What can brown do for you?*

Consider this study, on the effect of color on the perceived taste of coffee:

200 persons were asked to pass their judgment on coffee which had been served to them out of four different color pots, e.g. a red pot, a blue pot, a brown pot, and a yellow pot. 73% of these people found that the coffee poured from the brown container was too strong, whereas 84% … considered the coffee of the red pot rich and full-bodied. The coffee from the blue pot was regarded as having a milder aroma. The beans used to prepare the coffee in the yellow pot were said to be of a weaker blend. And yet all the pots contained exactly the same coffee.1

Color and marketing. We all know that they go together when we stop and think about it, but how often do you stop and think about it? One experiment found that the same laundry detergent in yellow packaging is deemed too strong, in blue too weak, but in yellow and blue very effective.1 The Wall Street Journal reported that a change in root beer cans from blue to beige prompted people to assert that the drink tasted more like the old-fashioned kind than it previously had; a change in ginger ale from red to green increased sales by 25%.

Research has indicated time and again the importance of color in marketing and branding. One study found that nearly 85% of people think color is over half of the reason for choosing one product over another. The Institute for Color Research determined, “people make a subconscious judgment about an item within 90 seconds of initial viewing, and that up to 90% of that assessment is based on color.” Still other analyses have deduced that color may increase comprehension by up to 73%.

Surveys related directly to advertisements have concluded that color is much more effective in many ways: 57% of ads in color were noticed, versus 43% of black and white; 22% of people read the ads when they were in color, versus 16% when in black and white; and in 43% of color ads the brand was identified, versus just 28% of black and white. Further, research at the University of Loyola has indicated that color alone may increase consumers’ recognition of a brand 80%.   

In some cases, a color can become the brand unto itself. You knew, didn’t you, that the headline question was the slogan for UPS? Color is a potent branding and marketing device. It is so powerful, in fact, that color psychologist Dr. Jean-Paul Favre and marketing consultant Dr. Andre November have asserted:

Color is a remarkable tool in marketing communication. It is a bait, a link, a carrier of messages. In a wider sense, colors are a kind of code which is easy to understand and to assimilate. They are an immediate and straightforward language which has the advantage of ignoring any speech barrier and difficulties of decoding. Colors have the power of communication.

Color has the very power of communication. How is your company using color to establish brand recognition? Are you building a visible identity? Have you considered how color might be affecting your clients’ experience?

Do you want to be thought of as the full-bodied coffee or the weak coffee? Remember, there was no difference in the coffee itself, only in the perception of it.  




“Brand Design: Cracking the Colour Code,” Marketing Week, 11 October 2007.

1 Favre, Jean-Paul and Andre November, Color And Und Et Communication. Zurich: ABC Verlag, 1979.

Herbst, Peggy. “Ad Research Taking Closer Look at Color,” Back Stage, 27 March 1985.

Morton, Jill. “Quirks of the Color Quest,” Color Matters—Business, Marketing, and Trends (2000); from <www.colormatters.com/chatquest.html>. Accessed 30 April 2009.

Morton, Jill. “Why Color Matters,” Color Matters—Business, Marketing, and Trends (2005); from <www.colormatters.com/market_whycolor.html>. Accessed 30 April 2009.

“The Power of Color in Direct Marketing,” Direct Creative; from <www.directcreative.com/blog/the-power-of-color-in-direct-marketing>. Accessed 30 April 2009.

Soellner, John. “Information Applied to Graphic Design: Color Psychology,” Design Crux (2009); from <http://www.designcrux.netfirms.com/infograph.html>. Accessed 30 April 2009.



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