ATOM Inspiring Innovation

A Lesson in Knowing Your Audience

by Kirsten Rutherford

A Lesson in Knowing Your Audience

Last week, I briefly watched the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and New York Jets Thursday Night Football game, and quickly switched channels. Partly because - in my opinion - football is just okay, but also because the solid red and green uniforms made me…flustered.

Turns out those uniforms caused quite a stir among many NFL fans.

The solid color uniforms were the first of four games for the Nike “Color Rush” Thursday Night Football promotion. While the color combination made me mildly uncomfortable, there were a lot of fans who were in absolute agony. This was because they were unable to differentiate the two teams, and following the game was near impossible. The unfortunate combination of solid red and solid green uniforms looked like a blur of solid grey uniforms to those with red-green colorblindness.

As a designer, my immediate reaction to fans claiming the game was absolute “torture” was, “Yikes! That’s unfortunate…”

In the world of design, the first question any creative should be asking themselves is ‘Who is my audience?’ Followed by the context in which the product, brand, promotion, advertisement, etc. is applied. We appreciate Nikes effort in spicing up the Thursday night games. But for an organization with such a large NFL presence, they should know pretty much everything about their largely male audience. Including, the fact that colorblindness affects approximately 1 in 12 men.

While that seems like a pretty wild detail, we cannot emphasize enough how important fully understanding your audience’s pain points really are. Because the last thing you want to do is “torture” a chunk of your demographic.

Why did the color choice frustrate me? From a purely aesthetic point of view, when vibrant red and green are paired an optical tension occurs because of how close they sit on the visual spectrum - making most people uncomfortable. Even for those who could see the colors, the radiant combination of the monochromatic football uniforms was visually aggravating. In art, design, branding, marketing, and product development color has the ability to completely change the tone, and this is why understanding the context is not only fundamental, but imperative.

Color is a powerful method of persuasion, and most people on the receiving end are unaware of the impact color can have on their actions. For example, Casinos are more likely to provide red chips to gamblers because they tend to bet more aggressively than with other colored chips. And fast food companies use warmer colors in their branding because it has been found those colors make you hungry. Maybe next time think twice before you order that larger fry in the drive through, or the next time you double-down…is something influencing you?

As far as the as the last Thursday Night football game went, it was probably not the best game for Nike to start off with for the Color Rush promotion. But, everyone drops the ball once in a while, and we have all learned a valuable lesson from this experience.

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