In a recent article in Scientific American, neuroscientists explain how color helps the brain process visual stimuli and sift through information in the world. The various shades and tones can differentiate objects and boost memory. In fact, color is believed to be the most significant visual experience to human beings. Research suggests the brain devotes as much space to processing color as it does to recognizing faces.
Case in point: If summer 2023 has a color, it’s pink. The expression has dominated fashion, merchandising and popular culture through published images and video clips featuring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken in the film directed by Greta Gerwig. Set designers worked with over 100 shades of pink to establish the brand, to the point that it caused a global shortage of pink paint.
According to Kassia St Clair, cultural historian and author of “The Secret Lives of Colour,” pink wasn’t always associated with women. In fact, pink was once viewed as “the stronger color, a relative of the passionate, aggressive red.” An 1893 article on baby clothes in The New York Times stated that you should “always give pink to a boy and blue to a girl.
In a recent BBC article, Clare Thorp writes that the color actually serves a subversive message in the new Barbie film, attacking the shorthand and clichés that exist and loosening our perception of what pink means symbolically. As a result, pink will emerge with the association of being bolder, stronger and more empowered for many consumers.
Neurologically speaking, there is research to show the importance of color in the brain. “Everyone just sort of takes their vision for granted. They miss the wonder of how incredible it is that we can interpret this tiny pattern of light that’s falling in our eye and make so much sense out of it,” says Mike Webster, a psychologist at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Today, executive leaders often speak about strategy and recognize the importance of the brand and a platform of audience-specific messaging. As professionals charged with stewarding the brand, we also recognize the need to stay relevant and speak to deployment of the brand through digital media and marketing tools. We cite those performance measurements along with press mentions and event activations to communicate the level of brand success.
However, as important as those channels and metrics are, the fact is that search, social and programmatic advertising are still tactical platforms to distribute the creative assets of the brand. The technology may be optimized, but are the content assets on-strategy, on-brand and on-message? And by content, I am referring to the information and messages, but also the visual expression – the images and colors. They are also content.
Are they an appropriate reflection, and are they in alignment with your overarching message? Do they reflect the essence and mission of the organization with authority? Are they arresting and disruptive? Are they seizing the moment and making a provocative statement about your brand as effectively as they could? Are they being applied consistently?
Does the design of your advertising engage and inspire audiences? Does your visual identity system differentiate your company and set you apart from the din of advertising clutter in the market? Does it project a credible, trustworthy image for your brand? Or, as can often be the case, is your brand expression an afterthought – a common, indistinct and perhaps dated set of usage guidelines that desperately need to be challenged?
Color creates brand distinction, but it can also project an idea. Color provides a sense of connection and relatability. Traditionally, vibrant and saturated colors have appealed to younger audiences and evoked an image of technology, innovation or disruption. More mature audiences (e.g., Board, shareholders) are typically believed to be more responsive to a subdued, reassuring color palette that connotes stability, longevity and wisdom. But in today’s world, rules are meant to be broken.
The components of a visual identity, such as imagery, color, typographic, iconography all work together and contribute to transmit the proper brand image.
We should think about color and imagery just as we think about a platform of messaging. Words are a measurable, persuasive form of brand expression – as are images, icons and colors. Collectively, along with other elements of the visual identity and published content, these unique assets tell the story of who you are, what you do, and why it is so critically important.
Executive leaders can seize this opportunity. We can engage a strategic creative team with the vision, passion and experience to deliver an exclusive and powerful expression of the brand, one that elevates the company value proposition above the proliferation of market noise and ahead of the competition.