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Use the Right Colors in your Marketing Initiatives

In 1704, Isaac Newton discovered that ordinary light is a mixture of hundreds, if not thousands, of different colors. At the same time, however, artists declared that they needed only three “primary” colors—red, yellow and blue—to create any imaginable hue.

In 1802, Thomas Young made a discovery that reconciled these two seemingly contradictory claims. Young found that the human eye contains three sensors that correlate to the three pigments artists used to mix colors. Therefore, since our eyes have only three sensors with which to process the thousands of colors in the light spectrum, all colors that we see can be reduced to the three primary colors.

Today, sophisticated printing uses a four-color process that mixes black with the primary colors. The printing industry has also created terminology to facilitate communication between printers and marketing people about the various properties of a color—”hue” describes its purity, “strength” describes the saturation, and “intensity” describes how grey it is—i.e., how much black has been added to the color.

Creating A Corporate Image

Corporations use a myriad of elements—e.g., name, symbols, colors—to establish a corporate brand identity that will distinguish the organization, its product/service offerings and its affiliated companies. The marketer’s challenge is to create a consistent and competitively differentiated “look and feel” that will create visibility, recognition and, ultimately, brand loyalty.

Astute marketers understand that color can play an extremely important role in helping a company both express its positioning and corporate purpose, and influence market perceptions and attitudes. The following are just a few examples of how companies have associated their organizations and/or their product/service offering with certain colors:

Company Color(s)
Campbellā€™s Red & White
Coca Cola Red
Fuji Green
Hertz Yellow
ING Orange
Company Color(s)
Kodak Yellow
National Green
Pepsi Red & Blue
Seven-Up Green
Visa Blue & Gold

The vast amount of research conducted on the influence of color has proven that some colors have a greater tendency to generate pleasurable responses. Overall, the order of preferred colors is: (1) Blue, (2) Red, (3) Green, (4) Purple, (5) Orange and (6) Yellow. From a gender perspective, both sexes prefer blue, with the runner-up being red for females and green for males. Research has also determined that younger people prefer pure, bright colors while softer, less intense tones appeal more to older people. In general, primary colors are favored and warm colors attract more attention.

Marketers must also consider the effects of synaesthesia when determining how to use color most effectively. The underlying concept is that color can have an emotional impact and evoke feelings concerning, for example, quality, strength, weakness, prestige, price, femininity or masculinity. Some of the most commonly cited color associations include the following:

  • Red is violent and dramatic; in financial circles, it also has negative associations with “red ink.”
  • Burgundy is royal and elegant.
  • Yellow is vibrant and happy.
  • Green and blue are calm and restful.
  • Orange is frivolous and youthful.

Research has shown that this concept extends to certain combinations of colors, giving marketers even more flexibility in using color to convey certain marketing messages. Here is just a sample of the implications of different color combinations:

  • Red and Green connote Authority
  • Red and black represent Aggression
  • Yellow and blue imply Strength and energy
  • Pink and blue suggest Softness
  • White and red signify Cleanliness

In our melting-pot society, cultural differences can also play a role. For instance, white indicates purity and cleanliness in some cultures but is the color of mourning in others. Since every color carries some degree of political, historical or cultural implication in one market or another, many marketers take a cautious approach that will not offend or provoke any segment of the marketplace. As a result, many corporate identification programs take a “middle-of-the road” approach that does nothing to create relevant differentiation or competitive advantage.

The Bottom Line

It is far from an exaggeration to say that an individual’s perception of an organization or their propensity to purchase a product or service can be greatly influenced by color. Financial services marketers who understand the nuances of color have a real opportunity to gain marketplace ground by effectively using color to “resist the usual.” By doing so, they can create corporate and product/service branding elements, advertising and promotion that will create an important marketplace statement. The resulting recognition and visibility can be extraordinarily rewarding.