I spent Saturday evening with a good friend and a bottle of red wine. Our conversation meandered through a multitude of topics – work, life, food, good wine and then, after our third glass of beautiful Chilean red, it took a more sinister turn:

“I’m going to redecorate my living room.”

I don’t think I quite realised what impact this one statement would have on the conversation until my friend turned and asked me “What colour?” Making the decision to decorate was easy, but picking a colour was considerably harder. So after a good 45-minute discussion I resorted to some of the principles I work by when thinking about the use of colour in marketing.

Back to the basics: Firstly I needed to define the rooms purpose (the product) and what I use my living room for (the customer) ? I work from home occasionally, I use it for Yoga and to relax and entertain friends and family. I then moved on to think about the atmospherics I wanted to create in the room: I wanted it to be warm and welcoming, creative but peaceful, an environment that supports good health, growth, creativity and a generates a positive energy. Surely that wasn’t too much to ask of the white and grey Old English Sheep dog that was going to be supplying me with my paint?

The colours that branding professionals use for these characteristics are quite varied. Research suggests shades of green tend to be good for peace, health and growth, for creativity and imagination purples or mauves are often used and for friendly and cheerful environments it’s orange. So how would I blend the three together? It could end up quite a mess. The annoyance for me was that I couldn’t decide on just one colour. Each colour has these different psychological affects on our state of mind and I wanted to use the room for so many different things so there were lots of colours in my palette. It’s rare for me to be so indecisive and it’s not a good quality to have, especially in the world of marketing and PR!

The problem is that colours don’t have the same impact on everyone; research shows that environmental influencers when we are growing up affects the impact that a colour has on our minds. That said there are higher levels, less specific if you will, of message patterns in colours and there is now some research which suggests colour has a big part to play in our purchasing and brand decisions.

In a research piece, The Impact of Colour on Marketing, researchers found up to 90% of snap judgements made about a product were based on colour alone although this did depend on the product. Decisions are made within 90 seconds when it comes to purchasing most products and up to 90% of the time that’s based on colour. Look at Orange Mobile: whilst Orange is now part of EE the brand remains strong with a visible orange logo – ironic given it’s the brand name, but it is actually a very clever branding tactic. Orange is a friendly, cheerful and confident colour, which draws most people in, it also gives a sense of happiness and can help instil confidence in the brand and the product (obviously the product and service need to match up!).

A further piece of research, The Interactive Effects of Colours, has been carried out showing the relationship between brands and colour hinges on the perceived appropriateness or the “fit” of the colour to the brand and as a result purchasing intent is greatly affected by colours for this very reason. The fit for Orange as a brand is that the colour is also the brand name.

Following the stream of logic additional studies have also made things slightly more complicated because our brains prefer brands that we recognise and trust. So when creating a new brand it’s important to get the colours right but also consider what the competition are using because you need to stand out from competitors and one way to do that is by selecting a different brand colour.

So, as you can see, the right colour is a vital part of the decision making process. Have I redecorated yet? No! Why not? Because I am now in the process of moving and colour is a personal thing – can you imagine going to view a rental with rainbows all over the walls?!

But that doesn’t take the challenge away because I have a new living room to decorate now. I know I can’t paint the room all the colours I want to because it would create a feeling of chaos. Instead I’m taking my time working out how I can bring in colours in other ways, using pictures and plants. Watch this space!