EOY Insights: Importance of colour

Colour has very strong emotive qualities and can offer an instantaneous way of communicating meaning without using words – therefore colour, when used appropriately, can be used very effectively in your branding, marketing and product development.

We interact with words on a conscious level – we have to actively read and understand text. Colour however can work on a subconscious level by implanting an idea or feeling without the need for our explicit interaction with it. This makes colour very powerful, so when starting out in business and looking for a brand identity or when involved in new product development it is worth taking time to consider colour and how it represents you, your business and your products.

It’s important to understand that there is no conclusive research linking the use of colour to quantifiable psychological outcomes in humans. Perception of colour is subjective and its emotive impact on a person can vary depending on a number of things including situational context, the person’s mood, their previous experiences or the culture in which they were brought up. For example – some studies have shown that the temperature felt by a person can impact their colour preference. People who feel warmer tend to favour colours on the cold end of the spectrum and vice versa.

While little conclusive research exists, there are generalities and marketing principles we can apply with some confidence. With that in mind, here are 2 quick rundowns of two of the most popular colours used in marketing.

Red can be used to signify:

* Power
* Energy
* Passion
* Courage
* Caution

It is an effective colour when trying to attract attention and this is why it is used in road signs and sale signs. When used together, especially in stripes or alternating pattern, red and blue can be aggravating to the eyes. Red and yellow is widely used as the combination stand out and attracts attention in a busy environment – prime example is the McDonalds logo.

Interesting Fact – Research has shown that the use of red can dramatically impact sporting performance. Analysis of combat sports during an Olympic Games found that competitors wearing red as part of their uniform won vastly more matches than their counterparts. This is not surprising if you think about some of the most popular and successful sporting teams – Manchester United, Liverpool, Ferrari F1, Munster Rugby. (Source)


Red can be used to signify:

* Honesty/Trust
* Calmness/Tranquility
* Cleanliness
* Openness

Blue is used frequently by medical practitioners, medical device companies and technology companies.

Research has shown that the use of blue can help stimulate creativity and is better at helping to communicate emotive, positive and less detail orientated messaging. In an experiment where ads and packaging for a fictional product were show to participants, they were more receptive to positive, aspirational messaging when the background was blue. This was in contrast to a red background where participants were more receptive to more negative and detailed messaging. (Source)


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Michael McCarney is a member of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Team in Ireland.  EOY Insights is an EOY blog on topics and trends that we come across every day while working with Ireland’s best entrepreneurs and business people. Topics including tech trends, leadership, innovation, workplace culture, agri-food issues etc. To be honest, all stuff we are interested in and hope will be of interest to you too!

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