The Psychology of Color: How Coca-Cola Captured Hearts around the World

November 23, 2016 / Graphic Design & Branding

Are you aware of just how powerful color is in marketing and advertising?

Just imagine your favorite brand and how different it would look and feel if other colors were used.

Color isn’t a strictly visual element; it’s very psychological and can trigger different feelings and emotions in the human body and mind.

Choosing a color for your logo or brand is not something to be taken lightly. The color you choose can play an integral part in the success of your product. You need to ask yourself how you want your audience to feel and what kind of emotions you are trying to bring out with your branding.

Let’s take a look at one of the most well-known and instantly recognizable brands in the world: Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola is famous for its white scripted text on a distinct bright red background.

The color red in marketing portrays power, excitement, energy and passion. It also stimulates the appetite, which makes it an excellent choice when branding food or drink.

Studies have also shown the color red can trigger impulse buys (which is a great trait for any product if you are the manufacturer). The white swirling letters also simulate passion. White is viewed as a brilliant color, making it perfect for signage due to its eye-catching qualities.

There was a time in the 1980s when “Coke” was struggling a bit with brand recognition. They had released Diet Coke and Cherry Coke, and the lack of consistent colors coupled with the scripted Coca-Cola logo being replaced with a block-like Coke logo caused these different flavor variations to be seen as competition instead of all in the same cola family. It was also found that there were variations in Coca-Cola’s “one true red.” The color differed from country-to-country, state-to-state and even from store-to-store! Once these issues were dealt with, the Coca-Cola family became consistent in its branding and continues to rank as the world’s most popular soda. It has been reported that 94% of the world’s population recognize Coke’s red and white logo,  and Coca-Cola has claimed that its name is second to “okay” as the most understood term in the entire world! At least I’ll be able to ask for a Coke if I’m ever stranded in Puerto Rico.

Have you heard of the Pepsi Paradox effect?

Pepsi regularly beats Coke in blind taste tests, but once people know what they’re drinking, they choose Coke over Pepsi.

The “brand” gives Coke an edge over Pepsi. Coke’s colors and advertising campaigns have given people a subconscious loyalty to the Coca-Cola brand.

Coke’s red and white combination has also spurred one of the strangest myths I’ve heard, regarding an extremely popular character known around the world as Santa Claus. It has been rumored that Coca-Cola “invented” Santa Claus as we know him today– wearing a red suit outlined in white trim. This myth has been debunked, as there are multiple images of Santa Claus in red and white predating Coke’s first Santa Claus advertisement in 1931. Coca-Cola can be credited with popularizing Santa Claus in a time before color was regularly used in media. Coke also humanized Santa with certain physical attributes that we still use today (rosy cheeks, large and jolly build, twinkling eyes, etc.). To this day, Coca-Cola is synonymous with winter and Christmas due to advertisements portraying Santa and, more recently, white polar bears. I fondly remember the polar bear ads during the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Would Coca-Cola have been as successful had they chosen different colors for their logo? Perhaps. Between 1894 and 1913, free samples of Coca-Cola were distributed to the public. During those years, approximately 1 out of every 9 Americans had sampled a free Coke! Now that’s good marketing!

The Coca-Cola brand was estimated to be worth $56 billion in 2014, fourth most in the entire world.

There’s certainly a chance that the soft drink would have been just as popular in “Pepsi-Blue” packaging, but the smart money says that Coca-Cola knew what it was doing when they branded their product. Color is an incredible force, and Coca-Cola used it to its advantage.

Did you know how important color is to a marketing campaign? If you had to choose between Coke and Pepsi, which would you choose, and why? Are there any Coca-Cola ads that have stuck with you for years? All of this writing has made me thirsty…anyone in the mood for a Coke?