Marketing by Color: Don’t Try To Sell Blue Potatoes

imageThe colors you use for your logo, your business card, your web design and even your storefront display influence consumers – sometimes very strongly.

For example, what colors do you associate with a spooky night? Most likely, you’ll choose black, shades of gray and maybe a little silver or even orange. Haunted evenings generally don’t come in vivid blues and fresh greens, after all.

Here’s another example: Think about Coca Cola. What color jumps to mind? Most people choose red, because Coca Cola has associated that color with their brand image. Their logo is red, their cans are red and everything about the soda giant seems to be red.

You would most likely wince if you tried to associate the color green and Coca Cola together.

Read more to find out how you can use the power of color psychology to your advantage.

The Power of Color

Color psychology exists, and it’s a fairly complex field of study, too. It looks at which colors we prefer and why. It explores color and memory recall. It examines the impact of certain colors on both our physical and emotional state.

Harveys fast food restaurants, for example, use orange in their color branding because orange often stimulates appetite. Banks like to use blue in their themes, because people prefer blue over most colors and also because blue is commonly associated with trust and security.

When building your startup business or when considering an image overhaul of an existing business, put thought into color palettes and selections that will help your brand image. Mismatching color and brand can actually influence consumer perception in a negative way and cost you sales.

Trying to Sell Blue Potatoes

Here’s another example: everyone knows what a potato is—a root vegetable with white or red skin. We mash them into white fluffy clouds, slice them into scalloped casseroles and grate them into patties. We know that potatoes are white inside.

Enter the blue potato, a fantastic variety that mashes, slices, bakes and fries just as nicely as its snowy counterpart. It even has possible antioxidant potential.

To a certain enterprising company, this seemed like a lucrative business opportunity.

Did blue potato sales skyrocket? No. Did people rush to the stores for blue potatoes? Nope. Did the blue potato become a household staple? Nope. If it weren’t for their novelty factor and a few cooks with exploratory minds, these potatoes would never have sold at all.

The reason is that people don’t associate the color blue with potatoes.

In fact, they may go so far as to perceive blue potatoes as tasting bad, being inedible or even being poison for human consumption. The notion of a blue potato is so foreign that consumers don’t embrace the blue potato at all.

Do you want your business to become a blue potato?

Associated Meanings of Color

Spend some time thinking of potential color choices that reflect the emotion that you’d like people to have when they see your brand image. Color can have strong emotional impact that heightens the selling potential of your product or service.

Color can help memory recall as well. When you’re hot, thirsty and want something cold to drink, your memory of a color association might make you reach for that red can of Coke and pass over other brand names you don’t recognize easily. You remember that red means Coke.

Likewise, your company colors can help people remember your product or service and choose you over the competition. The specific colors you choose enhance the feelings a person has about your business, too.

To help you think of good colors for your logo, your web design or your business image, here are some common colors and their associated meanings:

 

Red – Energy, attention, passion, danger, debt, halt

Blue – Trust, security, peace, open, stability

Green – Freshness, growth, vitality, calm, wealth, prestige

Yellow – Light, optimism, motivation, warmth, positive

Purple – Sophistication, royalty, sentimentality, mystery, spirituality

Pink – Energy, fun, youth, excitement, affection, romance, sentimentality

Orange – Fun, vitality, youth, health, exuberance

Brown – Stability, earth, durability, dirty

Black – Power, class, seriousness, drama, sophistication, boldness

White – Purity, peace, cleanliness, freshness

 

A good rule of thumb is to choose one dominant color and only one or two accent colors for your logo or brand image. Accent colors should complement the main color and enhance its appeal as much as possible. Use them sparingly, as they should be secondary elements of the impact.

With a good choice of color, you can build a more effective image for your business and enhance your marketing potential - unless you want your business to be like blue potatoes, of course.

<em>Author’s Note: Color meanings are not universal. Culture, events, industries and more affect the way we associate meanings with color.

For the purpose of our target audience, this post focuses on American culture.</em>

Reader Comments

Aug. 5. 2008 7:47 PM
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That is an excellent point about the power of color. I ran into an inadvertent illustration of this point a couple of days ago in the grocery store.

There was a rather large display of glass Mountain Dew bottles. Unfortunately, I didn’t even know it was Mountain Dew until I looked closely because the bottles were all painted red white and blue. (Presumably left over from the 4th.)

I’m a Mountain Dew junkie, and ordinarily would have been inclined to buy a bottle or two, but the color scheme just put me off. If it’s not green, it’s not Mountain Dew.


Aug. 5. 2008 10:11 PM
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Good point, Jarkko, and exactly.  I’m consistently amazed at how little thought goes into color selection - and it really does matter a great deal. Color taps into our senses in a way that nothing else can.

Mountain Dew should be green, by the way, I agree.


Aug. 6. 2008 1:53 PM
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Thanks for the list of color associations - I was just about to add a few new buttons onto my blog and this gives me some good food for thought.


Aug. 6. 2008 2:55 PM
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It’s quite flattering to be mistaken for Jarkko. :-)


Aug. 6. 2008 3:18 PM
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Doh! I’m sorry.

Actually, I’ve been struggling to separate the two of you in my mind since day one. I “met” you both at the same time, your name both starts with J, and you tend to have similar styles.

You’ve become a duo, my friend hehehe


Aug. 6. 2008 5:42 PM
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No problem, James. I found it amusing. :-)

I agree that Jarkko and I tend to have similar styles.


Sep. 16. 2010 12:06 AM
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Nov. 2. 2011 2:55 AM
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I tend to go for more business-like blues.  I agree, they do tend to reflect trust.


Apr. 19. 2012 2:22 AM
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o go for more business-like blues.  I agree, they do tend to reflect tru


Feb. 27. 2014 10:37 AM
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Although I never thought of it, you are so right! Colors really affect the way your brand is seen by customers. i was just reading these colors you listed and their meanings, and kept thinking how obvious it was so far.


Apr. 16. 2014 3:06 PM
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hah, nice piece of advice! Too many companies chose a black business card when they’re into gardening for example, or choose a fancy design when they have a kid’s toys online shop.


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Nov. 20. 2014 3:54 PM
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Every kind of business got his own characteristics that compose theirselves into a color or a group of colors. A small example for a clothes shop: blue clothes don’t fit to little girls more than boys, so try to get a unique color for your categories, somethings to impress. You can guide yourself by the season, or holiday, or fest, anything, change them frequently.


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