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Why are the political parties that colour?
29/04/2015

As it's the 2015 elections we're going to dive in to the history of the colour. So how did the UK political parties end up with their colours? And what do those political colours mean?

Every strong brand needs their own colour, and just like the commercial world, it's worth surveying the spectrum of competition before deciding on a colour for your brand.

In the world of fast food, for example, there isn't a defining colour. In fact the colour wheel of fast food is full of brands competing for a slice of instant recognition.

Subway's Green and yellow, Taco Bell's Purple, KFC's dark red, the famous 'golden arches' of McDonalds, and the unmistakable blue of your local Greggs.


It's the same for the UK's political parties. A strong single brand colour makes recognition much easier. In fact, colour is so important in politics that they are often used in place of a title. "'Yellow' politics" to describe liberalism, "going green" for environmentalism, and red for socialism. 

We'll be digging up some quick political history for an explanation of how the colours got divided out, looking at the brands of the major parties, and then cautiously wading in to the murky waters of colour psychology to find out if what that colour communicates about the party.

As we'll discover, it's mainly a coincidence that the political parties have so neatly found a colour to call their own in the race for election success


The SNP & yellow



How they became yellow:

Yellow in politics goes back to at least 1928, when the Liberal Former Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George published a report of a party inquiry, “Britain’s Industrial Future”.

That report is still referred to today as 'The Yellow Book', presumably because during the second half of the nineteenth century, sensational fiction and adventure stories were published with yellow covers. A 'yellow' book was something new, whether that was for better or worse.

Of course a more obvious colour might have been blue and white, to match the Scottish flag, but blue was already taken.



The colour yellow in marketing

Yellow logos invoked perceptions of fun and modernity. Brands like McDonalds, IKEA, and National Geographic use yellow as a key colour in their brand identity.

 


 

Liberal Democrats & Orange

How they became orange:

The Liberal Democrats are the result of the merging of the UK Liberal Party (historically yellow, as above) and the Social Democratic Party, whose ideology is routed in socialism (historically red, see below). See the connection yet? The obvious choice was to combine the two, creating orange.

The colour orange in marketing

Orange logos invoke feelings of friendliness, cheerfulness, and confidence. Brands that use orange include Amazon, Nickelodeon, Harley Davidson, and Mozilla Firefox.

 


 

Conservatives and blue



How they became blue:

The Conservative Party adopted the colours of the Union Jack, red, white, blue, from the inception of the party in 1834. Variations on the Union Jack have been used to represent the Conservative party ever since.

After Labour began to run with a similar hue of red, the Conservative party dropped the red all together, and the white, sticking with blue as their party colour.


The colour blue in marketing

Blue logos invoke feelings of confidence, success and reliability. Brands using blue include Facebook, Vimeo, Dell, Twitter, Intel, and Volkswagen.

 


 

Labour and red



How they became red:

The colour red has been associated with left-wing politics since the French Revolution. British sailors mutinied near the mouth of the River Thames in 1797 and hoisted a red flag on several ships, the red flag had previously been used to represent the "martyrs' blood" of those who had been killed.

A plain red flag was the emblem of the British Labour Party from its formation, to a far less bloody time in 1986 when it was replaced with a friendlier red rose.

However, the party used purple rather than red as a background colour in its 1997 election broadcasts, as it targeted central ground and Gordon Brown said "purple is the colour of passion"

The colour red in marketing

Red logos invoke feelings of expertise and self-assurance. Lots of global brands use red, notably Lego, Virgin, Coca-Cola, Nintendo, and Kellogg's.

 


 

UKIP and purple



How they became purple:

Purple's history in politics is much newer. UKIP was established in 1993 and, as the history of the colour purple in British politics is relatively untouched before 1993, purple's use before this date was as a symbol of combined 'blue' and 'red' politics, though this isn't the case for UKIP.



The colour purple in marketing

Purple logos invoke feelings of femininity, glamor and charm. Brands using purple include Cadbury's, Yahoo, Hallmark and Monster Jobs.

 



 

The Green Party and Green



How they became green:

Whilst it might be obvious why The Green Party chose the colour green, the history goes back a long, long way.

The first recorded use of green in politics was in the 6th Century, with a political faction in Constantinople in the Byzantine Empire.

The Green Party in the UK were originally called 'The Ecology Party', and changed their name in 1990. The party have always used the colour green in the campaigns, an obvious choice for a party with environmentalism at it's core, along with a sunflower as their logo. The newly formed Green Party took their name from their own slogan 'The green party'.

The colour green in marketing

Green logos involve feelings of Environmental friendliness, toughness, durability, masculinity and sustainability. Brands using the colour green include BP, Android, Starbucks, Spotify, and Land Rover.
 


Hex colour references: Wikipedia

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