Colours

Flame-of-Burnt-Brandy, Razzmatazz, Burf Pink and weird names for colours

Marketing is a weird occurrence in daily life that you don’t know how much is reliant on identity and the cool factor. The names of colours follow a lot of marketing 101’s often. All of the colours of the universe already exist.

It’s just a name.

In the Journal of Consumer Research did a study to figure out if people preferred names that were vague or more specified monikers to describe colours. The study was conducted by Elizabeth G. Miller of Boston College and Barbara E. Kahn of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania who took 100 students to select which jelly bean from six containers as a reward for their participation that contained different flavours. The flavours were a mixture of vague and more descriptive like “blueberry blue”, “cherry red”, “chocolate brown”, “marshmallow white”, “tangerine orange” and “watermelon green”, and ambiguous like “Moody blue”, “Florida red”, “Mississippi brown”, “white Ireland”, “Passion orange” and “Monster green”. The study hypothesized that the students took three times more jelly beans with the flavours of vague names than the specified names. The students were told that they were going to order sweaters from a catalogue. The sweaters had various colours and shades described ambiguous or descriptive names with the ambiguity winning when there are purchases involved. The name adds in a jazzy quality that can make a product more desirable.

This is not only a new marketing gimmick but an old one. When dyes and inks were becoming a popular industry some people would come up with names for each colour and shade. The job was called a Colorman, a man who dealt with colours and paints by mixing dyes. They would market colours either by relating a colour to nature like grey-lavendar to be called periwinkle or by naming it after the inventor or painter like Payne’s grey after William Payne a watercolour painter of the 18th century.

Flame-of-Burnt-Brandy

In the 1920’s dye makers and color makers came up with funny names for colours all the time to stay competitive. This is the same theory used when colours like Flame-of-Burnt-Brandy, Reflex blue or Dragon’s blood where named.

HEX Code for Flames-Of-Burnt-Brandy
#F29538

This colour was a combination of the oranges, yellows and blues from the actual flame of spirits alcohol on fire. In 1821, the magazine Lady’s Monthly described the colour as a combination of lavender grey, pale yellow and dark lilac. It was to sell merino wool garments in the wintertime. It was a short-lived fade to name colours out of evocative versions of fire and smoke colours. The other colours mentioned in the article were London smoke and wood smoke. Bold contrast with bright colours was in fashion during the time after the Crimean war of 1851. Far East Asian influences and English influences might have sparked interest in the colour hue but the name was purely for marketing purposes for fashion and luxury that started on Bond Street, London fashion houses.

An example of brandy on fire by a Christmas Pudding just set to blaze

The few times people would see brandy on fire would be tableside presentations with good set on fire beside the customer entertaining them before serving the meal. This is sometimes referred to as flambé. Puddings, steaks, cake slices are set aflame after being doused with brandy. The flame is this bright blue colour fire with an overall orange flame. This was very popular at the time and it was an indulgence for the wealthy.

Razzmatazz

This was invented to sell more crayons. Crayola invented the colour Razzmatazz pink to expand their variety pack in 1994 after retiring other colours from their pack. The crayon pack was 64 crayons and was marketed with new colours to play with. The name is fun and weird. There’s no Razzmatazz movement or preexisting object available.

HEX Code Razzmatazz
#FF0066
Image of Crayon Colour Mix-Up by Patrick Rich of Flickr

There are many things over the years named after Razzmatazz. Television shows, songs, crayon colours, berry flavoured drinks and other party items. The word Razzmatazz is a noisy and showy display. The vibrant crimson-rose is loud and also like the Barbie pink from the ’80s and was named by a 5-year-old girl in the 1990s. It was apart of the Crayola contest to “Name the New Colors Contest” in 1993. These contests are not new to the company and are open to anyone of all ages. Recently they replaced Dandelion (medium yellow) with Bluetiful (medium blue) in 2017. Other winners in the contest in the ’90s were orange-yellow to Macaroni and Cheese by a 6-year-old girl who named the colour after her favourite food, Tickle-Me-Pink was named after a 12-year-old boy who named the colour after blushing when someone tickled him and Purple Mountain Majesty was named by an 89-year-old woman.

Notable colours that were reissued:

  • 1958 – Prussian Blue changed to Midnight Blue because a teacher didn’t feel that any student was familiar with the history of the Baltic kingdom.
  • 1962 – Flesh was changed to Peach “partially as a result of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement” according to the Crayola website.
  • 1990 – the flourescent colours were renamed to different fun names like:
    Chartreuse Fluorescent became Laser Lemon
    Hot Magenta Fluorescent became Razzle Dazzle Rose
    Ultra Blue Fluorescent became Blizzard Blue
    Ultra Green Fluorescent became Screamin’ Green
    Ultra Orange Fluorescent became Outrageous Orange
    Ultra Pink Fluorescent became Shocking Pink
    Ultra Red Fluorescent became Wild Watermelon
    Ultra Yellow Fluorescent became Atomic Tangerine
  • 1999 – Indian Red was changed to Chestnut after teachers complained that some children wrongly received the crayon colour as a skin tone of Native Americans.

Burf Pink

A computer came up with this colour through a program algorithm tasked to name random colours within the visible spectrum. It came up with some puzzling and gross colour combinations but burf pink was just weird. What is a burf pink and when would anyone see a burf pink? Are we a little burf pink on the inside?

Or was this computer just tasked to name colours without context but since it came from a computer A.I. some people wonder what the machine came up with creating a backstory and curiosity. A computer neural network was given a list of 7,700 names of Sherwin-Williams paint colour names and instead of combining the Rookwood Jade, Beige Pewter or Butternut Mustard, it made messed up names like Grass Bat, Furgy Brown and Burf Pink. Janelle Shane, a research scientist in Colorado and author of “You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How AI Works and Why It’s Making the World a Weirder Place“, said that the colour names were chosen by a “temperature” variable where the neutral network chooses the next “most likely” character while generating text going down a list. It will choose the gradient within its dataset path. The colours would tend to be grouped within the gradient rundown by shifting from green to brown to blue to yellow covering the whole rainbow of colours visible. Instead of only using RGB colour set, it uses HSV colour set which is Hue (colour)/ Saturation (intensity)/ Value (brightness) and LAB colour set which is short for CIELAB colour sets to create different variations of colours.

A screenshot of the odd colour names from an AI computer.
Burf Pink is located centre row, 14 down.

References:

O’Skea, Sean. Painting for Performance: a Beginners Guide to Great Painted Scenery. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

Cunnington, Willett C. English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century: A Comprehensive Guide with 1,117 Illustrations. Dover Publication, 2nd Edition, 2017.

Knowledge@Wharton – Florida Red or Moody Blue: Study Looks at Appeal of Off-beat Product Names

The Washington Post – Razzmatazz: The Money of Colors

TechCrunch – Horble gray, Burf pink: This neural network’s attempts to name colors are inexplicably hilarious

The Atlantic – When a Robot Names a New Color of Paint

Huffington Post Canada – A Brief Yet Complex Color History Of Crayola Crayons

AI Weirdness – Paint colors designed by neural network, Part 2

Crayon Collecting – The Definitive History of the Colors of Crayola – Part 19 – Decade of Experimentation

Banner Credit: The Big Box of Crayons – Phil Roeder from Flickr
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