From all the roughly 1.5 million shades of color that exist in our world, I love the color ‘burnt orange’ the most. The question I ask myself this morning, as I sip my mocha-colored coffee is, Why? Why are my eyes always drawn to this particular shade of orange? I don’t care much for carrot orange, or papaya orange. My loyalty is to burnt orange, so much so, that my kitchen looks like the inside of an orange (a burnt orange, to be specific). There are pots, pans, and an assortment of towels that are all (you guessed it) a shade of burnt orange. And why is it that my husband, who is like me in almost every other aspect, absolutely hates that color?
So, I’m setting out to answer these two questions:
1) Why do two people react differently to the same color? Is it just a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder or does it go deeper than that?
2) Are these morning meditations of mine pointless or do they really matter in the marketing scheme of things?
Do we see colors differently?
To start off, we all see the same colors. So, unless you are color blind, a sunny sky looks blue and a strawberry looks red, just like it does to me. But, here’s the kicker; we don’t just see colors, we experience colors. The emotional response to the same color by two different people can be as different as night is from day. Our responses to a color are greatly influenced by our experiences associated with that color. A job interview that goes well in a mauve-colored room can make you react to that color favorably in the future. Our subconscious minds make these little connections without us realizing it. Accordingly, when I see the color burnt orange, I am reminded of some of the beautiful beach sunsets I’ve seen. Witnessing a sunset always feels like a spiritual experience to me. However, when my husband sees the same color, he is reminded of the cough syrup that made him throw up when he was a little boy. This is why I love the color, while he hates it.
Does it matter?
Which brings me to my second question, does the fact that two people experience the same color differently really matter in the marketing scheme of things?
The answer to that is a resounding, YES! The impact of a brand’s colors cannot be understated. It plays a significant role in consumer decision making, especially when it comes to purchasing decisions.
So, should a brand consider every potential customer’s preference when deciding on its colors? The answer to that is a resounding, NO! Considering every one of your, potentially thousands, of customer’s color preferences would be like trying to count the grains of sand on a beach. You would only end up getting frustrated when you invariably lose count midway.
Are you confused about color?
Let me explain. Emotional reactions to color are not dependent solely on personal experiences. Factors such as age, gender, and ethnicity also influence the way we experience a color. So, while we can’t account for personal experiences, we can take these other universal preferences into consideration when making color decisions.
It really comes down to understanding who your target audience is and then using colors that connect with them. Finding the colors that will produce a positive emotional response in your customer base could be the difference between being overlooked or selling your product. Let’s look at the role that age, gender, and ethnicity play when it comes to experiencing colors.
Age and Color
Our choices of preferred color change as we age. While we cannot account for individual taste, certain generalizations are safe to make. Younger kids are attracted to brighter colors. Some teenagers embrace darker shades like purple and black while others like bolder ones like red and lime green. Older folk prefer pastel and other muted shades. Designing your products with colors based on the age bracket of your target audience can help boost your business.
Gender and Color
When it comes to gender, however, making any kind of generalization in today’s gender-neutral world is foolishness. Gender-specific colors like pink for women and blue for men are no longer the norm. Today, colors like the ‘millennial pink’ and ‘proton purple’ are what both genders gravitate towards. These are shades that are androgynous and allow a dual expression of the masculine and feminine sides of a person all at once. Brands must be flexible enough to accommodate these newer trends along with the traditional gender-specific color choices.
Colors are woven into our background and upbringing and understanding the ethnicity of your target audience is key. For example, an Indian customer may have a negative emotional response to white since it is the color of mourning in her country while an American customer may have a positive emotional response to it since white is worn at weddings there and denotes celebration.
Brand Personality and Color
Another factor to consider when choosing the right color for your brand is your brand’s personality. All brands, like human beings, have a personality. A brand’s personality is unique and represents its vision and values. Once you realize what your brand’s personality is, you can then choose a color that accurately represents that. If you want your brand to look exciting and youthful go for the palettes of red, yellow, and orange. However, if you want to give out a calm, stable, and secure vibe, the palettes of green and blue are your best bet. Similarly, if you want to represent luxury and indulgence, golden and purple hues will serve you well, while brown can be used to show a rustic and more down-to-earth personality.
So, there you have it. Looking at a color is as much an emotional experience as it is a viewing experience and understanding this is key to choosing the right colors for your brand. On a personal note, maybe it is time for me to stop forcing my husband to wear shirts that are the color of burnt orange!