A new study by scientists from Newcastle University further supports the theory that our colour preferences goes far beyond cultural significance and link to a deeper understanding at a primal level.
Professor Anya Hurlbert of Newcastle University asked adults from different cultures to choose their preferred colour from pairs of coloured rectangles which revealed that females have a preference for ‘redder’ colours. The results seem to support the theory that evolution may have driven women’s preference for the colour pink. Professor Hurlbert suggested that in human development women were the primary gatherers and would have recognised the colour to indicate riper fruit. Pink also is an indication of good health when choosing a mate. From Barbie pink to sugar pink; rose, candy, magenta and salmon are also all variations of the colour pink which at its base is a combination of the colours red and white.
But its symbolism is complex. Until the early part of the twentieth century the colour pink in art was considered a dilution of red and associated with more male qualities. It’s not certain when or why the association of pink switched from male to female but it is thought that social, cultural and political changes influenced fashion and colour trends.
Essentially at a primary level pink relates to the skin. Regardless of your skin colour, some part of your body is pink. There may be further strong primal links to the female anatomy and its processes e.g. birth, linking to nurture and care. Hence our associations with pink also to the qualities of love.
Pink used in branding
A trawl through various branding identities shows the emphasis on pink being used for products and services when specifically targeted to a female audience. Some companies will almost lazily plaster a product with pink in an effort to appeal to the ‘girls’. However, different types of pink will better appeal to different types of audience.
The car insurance company ‘Sheila’s Wheels’ dominant use of pink throughout brand advertising makes things totally clear – the service is just for the girls!
Breast cancer charities www.breatcancercare.org and www.breastcancercampaign.org both use the colour pink in different ways to express different feminine qualities. The softer bluish pink of Breast Cancer Care communicates a more empathetic message whilst the feisty strong pink of Breast Cancer Campaign demands ‘donate now’!
The London based brand, Thomas Pink, create shirts and accessories now sold all over the world. The original Mr Pink was an 18th century London tailor who designed the iconic scarlet hunting coat worn by Masters of Foxhounds. The coat became referred to as PINK, in honour of its originator. The brand uses its namesake colour with the thought that black perhaps adds gravitas and diminishes any overly feminine connotations. However, I think the reverse is true. The very grown up seductive combination of black and pink speaks more about ‘feminine mystery’ as used in successful upmarket lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.
Because pink relates so well to the skin, it can be physically soothing; it obviously lends itself to skincare or even health related products. The product Pepto Bismal’s lurid pink liquid offers relief from livid insides.
Tips on using pink in branding
1) Think a bit more outside the box than just ‘will this appeal to a girl/woman’ if I use pink? Consider the qualities and an association around the principle of femininity i.e. does this product/service need to communicate that it’s:
- Physically soothing
- Caring or nurturing (for the client physically or personally)
2) What else does the product message need to communicate?
- Think about the type of pink. Softer, lighter pinks have different qualities to vibrant and dynamic magenta or reddish pink
- Consider the other colours you use with pink. Yellow (as in Pepto Bismol branding) inspires confidence. Black (Agent Provocateur) adds some mystery and seduction.