Passed with flying colours!
Colours actually have a lot of meaning behind them – and choosing them based on their emotive associations can have an effect on your business!
As part of a brand’s identity, colour is an often understated part of vital communications. Although it may not seem like such a big deal whether the logo is dark green or light green, studies suggest that there actually is more to it than previously thought. In fact, research suggests that as many as 90% of people’s initial assessment of a product can be based purely on the colours used.
So, let’s delve a little deeper into the psychology behind colours in branding. We’ll go over why it’s important to carefully consider which ones you pick for branding, as well as how they can affect people’s perceptions of your business.
First off, you should really get to know your brand personality. Decide on some key factors that may affect your colour choices, such as whether your brand has a leaning towards a particular gender. Historical associations of lighter colours such as pink with femininity may be useful for your brand – or they may be the opposite, so that should factor into your decision.
Similarly, whatever tone you carry across from your business communications may affect your colour choices. If you’re playful, you may want brighter colours than you would choose if you were more serious. This also ties into whether your company is more youthful, or comes across as more mature.
Value, as in luxury versus affordability, can be communicated differently through colour. Gold and black are both colours typically associated with more high-end brands. Your brand’s energy could also merit different colour schemes; whether or not your business is more vocal or subdued should have an effect on colour palettes.
Colour, as well as design choices, play a massive part in branding – see below for some (extreme) examples.
Selecting the best colours for your brand
If you missed it somehow, we’ve already explored some really helpful tools when it comes to selecting colours. Additionally, 99Designs has a colour picker that gives you a tailored colour based on your responses to your brand personality. It’s best for you to explore and find the tools that you feel comfortable with using. Also, trends have the ability to affect your branding – trending colours will get more interest if they match your colour scheme.
Some industries have their own colour schemes. For example, the agriculture industry tends to include earthy tones such as greens, browns and yellows in their branding and logo design. However, it’s pointless to follow trends and traditions if the colours simply don’t work with your company; so make sure you are choosing colours for your business first and foremost.
Every colour of the rainbow has its own associations and choosing them based on their emotional associations can make an audience member more interested in your business.
Red is often used to signify passion and love, energy and excitement, but also for danger, horror and more. This seems unlikely that is would also be associated with food, but some of the most famous food brands use red paired with yellow and black in their branding, e.g. McDonalds. Red and yellow together have been said to make you hungry – but it’s more likely that you can spot those golden arches from the road best in red and yellow, as they contrast against the colour of the sky.
Other brands like Coca-Cola are strongly associated with red, in fact it would be hard to imagine the iconic cans in any other shade. Even Diet Coke and Coke Zero use that same red prominently on their packaging. Red is super powerful as a call-to-action colour as it inspires excitement and also, emergency. Think of ‘sale’ signs in bright red. If you have a CTA button on your website or in an email, consider making the button red to drive more clicks.
Green has been used to signify nature, the outdoors, and health for a long time in marketing – in fact some brands have been accused of greenwashing for their overuse of the colour green in their branding (hello again Coca-Cola).
Green is also associated with money in places like the USA, however this is not universal – US dollars are green but other currencies are not. Bear in mind that other countries and cultures have associations with colours that may be different to yours.
Blue is a popular colour for businesses, as it expresses formality but also calmness. Some of the biggest brands in the world use blue as their primary colour, such as Facebook, Twitter, Paypal and more. If you are going to be advertising on platforms like Facebook, blue is probably a colour that should be avoided as it can blend in too much with their colour scheme.
Blue is a safe pair of hands but it’s not always the most eye-catching colour in the world, so be mindful of how you use it. Blue is almost never used by food brands – no food is naturally blue, so it would be a subconscious turn-off for your taste buds.
Yellow evokes positivity, happiness, sunshine, and youth – but it can also look sickly when used too much or a rather vivid hue is applied. The cheerful red and yellow colour palette used by McDonalds is a good example – they use yellow to good effect but it doesn’t overwhelm the other colours. Yellow in advertising is associated with affordability, so it might not be the best choice for a high-end luxury brand, unlike purple, its direct opposite on the colour wheel, although Ferrari bucks the trend by using a bright yellow background for its iconic horse logo.
Popular brands that use yellow in their colour palette include Ikea, BestBuy, and Subway, although they do use it sparingly so as not to be overwhelming – a yellow store or website could be a lot like walking into a hazard sign. Some brands utilise this to good effect though, with many parcel delivery services choosing yellow to signify priority and speed.
Orange is an unusual colour for brands to use, but it can be utilised to great effect when done right. Orange signifies freshness (like fresh orange juice), playfulness, and friendliness. Unsurprisingly, brands who sell drinks use orange a lot in their branding.
Orange is probably not a great choice for luxury brands or ones with a more serious theme, but is ideal for drinks, children’s toys, or creative products.
Purple is usually associated with luxury – in fact, purple used to be such a difficult dye colour to come by that historically, only royalty and the clergy would wear it. Many brands use purple combined with gold to signify prestige, class and quality, e.g. Hallmark or Cadbury.
FedEx is somewhat a wildcard, as they are a parcel delivery company, but use the colours orange and purple, which aren’t usually used by couriers. This however does make them stand out when compared to other similar brands.
Black is often used in branding to convey luxury, much like purple, but also mystery and exclusivity. Black can also make things look very serious and sometimes sombre – but this is not always a bad thing depending on your brand. Black can be used effectively to create negative space in design, much like white, but with a very different atmosphere. A black logo is versatile and does have a certain amount of class and elegance, although it can look boring at times. Sports brands like Adidas and Nike often use black, as do designer fashion brands like Balenciaga and Gucci.
White is used a lot to convey purity, cleanliness, and spirituality, although it is not often used as a main colour in branding, and is more used when creating negative space in design, often paired with black. Black and white together make a strong impact and offer a classic and timeless look.
A flash flood of colour!
Okay, we hope you weren’t blinded by that technicolour explosion! Now that we’ve explained the psychology of colour, you should be able to use our tips to decide on the strongest colours to use in your brand communications.
Want to know more? Check out our post about colour theory and how to apply it to your own branding.