Humans are wired to pay attention to colour. From the black and yellow stripes on a bee’s body, to the heavy grey clouds of an impending storm, colour gives meaning to our environment and our experiences within it.

It has been documented that in a retail environment it is colour to which the consumer first reacts. Colour can actuate memories, expectations and more. From a psychological perspective, colour can also trigger how we interpret events and how we respond to them. Think for a moment of the main colours used in fast food branding here in Australia, and indeed, all over the world. McDonalds, KFC, Red Rooster, Chicken Treat… they all contain the colour red. Would it surprise you if I said that colour psychology lists red as one of the main colours that stimulates hunger?

Clever use of colour is not limited to fast food outlets. The banking and finance industry have been aware of the impact their company’s colours have on their investors and customers for a very long time. Is it no wonder the banking industry has been dripping in the colour blue (symbolising power, strength and intelligence, amongst others) for decades? Colour symbolism is not resistant to changing times and ideologies though. Though dominant associations with the colour blue, as listed previously, are still standard, in recent times the colour has begun to mean something slightly different. Strangely, younger consumer’s perception of blue is becoming quite negative, with it being described as cold, depressive and passive, perhaps because they associate it with the banking practices of their parents’ day when banks operated very differently to the higher level of transparency evident in the industry today. It is interesting to note how this colour is now being represented in modern banking branding. Bankwest marry it to golden yellow, suggesting strength and dependability whilst highlighting warmth, friendliness and happiness. ANZ use exclusively blue, varying their hues and tones to infer dependability and serenity within the promise of professionalism and security. Each of these tones has been carefully selected for what information it immediately imparts to the consumer. This process (from the consumer being exposed to a colour, to translating that colour physiologically, to attributing meaning and emotion psychologically) happens so fast that most of the time the average consumer is not even aware of why they prefer the jewellers shop with silver interior compared to one with a yellow-green interior. They just do.

The colours of a brand say as much, and sometimes more, to the consumer than almost any other device. The colours you choose to represent your product or business must represent your promise to the consumer, because even though the nuts and bolts of colour psychology may be beyond some of us, the inherent, natural reaction we have to colour is instantaneous and common to every one of us.