Posted in News

Color Perception:
For your brand there’s more than meets the eye.

by Valerie Haymes

We say we’re “seeing red’ to express a feeling of anger or heightened emotional state. Yet the color red can be a bold accent color, a way of directing our attention.

The color blue is thought to evoke creativity and calm. Yet blue light is apt to keep us awake, even more so than red or green light.

Green is the “color of life” because of the production of chlorophyll in plants during photosynthesis. Yet the green color scheme used in many public institutions over the years has a uniquely “lifeless” feel.


A broad spectrum of colors – and reactions
It appears our interpretation of and reaction to colors can be all over the spectrum. How do we perceive colors? Color is the sensation of light transmitted to the brain through the eye. The eye interprets a set of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation (visible light). Human vision is trichromatic, meaning your retina has three types of receptors, designed to pick up different wavelengths of light — red, green, and blue. Many mammals only have two sets of receptors, limited to detecting blue and green wavelengths, similar to what people with color blindness experience. Birds are tetrachromatic, with four sets of receptors! In evolutionary terms, the perception of color enhances our ability to survive and procreate.

The idea that a color itself can elicit emotional responses in the viewer is open to interpretation. Our experiences, upbringing, cultural perspective, context all come into play as we encounter colors in our environment.

Color values may not be seen differently, but the perception of the color will mean different things to different people. Much of what we see is based on the memory of a color — when and how we experienced it before.

Color in the Marketplace: a powerful first impression
In the marketing world, where the art of persuasion is critical, many factors influence what we choose to buy. Research has shown that 90% of initial judgments made about products are based upon color. The color of an object is processed before we respond to additional details like shape and line. Often this judgment call is made in less than 90 seconds. This “color first” effect is based on the perceived appropriateness of the color that is being used for the product. “Do I think the color feels right for this item?”

An example would be products designed for camping. Colors schemes tend to be in “earthy” or “natural” tones, to coordinate with an outdoor-sy, rugged feel. While color schemes chosen for items sold to teens may be based on forecasting fashion trends. Research shows that new brands search for color schemes that move in a new direction, away from long-standing competitors. Calculating the reaction of the consumer to a color in relation to a product is crucial in promoting consumer choices.

The name of the game could be the name.
The naming of the product’s color can have a strong effect on the response to the product. Psychologists have studied the correlation between color naming and emotional reaction. Color names can have many interpretations, and the right name can help to promote a brand’s success.

Consumers are much more inclined to give a product such as make-up a higher score when the color name is “soft buff” rather than “very light brown.” When choosing wall paint, we might pick “seafoam” over the same color named “turquoise.”

Notwithstanding the occurrence of porphyrophobia (fear of the color purple), being creative with the naming of colors can have benefits. Data has shown that products with color schemes in the purple family generated up to 30% higher revenue when given a creative name. We might be drawn to a product with an “aubergine” finish, rather than a “reddish-purple” patina.

The World Champion Favorite Color is…
Blue! In studies from around the world it’s cited as the most favored color (for both men and women). It’s chosen three to four times more than the next tier down — green and purple. Blue is reflected in our sky and sea, and is said to be emotionally calming. There is a clear gender disparity in the color purple — women chose purple in the second tier, while for men it is one of the least favorite.

Individual preferences for colors are rooted emotional responses that can’t always be rationally quantified. But must never be ignored. There’s a powerful “color instinct” that steers our choices in everything — from the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, to the cars we drive.