Be it McDonald’s iconic red-and-yellow signage or Facebook’s blue hues, the use of colour is critical in advertising as it’s the first thing that catches a consumer’s eye
When Asian Paints forecast the colour of the year, it was a decision influenced by the pandemic. Inspired by aspects of design, interiors, textiles and architecture, this year’s colour ‘Cherish’ (colour code ‘Ivy League 7585’) makes one appreciate the fleeting joys of life. Its mint green shade symbolises growth, while a hint of blue revitalises one’s mood, which is much-needed in these times. “Cherish is a restorative and effervescent shade, worth celebrating in this moment. The year 2021 reminds us how life is precious and every moment is a chance to celebrate it,” says Amit Syngle, MD and CEO, Asian Paints, adding, “The four new ColourNext (an annual colour and decor forecast) trends—Habitat (coexistence in an interconnected world), A Home New World (recalibrating the home ecosystem), Felicity (adding value, eliminating frills), Z Futures (coming of age of Gen WE)—have been curated keeping in mind the new life and the distinct outlook towards everything post lockdown.”
It is true that colours have a deep impact on one’s life. In fact, when it comes to product design, colour is the first thing that catches a consumer’s eye. Keeping this in mind, United Colors of Benetton (UCB), a clothing brand known worldwide for its colours, knitwear expertise and social commitment, uses colours to convey values such as diversity, multiculturalism, beauty and optimism. Its intense #wearecolours campaign highlighted colours like yellow, red, blue and purple to launch a range of perfumes. It was a conscious attempt to accentuate the advertising towards colour diversity and ethnicity.
Be it a toothbrush, piece of clothing or product packaging, colour is critical as it creates a visual impact and conveys the brand’s message. Logo colours in service offerings are important as they deliver powerful subliminal messaging, feels Chaaya Baradhwaaj, founder and MD, BC Web Wise, a Mumbai-based digital marketing firm, which works with brands like Hero, Mahindra, Sunsilk, Unicef, Park Avenue, Parle, Sony Entertainment, TATA, Godrej and Maruti Suzuki.
“One needs to balance out the colour on store shelves, so that it stands out, as well as stands for the value your brand represents. A product that offers health is lighter in tone; green or red are about premium packs and define luxury; the one that connects with financials could use blues, purples, black; sophistication comes from pastels and whites; and dynamism comes with rainbow shades. One can go bold in building an entire product package or unit design, so an unexpected colour could stand out and still make a statement,” offers Baradhwaaj.
Style & method
Brands approach colours in various ways. Some look at the heritage and lineage, while others go by innovation and method. Fashion accessory brand Hidesign reflects lifestyle. As lifestyles change so do the colours, designs and patterns, explains Dilip Kapur, founder and president, Hidesign. “If your life becomes more casual and relaxed, the bags become casual. If life is sporty and outdoorsy, we follow that pattern.
The stories that inspire us at all times come from what we see around us… (stories) that are exciting or indicate a pattern for our lifestyles,” says Kapur, who this year launched the ‘Witch’ collection, representing traits like immortality, power, wisdom, magic and positive energy in vegetable tanned bags and accessories.
“Colours are a bit tricky because we don’t follow trends that change every six months. Therefore, we would not do any colour that we don’t believe will be relevant two years down the road. We believe that every six months, we need two new colours, but we’re always very careful that these are colours that will stand two years down the road and look exciting, new and modern. Therefore, our colours are contemporary and not trendy,” says Kapur.
In keeping with the heritage of championing environmental and humanitarian causes for over 40 years, British cosmetics, skincare and perfume company The Body Shop (TBS) has a colour palette that incorporates accent colours such as ‘activist green’, ‘fearless pink’, ‘repurposed blue’, ‘poster orange’ and ‘joyful yellow’. The primary colour, though, is ‘The Body Shop Green’, which is at the heart of the brand’s colour palette that symbolises its strong activist heritage. This green is a throwback to the first store in Brighton, UK, which was started by founder Anita Roddick in 1976 and continues to be a constant source of inspiration.
Inspired by protest signs and placards at rallies, TBS accent colours are used to provoke interest and draw immediate attention to communications, says Antara Kundu, marketing head, The Body Shop Asia South. “Anita’s fiery activism is in our DNA and TBS Green stands for our values of natural, ethical and doing good for the planet,” explains Kundu, adding, “Besides the unique green, the colour palette of the brand consists of base colours such as stem green, terracotta, light brown, nourishing white-all of which are real, earthy colours, denoting our commitment to using real, raw, natural ingredients that are sourced sustainably and deliver real results. The warm and nourishing base palette comes through onscreen with the use of softly-lit earthy tones, and offline by using sustainable paper stocks and printing techniques. The overall visual identity uses colours to fight for a better and beautiful world with the inclusive power of beauty.”
Some brands also follow research and data acquired from sales and consumer behaviour, season forecast, demographic or socio-economic approach, or the psychological state, nature and events around the consumer to decide the palette. At fashion denim brand Spykar, for instance, the designers follow colour-forecast reports. “Keeping in mind India’s cultural and demographic differences, we choose the palette to suit the consumer base,” says Abhishek Yadav, head of design, Spykar.
The factors that decide the brand’s colours and patterns follow a balanced approach between upcoming trends and previous season performance, says Yadav. “Today, we have introduced tones that speak to consumers’ need for joy during challenging times. Inspired by idyllic gardens and micro-getaways, the focus is on nature, cottagecore trends, outdoors and a return to the simple-life approach,” he says, adding, “Colours are key drivers for product design and create an impact on consumer behaviour. They also affect online and offline purchase where the consumer psyche changes. At a physical store, a consumer’s inclination is towards complexion-friendly tones and the product coordinates, while online, the visual on screen might alter the purchasing decision.”
It’s not surprising why brands pay so much attention to colour, as it has the power to leave a lasting impression. Red and a little bit of yellow instantly make us think of McDonald’s. Conversely, yellow with a little bit of red brings to mind DHL. “Colours make you perceive a brand in a certain way,” says Aneesh Jaisinghani, senior executive creative director, Cheil India, a Gurugram-based advertising agency, which works with clients like Samsung, Apollo Munich and Adidas.
“Blue, for instance, stands for trust, (being) responsible and secure. No wonder so many tech companies— Facebook, Samsung, Walmart, etc— use blue as their brand colour. The list is endless. Red demands attention and is the colour of passion and excitement. Not surprisingly, Coca-Cola has been using it for more than 100 years now and YouTube for about 15 years. Apple stands for its simplicity and ease and so, not surprisingly, it goes with the simplest and purest of colours:
white,” says Jaisinghani. “There are many factors that influence how and what consumers buy… a great deal is decided by visual cues, the biggest being colour. Since humans are a very visual species, it is important to consider that consumers place visual appearance and colour above other factors such as sound, smell and texture.”
For a brand to successfully capture its prospective audience, it is essential to have a strong correlation between the colour and brand.
Vahdam India has a bottle green logo because the colour symbolises tea and nature.
“The brand is about natural ingredients and the key ingredients come straight from Indian soil. The velvet bottle green colour gives a mass premium vibe and that’s brand positioning. We also use golden in the logo, which blends well with the bottle green colour to give it a premium and global outlook,” says Bala Sarda, founder and CEO, Vahdam India.
“Colours can develop trust and loyalty among consumers, so brands must put in careful thought around the elements of branding like logo design, colour, physicality and graphics,” offers Amol Roy, founder, Shutter Cast, a Delhi-based digital marketing agency.
A brand is all about perception, and colours help build an emotional connect with users, influencing buying decisions. In a diverse country like India, one has to look beyond colour theory and into cultural references to colour to make sure it doesn’t backfire in certain regions.
“A great example of how colours impact brand perception is Snapchat. The bright yellow colour scheme, combined with a quirky interface, captured the imagination of youth and made it an overnight sensation. On the other hand, Instagram decided to revisit its brand colours and identity when it realised that it was not a photo app any more and had evolved into a community, representing a new breed of influencers and content creators. Colours make or break brands and are too important to leave to chance,” says Robin Dhanwani, founder, Parallel, a product design and innovation studio based in Bengaluru, which has worked on the fitness app Possible in the past.
“The way we do it is use a mix of scientific approach and colour psychology, fused with lean experiments to validate how customers respond to brand choices like colours. Rise of digital makes the decision even more complex where colour choices have to cater to a comfortable and accessible digital experience on screens and, at the same time, have a distinct appearance. To make it a vibrant, healthy lifestyle app, and not overwhelm users with colours by distracting the digital experience, we used black and white along with an unconventional palette of eight pastel colours to show healthy eating can also be cool and interesting,” he says.