Showing our true colors means expressing our true character, thoughts and intentions. This is how color helped us build our product more than we could have imagined. 

The other day I called a friend who just came down with a flu. "How are you feeling?" I said. "I'm feeling blue." I knew exactly what she meant. But we had no idea just how much it would affect our products. 

We think about how we feel. 

Color is something we can’t help but have an immediate, honest response to. Color passively sets the emotional tone rather than explicitly dictate it. It conveys emotion without a single symbol. There is no need to read color. It's extraordinarily simple and easy to understand. As the User Testing blog shows in this fantastic article, color not only plays a role in making brands beautiful and simple to understand. It plays a significant role in the brand’s strategies to influence the customers’ behaviour: 

You can use color to impact users’ emotions, draw their attention, and put them in the right frame of mind to make a purchase. It’s also one of the main factors in customers’ perception of a brand.

When we started out at Knotch, we had no idea color would be so key to our thinking and our products. We had a vision of a much more transparent internet; and a mission to become the standard for expressing non-verbal feedback online. But we had no idea how it was going to translate into something tangible. 

While at Stanford’s StartX accelerator, we looked at opinion-sourcing, audience intelligence and sentiment analysis from every angle. We had a market research strategy. We would collect all the methods that were already out there. We would test every single available mechanism that captured people’s feedback, see how much it would stick and compare the results. We wanted a high response rate. A rate exceeding 10%, 20% or even 30%. A number that would truly reflect the people’s voice, not just a selected few who were loud enough to speak. 

For this, we needed Knotch to be insanely simple, beautiful and impossible to ignore.  

Through a simple app, we started pushing out one method at a time to our community. We’d ask people a topical question around sentiment, e.g. How do you feel about the Game of Thrones? We provided the means to answer with. It started with numbers on a scale of 1-10. We then moved onto the star rating system. Emojis were up next.

The results were nothing short of unimpressive. In fact, they were terrible. People didn’t understand feelings in numbers. They associated star rating with performance, not emotion. Emojis applied to a selected few who actually use them. 

This seemed like a good opportunity at first. But being at an accelerator where everyone around us was working on driverless cars and the next Airbnb for (insert need), we realised we only had one thing. We had an assumption that the current means were not simple, beautiful and impossible to ignore. 

We were a great team. But we didn’t have a product to steer us forward. We were like a driverless car. 


Until a thought hit us. The means we had used, required people to translate their feelings from their right side of the brain (emotion, color, visuals) to the left side (analytics, systems, numbers). We were asking people to tell us how they think they feel. 

A moment of honesty was lost. We knew then that Knotch had to stay on the right side of the brain.

Simply put, in order to get people to show us their true colors, we needed to give them a color spectrum. 

I see your true colors (like Phil Collins).  

A color spectrum that would allow people to express emotion was only half of the journey. Next we needed to determine the colors that people would universally understand. Every color seemed open to interpretation. The blessing of the emotional range of color was also its curse. 

What does it mean to feel purple instead of yellow? Is purple a more powerful feeling than red? In one context, red imparted feelings of passion or power, while in another, feelings of warmth or comfort. Dictators famously used red to define their campaigns. Egyptian chromotherapy used red to invigorate patients or to make them feel happy. This must have inspired Coca-Cola, when they used red to reinvent Santa. 

Which is more positive, green or blue? Ask any group of people whether green is positive or negative, and you will get answers on both sides. Green implies growth and life and motion, but it carries connotations of envy and illness too. Blue has a strong association with low energy. Blue is also soothing and deep. Look closely and you’ll see that banks, security and technology companies that depend on their reputation as safe and trustworthy often use blue in their logos.

The fact was that without a key, the colours didn't impart any meaning. We had created a voice of colour, but invented no language that would give people the rules to communicate. 


We take your temperature. 

Moments of struggle and despair sometimes provide the best inspiration. Our head of operations Erik came down with a flu just as we needed to crack the answer. And that was a moment of unplanned genius. Erik’s thermometer suggested a near-death experience, but instead we saw the solution. Thermometers are used on a daily basis by people all over the world. Whether the thermometer reads Fahrenheit or Celsius, temperature is on an international colour scale: cold is blue and always at the bottom, hot is red and at always at the top.

We knew instantly that Knotch needed to resemble an emotional thermometer. We knew that as long as people understood the directionality of red and blue, we could teach them what was positive and negative. This was going to be our answer to sourcing the audience intelligence we're building. That’s how Knotch came to life. 

The color spectrum is a one click-away solution. You choose a color to express your opinion. One tap makes it count. That’s it. 

We piloted with the Observer, Guardian and Forbes. We waited. We got results. 

Where we thought emotion couldn’t be expressed in numbers, our color solution had scored us a number that blew our minds. Our average interaction rate was 55% and our response rate 15%. This means 1 in 6 people who read an article consequently knotched about it, i.e. expressed how they found the topic on an emotional spectrum. Without an incentive. Color led to impact.

Color has now become a defining feature of what makes Knotch and also a key to how we find success. Clients we work with appreciate the unobtrusive nature of our color spectrum. It doesn’t disrupt the flow of their content, and allows them to source exactly how people feel about their brand and content in real time, and on a granular spectrum. 

We’re excited about the year ahead and seeing your audiences knotch about the things that matter to you both.