Under the Influence

Which brand colours encourage you to buy

Interpreting colours is an interesting science. In the world of marketing, colours play a bigger role in your purchasing decisions than you may think.

Interpreting colours is an interesting science.

In the world of marketing, colours play a bigger role in your purchasing decisions than you may think. Colours can make you feel a certain way about a company, or they can trigger a specific desire.

A simple change in colours can affect the sales of a product immediately, or a certain colour can make us seem more desirable to the opposite sex. Colours can encourage us to spend money – and even gamble.

If there's one thing the marketing industry has learned, it's that happiness is a warm colour, yes it is…

True Colours

When it comes to the subject of persuasion, each colour carries very specific meanings.

Take the colour Red. It's one of the most passionate colours. It connotes action, adventure, fire, lust, anger, courage and rebellion.

Pantones #123 and #485. (McDonalds Corp)
Therefore, it is a colour best used for action-oriented products and brands. Red, for example, is the predominant colour in the Virgin logo – which is perfect for that brand, as founder Richard Branson is definitely adventurous and rebellious. Red and Orange are colours that boost appetite. So that's why you see red in so many fast food restaurants. The McDonald's logo is red and yellow – red stimulates appetite, yellow means fun.

Orange is also a colour that suggests value and discounts. Online bank ING has branded itself as orange, no doubt, in part, to remind you of their promise of reduced banking fees.

Pantone #1837. (Image Source: wikimedia)
Blue is an interesting colour. As a rule, it stands for security, trust, productivity and calmness of mind.

As a result, blue is the colour of choice for the UN flag. It's also the most popular logo colour in the corporate world. Think of the Allstate logo, who want you to feel you are in good hands. Or IBM, often called "Big Blue."

Blue is often cited as the most popular colour in the world. Six of the top ten colours of Crayola crayons are shades of blue, as a matter of fact.

Yet, surprisingly, there was no term for blue in the classical Greek texts. As writer Jim Bernhard points out, the Greek poet Homer never once described the sky as blue – he calls it starry, broad, great, iron or copper, but never once blue.

Blue was also absent from ancient Indian, Hebrew and Parthian texts – a perplexing omission considering the sky is such an overarching element of civilization and mythology.

Pantone #3425. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
Green represents freshness. Think the Jolly Green Giant and Subway. Green is also about revitalization, and is one reason why the Starbucks logo is this colour – it wants to be the place where you can renew yourself. Green is the colour of choice for companies associated with health and wellness, and eco-friendly products.

For centuries, purple symbolized nobility and wealth. In Elizabethan times, it was an offence to wear it if your address didn't have a moat around it.

Its attachment to luxury can also be traced back to the fact purple dye was very costly to manufacture back then. It allegedly took over ten thousand molluscs to make one gram.

Tickled Pink

For example, Owens-Corning began making Fiberglas insulation in 1938.

When insulation is manufactured, it is white. So after many years of all insulation looking alike, Owens-Corning made the decision to dye their product red in 1956.

Accidental branding.
But the red dye made the Fiberglas wool look pink.

The pink insulation was shipped out, but the company wasn't happy with the colour. After all, it was a male-dominated industry.

So when Owens-Corning sent the next shipment out, reverting back to the original colour, they got the most unexpected response:

Installers began asking for the PINK insulation.

So the company stuck with PINK. And it was a marketing master stroke.

Then, in 1987, Owens-Corning made legal history when it became the first company to trademark a single colour.

They had proved to the courts that their insulation was clearly identified as pink, that they had spent over $50 million dollars marketing it as such, and they had even licensed the Pink Panther as a mascot.

Hence, the courts agreed it was a protectable trademark.

According to reports, pink insulation commands over 50% of the home insulation market.

In the '80s, it claimed over 70% of the Canadian market due in large part to funny commercials like this:

The colour pink gave Fiberglas a marketing edge, and the resulting campaign became one of the most famous of the 1980's.

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The Terstream Mobile Recording Studio. (Image Credit: Sidney O'Reilly)