Psychology of Colour in Branding: PURPLE
When compared to green or blue, purple is a more exotic colour, rarely found in nature. To create purple pigments, ancient colourists had to research which plants or animals could recreate this regal hue. That’s no easy feat. The earliest colour dyes for purple fabric date back 1,900 B.C. It took 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure pigment, which barely dyed a full Roman toga.
Only emperors had the privilege, wealth, and resources to own such rare garments, thus creating the social hierarchy of colour, with purple sitting right at the top. It’s been associated with royalty and extravagance ever since.
I Lilac You A Lot
Since purple is so rare, it’s considered spiritually sacred. Imagine describing purple to someone who has never seen it. It requires imagination and intuitive thinking to recreate a colour such as purple in one’s mind. Creation and imagination all coincide with enhancing your spiritual pursuits and enlightenment; imagining the colour purple (and longing to find it in the natural world) feeds into our curiosity and the spiritual creation of all beings. Ultimately, purple is an introspective colour, inspiring deep thoughts. It links thought and activity, expanding our awareness while keeping us grounded.
When you look at the basic principles of pigment, purple is the combination of red and blue. Look at genetics, when the physical traits of 2 parents combine to create a child; it’s the same concept with colours. Purple has adopted the perceived spiritual integrity of blue and the apparent energy and strength of red. Combined, purple’s power is the union of body and soul, balancing our physical and spiritual energies.
Many philosophers “think in purple,” using their mind and emotions to find harmony in the practicalities of life. Since purple has a royal history, a sense of authority and leadership also come with this philosophical thinking. Combining wisdom, power with sensitivity and humility can achieve a lot for the less fortunate. Philosophers—or anyone who thinks outside the box —would be considered humanitarians for thinking in purple and sharing their findings with others.
As a colour of fantasy, kids are naturally drawn to purple. It has the most powerful wavelength of the rainbow due to its electromagnetic energy. Also, as a bright and dominant colour, it stimulates children faster than adults and catches their attention for longer. This might be why you see a lot of purple in children's television characters like Barney and Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies.
Purple is also a symbolic colour within the gay community, especially in western cultures. Tinky Winky’s purple colour, his purse, and feminine mannerisms were the subject of some controversy in the late 1990s. However, what it really showed children was that purple could be about imagination, freedom and simply being comfortable in your own skin.
For all the above reasons, it’s obvious why purple would popular among professionals in the creative industry. Artists, musicians (we’re looking at you, Prince) designers, magicians, writers; anything that involves creativity and innovation pairs perfectly with purple. However, many other industries like to use purple to provide legitimacy to their business, too. Monster.com uses purple, likely to relate to all cultures, ages, and genders. The beauty of purple is it lacks a singular, defined audience, which means it can be adapted to work for a variety of brands.
You could argue that Yahoo! uses purple in their branding to provide legitimacy and value to the information they provide. Thinking back to its association with royal history and how prestigious it was to own anything purple, brands often use this methodology to be seen as a premium service. If anything, Canadian whisky brand, Crown Royal can be seen rejuvenating this trend in 1939, when they were introduced as a tribute to King George VI’s visit to Canada.
The Los Angeles Lakers took a different approach with purple. They use its electromagnetic energy, juxtaposed with yellow, to create an energetic and high-frequency logo. The main goal is to provide a sense of energy and momentum in a fast-paced game by seeing the colour whizz past fans on the court.
Depending on your age, purple can connote sexy and rebellious undertones. Teenagers are always seen as rebellious and going through an experimental phase of their lives. Brands often use purple to appeal to this lifestyle. A lot of this phrasing can be attributed to Jimi Hendrix's 1967 song, “Purple Haze” - largely considered to be about a particularly potent strain of cannabis or psychedelic drug, although Hendrix himself claimed it was about “a dream I had that I was walking under the sea”. In either case, these feelings of euphoria, being high, and enjoying life are present. Trojan condoms embrace purple and use it in their branding, especially since ‘pleasure’ seems to be something that they mention a lot in their branding.
Don’t Wine About It
Online, you’ll find many tips and tricks for brands to properly execute colour. Many try to restrict their palette to one or two colours, directly (and simply) communicating a message through those specific tones.
As we’ve mentioned, purple represents imagination, spirituality, and royalty; however when used too much, it can have the opposite effect. Too much purple can appear juvenile and also encourage free-thinking in impractical ways.
Like with most colours, brands need to be cautious of overusing purple. It can quickly look like you’re trying too hard to seem premium, arousing suspicion. Too much purple risks looking like a social climber, faking it until they make it, showing delusions of success and social status (but coming off as a fraud). So be careful; your brand does not want to be called out for being pompous and arrogant just to appear to be successful.
Since purple is a secondary colour, it can have a higher percentage of blue or red, depending on the tone. Indigo has the most accurate ratio of the two colours combined and its jam-packed with those character traits, too. Like traditional purples, Indigo communicates intuitive thinking and deep sincerity. However, Indigo has an obsessive quality that encourages addictive behaviour. It may bring about wisdom, but it can be quite dramatic, too. Art and creativity run strong in this specific shade, so if you want to make something pop, this would be the hue to use.
Variations of purple have different meanings, which brands can take advantage of. Generally, lighter shades are used more in the female market, probably by brands who are afraid of using pink due to sexist undertones - unaware that they’re probably being just as sexist by using purple. As the shade gets darker, it starts to take on a more serious tone, inspiring intellectual thought and achievement.