What Colors Mean in Branding and How to Choose Yours
When you’re in the midst of developing your new brand, a very important question might cross your mind – how do you want people to think about you? And this is one of the most vital decisions you’ll make during your development process. Also known as your brand personality, this aspect of your business spans far beyond the product or service you’re selling. There’s a lot that goes into developing your brand, such as identifying the tone you want to set and the way you want to make people feel when they interact with your content. When it comes to refining your brand, the smallest details really matter, right down to the colors you use. It might feel easier to pick a color palette at random or based on what you think is aesthetically pleasing, but there’s actually a lot more meaning behind the colors you choose. In fact, it’s down to a science: the psychology of color.
The psychology of color
Colors can evoke different feelings for different people. There have been many studies that show exposure to certain colors can make people feel or behave a certain way. For example, students who are shown the color red before taking a test tend to do worse on it. This unique psychology of color can also be applied to branding — in fact, other studies have suggested that up to 80% of a consumer’s purchasing decision is influenced by the color of the product. This means the colors you choose for your brand can be indicative of the success it will have. Knowing what colors mean in branding and how they affect human emotions and behaviors can help you to strategically create a brand which gets your true message across.
The color red is often associated with passion, love or anger. It is quick to catch someone’s eye due to these associations and its bright nature. Using the color red in branding is sure to make an audience pay attention, but it is important to use it intentionally. Studies have shown that the color red actually intensifies human’s emotions and speeds up reactions. The color can make people feel empowered or impassioned about a certain cause. With this in mind, you can skillfully implement the color red into your branding if you want your audience to take action.
One well-known company that uses red in its branding is Coca-Cola. Its red script letters and label are a staple of the product, and seeing the logo is enough to make you want to grab a crisp, cold can of Coke. This isn’t by accident — not only will humans feel subconscious excitement by seeing the red in this logo, the color has even been proven to stimulate one’s appetite. This makes red an ideal color to choose when branding food or drinks, and it encourages viewers to take action and engage with your product.
Orange has a similar attention-drawing effect as red, but it is a bit more subdued. Instead of intense feelings and aggression, orange evokes feelings of creativity, excitement and warmth. There can be a sense of familiarity in the color orange, which can help your company establish brand recognition and create a natural pull toward your products. Orange is also a color that gets people excited and energetic — one of the reasons this color is often found in the uniforms of athletes. Orange is also notably reminiscent of Halloween and fall time, making it a good color to implement seasonally if your primary brand colors don’t include it.
Home Depot is one of the major brands that has made use of the color orange’s psychological qualities. Home Depot’s message and purpose is all about doing, so the active nature of the color is perfect for the hardware store. The orange logo and branding inspire activity and action, emboldening Home Depot’s customer base to take on the projects they want to do. If your brand is activity-oriented, too, consider using the color orange when developing your brand colors.
Yellow is the color of the classic smiley face symbol; it’s also the color of the sun. Both of these things offer feelings of warmth and happiness. In branding, yellow can be used to evoke similar feelings, and it can also be another way to grab an audience’s attention. Although yellow is often associated with positive feelings, its hue can make things hard to read because of the amount of light it reflects. Because of this, you should be careful not to use too much of the color in your branding, especially for text.
Still, it is possible and beneficial to use yellow in branding when you want to promote the happy, bright connotations of the color. One company that has done this particularly well is Snapchat. Its logo is a bright yellow square featuring a white and black cartoon ghost. Using the graphic helps break up the logo so it isn’t too jarring or overstimulating. Still, the meaning of the yellow shines through. The app is based on connecting users with their friends, and the branding allows you to feel the happiness you get when spending time with people you care about.
It’s hard to see the color green without imagining nature. It only makes sense that green is used specifically in branding to replicate the feelings of relaxation, power, and health you get when you are surrounded by a thick forest of trees or a sprawling field of grass. Because of this, natural products or companies focusing on health tend to use green in their branding. Green is also the color of money, which can invoke feelings of power or wealth, too.
Health grocery store Whole Foods is one of the biggest companies that capitalizes on the color green’s messaging. Not only does the logo incorporate an image of a leaf, but the green text and background is appropriate for the company’s cause. This branding lets consumers know they can expect the products to be good for them, and green’s additional meaning of wealth suggests these are high-quality products, too.
Similarly to green, blue is a color found in nature that inspires feelings of tranquility and rest. Beyond these associations with the natural world, blue has even been proven to calm one’s thoughts and increase concentration. These tangible effects of the color blue can be used in branding to promote these same feelings.
According to a study by Adobe, blue is the most commonly used brand color, and 33% of the top 100 brands use it. Meditation app Calm is one company that centers its branding around the color blue. Due to the peaceful quality of the color, blue helps to enforce the purpose of the app. Just upon seeing the blue logo on one’s home screen, users will associate the blue with a calming feeling and be encouraged to use the product to destress. If you want your brand to suggest that its consumers will be refreshed or engaged with using the product, blue would be a good color to consider in your branding.
Purple has connotations of elegance and mystery. It draws on the historical idea of royalty and suggests sophistication. Purple is also used in the context of spirituality, making it a powerful color to implement into one’s branding. High-end retail companies tend to use purple to suggest a greater value. Skin care companies also use the color purple to suggest life and even defy the physical qualities of aging.
One company in particular that uses purple in its branding is Hallmark. Complete with a crown symbol, everything about Hallmark’s logo suggests elegance and wisdom – which is exactly what the company wants consumers to get from their greeting cards. Like Hallmark, you can be strategic in choosing your brand colors to further promote your company’s message.
Grayscale — the spectrum between white and black — is one of the most popular choices for brand colors, with about 28% of the top 100 brands using it in their branding. You might think these colors aren’t bright or exciting enough to capture an audience’s attention, but understanding the psychology behind using these colors shows quite the opposite. Greyscale can be used to invoke feelings of knowledge or trustworthiness.
Think of a newspaper, for example, such as The New York Times. Simple black text printed on white or grey paper can take on an informational tone and users may be more inclined to trust the content. Going a step further and bringing this principle into the logo itself can suggest the entire brand is a source of dependable information.
How to choose your brand colors
Understanding the psychology behind colors and how they can make people feel or act can be very useful when developing your own brand. Not only do you want your brand to look good, but you want to make sure the colors you choose are intentionally telling the story of your brand as well. When mixing and matching colors, a general rule of thumb is to use different shades of one color or selecting colors that are at least three spaces away on the color wheel. However, in Adobe’s study on the top 100 brand’s logos, they found that 95% of the brands only use one or two colors. In short – don’t overcomplicate it! Limiting your brand colors can be a good way to keep your message simple and straightforward.
Remember, you have the power to decide what story you want your brand to tell, and intentionally choosing aspects such as the colors is a major way to do that. Like the aforementioned companies, you too can strategically choose your brand colors to add an extra dimension in promoting your company’s message. Still need help coming up with meaningful branding that stands out from the crowd? Leave it to the experts and drop us a line — Creative Juice can help you achieve the right branding for your business. 🍑