Colour: The new psychological brand loyalty program

Colour plays an important role in creating brand identity – to the point where a single colour becomes synonymous with the brand itself. Coca cola? Red. Cadbury? Purple. Consumers can close their eyes and imagine a brand simply by picturing a colour, allowing it to connote the brand's ethos and identity.

Scholar M. Aslam says that colours can have an intense impact on humans because of both "instincts and associations."

"Colours alter the meanings of the objects or situations with which they are associated and colour preferences can predict consumers' behaviour," he wrote in an August 2006 article for the Journal of Marketing Communications.

With that in mind, what is it that makes brands pick a precise palette? And what does that mean for them in the long term? Here we take a look at some iconic colour choices in global branding to consider the impact they've had.

Wouldn't it be nice if the world was Cadbury purple?

While this historic chocolate company was launched by John Cadbury in 1824, it wasn't until 1920 that the iconic purple, pantone 2865c, became their signature hue emblazoned with gold lettering.

Prior to this, the creamy chocolates were wrapped in mauve packaging with red script. Why would they change from mauve to purple? Well, the purple they chose is a deep, rich, luxurious and even royal tone – evocative of the texture of their Dairy Milk range of chocolates. Gold has for centuries connoted prestige and quality – red simply pales in comparison, evoking a sense of urgency. Red is not relaxing, smooth or luxurious. Thus the change to purple and gold simply represented their value proposition more accurately.

This brand decision paved the way for this precise purple to become an integral part of the Cadbury brand itself. It has such a resonance in the mind of consumers and in sculpting the brand identity of Cadbury that the company attempted to trademark the colour as their intellectual property in 2004.

While they lost this legal battle, they repeatedly appealed the decisions of the UK Courts – even taking it as far as the UK Supreme Court. All of this effort was for the adamant belief in their colour – a mix of pigments that, together, created the essence of their perceived brand. Does your business' bespoke branding command such power?

McDonalds are loving red and yellow

Psychological research influenced McDonald's decision to use red and yellow branding, and indeed, many other fast food chains have adopted similar colour-schemes: think Burger King and Pizza Hut logos. schemes: think In-N-Out Burger, Burger King and Pizza Hut logos. In fact, think of any fast food brand and see if you can't find red and yellow somewhere in their branding.

Karen Haller, a colour and design consultant, noted red triggers appetite and stimulation, while yellow evokes happiness and friendliness. Combine the two, and the customer is faced with a venue offering food with friendly customer service. For McDonalds, there's the added design choice to have the 'M' logo resembling perhaps the curved lines of a smile, or a double rainbow, or even gates to a theme park. Who do you think they are targeting? They're starting young.

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn adore blue

Online marketing specialist Alicia Cowan and Applied Colour Psychology specialist Karen Haller discussed the reasoning behind the use of the colour blue for these three social media giants. Haller emphasises that blue is the colour of intellect and the mind, thus closely linked to communication. Considering that communicating is a cornerstone of social media, adopting this tone for such brands made sense.

Moreover, blue is perceived as trustworthy and dependable, which is ideal for enticing people to 'download' an app safely or share their personal information online. Blue is used to stronger effect in these brands by combining it with white, the hue of purity and simplicity.

With so much resting on a brand colour, it's imperative to get it right the first time. Are you prepared to make this aesthetically and psychologically important decision for your brand?

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