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Mommy, Why is Facebook Blue?

Why is Facebook blue and Jio red? Rajnigandha’s black and blue, all for you! The story behind logos and colours.

Published
India
4 min read
You may not know what your favourite colour is, but FB, Rajnigandha and a host of others do! (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

Would you buy Colgate toothpaste if it was acid green? Can you imagine a blue Airtel logo? Which of these buttons are you more likely to click?

Theoretically, green is a more positive colour with touchy-feely associations. And yet...
Theoretically, green is a more positive colour with touchy-feely associations. And yet...
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You clicked on the red one, right? Welcome to the world of colour, in marketing.

Simply put, the colour of a thing influences your decision to buy it. More than you can imagine. Consider this:

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Snapshot

In most humans, vision is the most developed sense, which is why 90 percent of your decisions to buy/try something is based on the way it looks.

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Jio is red, Flying Machine is blue, Lakme is black, and sometimes purple too! 
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The explanation for brand-colour-perception lies in psychology. In fact, you’ll also find it in the Shastras.

Specific colours trigger specific emotions in us. And brands and logos tap into this response to sell more.

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We associate the colour green with trust and good health, but it is seldom seen ‘inside’ hospitals. Sterility takes precedence over trust, I guess. (Photo: Vikram Venkateswaran)
We associate the colour green with trust and good health, but it is seldom seen ‘inside’ hospitals. Sterility takes precedence over trust, I guess. (Photo: Vikram Venkateswaran)
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Okay, thus far, I’ve made an over-simplification. As you’ve noticed, the words next to the colours aren’t just feelings. Colours, therefore elicit more than emotions. They also represent status, tradition and a sense of community. In essence, colours give us a subjective, intangible experience. Something Indian aesthetics and art terms ‘Rasa’.

While the psychology of colour looks at what a particular colour brings out in us, Indian aesthetics focuses on the visual representation of a particular ‘rasa’ in the form of colour. Instead of looking at another chart, let’s look at a painting;

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I added the black borders, but that too, is traditional. (Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)
I added the black borders, but that too, is traditional. (Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)
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This is a Mughal-style painting, which is basically an amalgamation of Persian and Indian styles to beautiful effect. The man here is dressed in blue, to denote serenity and power. The green halo stands for youth and knowledge. Basically the painting says he’s rich, young and smart – according to Indian aesthetics and the ‘Rasa’ theory.
According to research by KISSmetrics, women love blue, purple and green. Nice.

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A study in Canada in the 1970s found that children in schools were soothed by the colour pink. Some jail cells are painted pink to soothe overly aggressive prisoners in the West.
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And here is Goddess Parvati, being worshiped by saints and celestials. She is surrounded by dark blue bordering on black, which symbolises power and the infinite. She is green in colour, symbolising nature.

Men are attracted to green, black and blue (based on KISSmetrics research).

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I could go on and on about the workmanship, but that’s for later. (Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)
I could go on and on about the workmanship, but that’s for later. (Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)
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A 2012 Harvard study found that food items labeled green evoked a sense of healthiness, and sales shot up. They fared better than the same food items with red labels. 
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The idea of a brand image is not just to attract attention. It has to attract the right attention, by evoking the right feeling so it reaches the right customers – which is why Surf Excel, Brittania, Brooke Bond, Castrol, Google and Microsoft have a little bit of all of the primary colours. The idea being – they want everyone.

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Rajini to Rajnigandha: Black is Beautiful

Whether it’s Rajinikanth in Kabali or Rajnigandha’s Silver Pearls campaign, the colour of choice is black. Despite the fact that black denotes negativity or death and a dark skin colour is frowned upon (for about two centuries), the colour itself has seen wide use in Indian art.

In contemporary society, it evokes suavity, royalty, power. And so it is typically used to market to the luxury segment. Rajnigandha Silver Pearls, therefore, is the rich man’s supari.

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Red, White and Blue = Indian?

Let’s do a headcount of some of the top brands in India:

Airtel
Reliance
SBI
ICICI Bank
Bajaj
Maruti Suzuki
Literally Every News Channel

All of these, and hundreds of other smaller brands, rock the red and blue combo. Red, because it draws attention, as we noticed right at the beginning. And blue, to mitigate the energy, and throw in some calm corporate-ness into the mix.

It’s possible that some of these brands didn’t really consider the relationship between colour and the customer’s emotion.

Facebook is blue, because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. And because he likes blue. 

But the science behind colour and its impact on the human psyche is undeniable. And then there’s about three thousand years of art and tradition to back it up! This explains why Pepsi isn’t completely blue, despite the fact that it’s Coca-Cola’s perennial rival.
The next time you look at a brand, you’ll know why it’s the colour it is, even if the guy who created it doesn’t!

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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