Does the colour of a charity’s branding really matter?

Breast cancer charities were last month warned that using pink in their advertising, communications and branding is counterproductive. It’s an interesting theory, from a response point of view as much as a creative one.

According to a report put together by none other than London Business School, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and international business school INSEAD, gender cues such as pink ribbons, backgrounds and images of women are counterproductive and ‘activate a defensive reaction’ in women that interferes with the objectives of breast cancer awareness campaigns.

But fascinating though this academic study may be, those of us at the accountable end of marketing prefer to rely on – dare I suggest – testing to inform our decisions.

This is what the breast cancer charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer  found through its own consumer research. The charity rebranded to pink from purple after talking to its supporters and the general public about what they would prefer. What customers tell us through action often throws up surprising results that defy logic or theory.

For instance, stringent tests on a charity ‘survey’ pack demonstrated that yellow was the colour most successful at
generating response. Both theory and belief suggested that red would be better. And while red is, of course, powerful and motivating in many contexts, I certainly found it refreshing to discover that there is no such thing as a universal rule.

Perhaps the only real certainty here is that only proper testing can reveal the true levers of response.

Bob Nash is a creative director at Watson Phillips Norman