with a particular brand name you trust, you will probably opt for the packet you like the look of.
When cross-border trading, international businesses often change the colours of their marketing material to fit the sensibilities of the target market. Colour can vary from one culture to the next. There can also be colour discrimination between rival sports clubs and Universities. Consumers will not buy red if their team play in blue.
The simple truth is that people associate with colours. Every experience we have in life is recorded in the subconscious mind, and we make a decision what we like and what we don’t like. Because there is a spectrum of colours all around us, we also associate dominant colours with certain experiences which are also promote thoughts and moods. This is how colour persuades consumers to buy.
How colours impact the mind
There is a school of thought amongst marketers that colours effect mood. While this is true to an extent, colours actually prompt memories which promote thoughts. Every thought we have has an associated emotion which makes us feel a particular way.
For example, in colour psychology, green is typically associated with a sense of being calm. The reason for this is because we typically feel in a relaxed mood when we are out in nature. Light blue is associated with a peaceful sky on a nice day and promotes the same feeling of inner peace and contentment.
Red, on the other hand, is associated with danger and warning. Red, therefore, stimulates the emotional centre of the brain, because the mind knows we are not in danger, the response is excitement or the urge to act on impulse. This is why fast-food chains use red in their logos and advertising.
You may have noticed that industries tend to align with certain colours and designs. Navy blue is associated with trust and often (ironically) used by banks and insurance companies. Toy stores use bright colours that excite children, while stores that sell outdoor equipment go with the colours of nature.
Furthermore, colours are not only restricted to logos, websites and marketing material. The colour in which businesses paint their store front and interior walls help to create an ambience. Similarly, products are made in specific colours because they are eye-catching or evoke emotions.
Colour psychology of branding
When neuroscientists at Warwick Business School monitored brain activity using fMRI scans, they discovered people remember certain designs over others. Platonic solids found in sacred geometry are the most recognised because the brain finds symmetry more appealing. This is why the logos of Fortune 500 companies incorporate sacred geometry.
Marketers that are aware of colour psychology and the effect design has on consumers understand that the more references you connect with your brand, the more likely people are to remember your company. The mind recalls images easier when there is a connection they recognise.
When we reverted back to colours consumers associated with as the design for the Fanta label, sales increased because people associated those particular colours with the drink. Brand recognition plays a major role in purchasing decisions because brands can provoke a sense of trust (or mistrust).
Companies should, therefore, choose colours and designs that support brand personality. Determine what type of character you want to portray and choose colours that reflect the nature of your brand personality and product. Luxury brands typically use gold or silver with black. Purple promotes sophistication whilst yellow promotes happiness and vitality because of its association with the sun.
Using colour and design in marketing campaigns
The standard rule of colour psychology in marketing is to consistently use the same colours as your logo because that is what people recognise and associate with your brand. However, your brand colours do not always have to dominate the ad.
People relate to colours by association. They also react to colours because of an emotional stimulation. When creating marketing ads, therefore, the dominant colour you use should give context to the product or service you are promoting.
Ad designs can be categorised into two system; rational and instinctual. Brands looking to acquire new customers or sell long-lasting products perform better when they promote rational thinking. In this system, consumers consider the reasons why they should buy a product from a specific brand.
When trying to evoke instinctive reactions, ad designs should reduce the cognitive process and communicate to consumers on a non-conscious level. This system makes people feel drawn to your ad or product. The strategy of the design is largely image-based and should use colours consumers mostly associate with the product on an emotional level.
Images and colours promote emotions in association with experiences. Therefore, the colours and designs you choose for your brand should reflect the experience your customers will associate with your product and brand.