Colour is a Language

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It is fascinating to observe how we are tuned to respond to products and services all around us. Colour is part of an orchestra of signals that our five senses use to assign meaning to our experiences. Think about the Safaricom green on Mpesa shops that cause us to know our search for an agent is fruitful, Ketepa’s yellow and green that says here is tea from the rich highlands of Kenya, Barclays blue that announces class, Colgate Herbal’s green that draws us closer to nature. They all work along with other touch points to evoke certain responses from us. I had one such experience earlier this week on an out of town trip.

I accompanied a friend and his family to their home in Naroosura, Narok County. Naroosura is around 80Kms after Narok Town, We did a couple of diversions on a 17Km stretch before going off-road. It does not rain frequently in Narok but when it does it pours and that is exactly what happened the day before our travel to set the stage for the drama that ensued. We struggled to stay on course as we slid off the muddy roads time and time again.

The entourage was almost there when we got to a sea of mud that made us all appreciate four-wheel-drive vehicles on the convoy. All passengers alighted and watched in dismay as two-wheel cars spent over an hour being pushed by local folk or towed by tractors across the ‘mud sea’. We knew we were in trouble when we looked at the fuel gauge post the mud saga. Once the function at Naroosura was done, we made haste for Narok while the sun was shining. We were about 50 kilometres from the closest fuel station when the low fuel light came on and stalling was a possibility.

We were relieved to see tarmac at around 8.00pm and made a decision drive past the first fuel station because we didn’t trust them. We went past a couple of other franchise stations before the driver shouted “Total” like we had struck gold. All we could see were red lights in a distance. The car owner recommended that we go a kilometre further to the Shell Station.

IMG_4011.jpegOne observation I have made about the Shell Service Station as we approached it was is the absence of the name Shell. You only see the legendary icon and the red & yellow sitting on a white background. At that hour the red and yellow colours represented a haven of hope, a relief from stress. Here, we are guaranteed good quality fuel, a clean windshield, snacks & water at the convenience store as well as decent restrooms.

There is a  rationale to the choice of colours for the logo and other collateral that represents the brand but I must admit that some happen by accident like the Coca-cola red that was used so customs officers are able to distinguish the soft drink from the taxed alcoholic drinks in the US over 130 years ago. Today, if you googled the meaning of Coca-cola red you will come across passion, stamina, power and energy. Brand identity designers lean on a colour chart to inform them about the Pantone that set our perception on a particular path. See the following meaning drawn from a colour psychology website.

  • Red  – passion and drama.
  • Orange  – encouragement
  • Yellow  – optimism.
  • Pink  – sensitivity
  • Blue – trust.
  • Black  – mystery.
  • Green  – growth and health.

Colours form part of the orchestra of customer touch points that work together to produce a positive or negative perception in the mind and hearts the customers & prospects.

Colour is a language that we all speak.

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