One search on the psychology of color will make your head spin. When branding, thinking about color in terms of ‘fit’ is the right approach.
Whether you take a scientific approach to color (yellow is the first color processed visually so in point of sale design yellow should be used so it ‘pops’ of the shelf) or just feel your way through the problem (‘green just says stress free to me!’), everyone concedes that color has a large impact on our perception of a company or product and how we remember them.
Companies and products have unique personalities, are liked and disliked for their traits and the way they express themselves. They cannot be all things to all people (saying no is important) and they must remain true to who they are. When making color choices we suggest first to know your company/product, define what it is and is not, and then ask “Which color ‘fits’ that personality?” The more a company’s elements ‘fit’ who they are and what they stand for, the more people will be attracted to them.
Take target. It’s red bullseye is unmistakeable and easily recognized. But isn’t red the color of power/danger/caution/stop? Combine this with the bullsey and you’d think our cave-man brains would have us searching elsewhere for reasonably priced design minded home goods. Did target make color choices that made their core mission more difficult? if that bulseye was green would it matter (if your like us that probably made you think – ‘What? Target in green, no way… doesn’t fit). Something just feels right about that brand in red. Why?… and how did they know to choose red? For every color theory we find, it’s almost certain we can point to a company that did the opposite and succeeded wildly.
Gregory Ciotti does a great job describing the complexity of color in his article The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding. And, I believe he got it right when he wrote:
“When it comes to picking the “right” color, research has found that predicting consumer reaction to color appropriateness in relation to the product is far more important than the individual color itself. So, if Harley owners buy the product in order to feel rugged, you could assume that the pink + glitter edition wouldn’t sell all that well.”
Let’s look again at Target. Who is Target? Target is doing something different than all the other big-box stores—It places an emphasis on style. From the products on the shelves to the shelves themselves. They (it seems to us) make more thoughtful decisions about what products go where, and they believe that if given a choice, people want value and style. They are discerning. Thus the nickname Targét—just a touch conceded.
They are offering a clear choice… Target, or Walmart, Good design, or good enough. This is a focused, unique move, meant to challenge the consumer. Perfect job for the color red (focused, unique, challenging, good design, emphasis, style), and the bullseye. Their color choice ‘fits’ the personality of the company.