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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

Colour psychology: The colour purple

Colour Pshychology: Purple (lavender plants in the background)

Did you know that purple is the hardest colour for the human eye to pick out? That might explain for why, in brand world, we’re tripping over brands attired in blues and reds while the brand colour purple seems thinner on the ground. In our colour psychology series, we discover why colours are specifically chosen in branding and what resonates. This week, we’re focusing on the colour purple.

The brand colour purple

What else are you supposed to call a blog about purple? (Okay, we added a ‘u’ that’s not in the movie title). Whether it’s about branding, fashion or pop culture purple is princely or even fit for a king.

Pantone 18-3838 (Ultra Violet) is the official colour of the year for 2018. It’s the second time purple has claimed the honour in four years. So could purple be on the up?

Out and about, you’ll have seen courier brand FedEx going places. Did you spot the colour of the Fed part? You guessed it.

If you’ve been house or job hunting you may have seen more purple brands that you realise. Zoopla, Purple Bricks and Monster all use the colour. And if you used Yahoo to search for them you can add another to the list.

Companies using purple in their logos: Zoopla, Yahoo!, FedEx, Monster

Shelf life

Purple’s been a common fixture throughout history and in popular culture, but less of a player in branding. Part of the reason: the difficult and expensive process of reproducing it, putting it beyond early means of brands with a long history.

What’s more, the recent trend for emulating or benchmarking popular brands has meant its use hasn’t been extended even in modern times. So it doesn’t dominate sectors the way other colours do.

The one place where brands have made purple a player, though, is in confectionary, specifically chocolate.

Milka is on the lighter end of the scale while Quality Street walks a darker path. But it’s Cadbury that reins supreme in its purple regalia. Shrewdly trademarking Pantone 2865c in the chocolate and drinks sector, it ensured any pretenders pale into insignificance. Purple not only lines its flagship Dairy Milk bars but also cameos on items like Fudge, Double Decker, Chomp and Curly Wurly.

Cadbury was said to have taken on the purple colour in honour of Queen Victoria and the royal connection continues today as it creates batches made to a special recipe to be sent to the royal palaces each year.

Picture of bombons

By royal order

Historically purple dyes were hard to produce, keeping them in short supply and making them too expensive for the masses. It became the colour of the wealthy or high-standing around the world.

In western countries, it was often used by the ruling monarch. In the east, only Buddhist monks at the top of the order wore purple. Under the Roman Empire, Caesar wore purple robes – creating a premium association with the colour that endures today. No surprise that luxury brand Asprey, working by royal appointment, adopts a rich, deep purple hue for its visual identity.

Picture of a Crown with Purple decorations

Purple rain

Like all colours, purple has different significances in culture, whether that be popular (and the often obsessive nature with which teenage girls embrace the colour) or more traditional.

It’s the colour of mourning for widows in Thailand and all mourners in Brazil, where the association is so strong it can be frowned upon to wear it at any other time. Still, in Asia, it represents wealth and status in Japan.

In the US, the Purple Heart is given to military personnel killed or wounded during service. And since they started handing them out in the 1920s, nearly 2 million have been awarded.

As the most powerful visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy, purple is just a few steps away from x-rays and gamma rays (see the chart here). Perhaps that’s why it’s often associated more with supernatural energy, spiritualism and the cosmos than with the physical world as we know it.

Interested in learning more about branding? We’re all ears. Get in touch, and let’s chat about developing your brand together (starting with the colour, of course!).

More from the brand colour psychology series

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