Inside the Lines: Coloring Your Brand With Purpose
Written by Lily Tillman
The psychological aspect of marketing has always intrigued me. How many ways can you convince someone to purchase something and, at the same time, make them believe they convinced themselves? What subconsciously persuades a buyer?
The psychology of color — as it relates to persuasion — is the thought behind my next question: How does color in marketing influence audiences and consumers? Do bright yellows and deep reds cause shoppers to reach for one cereal brand over another? Is the neon green button more likely to be clicked than the dark blue button on a company’s website?
As you can imagine, this topic is very controversial. (Actually, you’d probably never imagine how strongly people feel about color psychology.) Many believe there is no possible way to generalize what one color might mean to a group of people.
Although this is probably true, I think there is a lot to take away from existing psychological thought and research behind color usage in marketing and advertising. Color can play a huge part in supporting the mission and purpose of a brand.
How do you choose the right color(s) for your brand or logo?
While searching for interesting color-psychology-in-marketing tips, I stumbled upon an interesting infographic from Iconic Fox featuring everything there is to know about using color in brand development. This information is more surface-level — color personalities, negative connotations associated with certain colors, why big brands chose their color scheme, etc. — but really interesting.
Read on to give your branding meaning through purposeful color choice. We’ll start at the top of the rainbow.
Netflix, Target, Coca Cola, ESPN: Red represents power, passion, energy, fearlessness, and excitement. Using red in a logo or campaign creates a sense of urgency, encourages appetite and gets the pulse racing, thus being the perfect color choice for sales, fast food, and fast cars.
If your brand wants to emit a bold, adventurous, and energetic personality, using red accents, fonts and shapes might do the trick. Red can also trigger negative emotions: anger, danger, warning, defiance, aggression, and pain. Red might universally mean “stop,” but in marketing, convincing consumers to stop and take a look is the number one goal.
Nickelodeon, Easy Jet, MasterCard, Amazon: Orange stands for courage, confidence, warmth, innovation, friendliness, and energy. Orange may be the best color choice for a non-corporate brand because of its “cheap,” bright and earthy angle.
The color orange gives off an adventurous, competitive and disaffected aura, due in part to the brands that have made it so memorable (Amazon, Easy Jet). If your brand’s target audience includes bargain-shoppers and coupon-clippers, orange may be the color for you.
CAT, McDonald’s, Post-It, Best Buy, IMDb, Nikon: yellow embodies happiness, youthfulness, sunshine, and fun. Yellow can be a powerful color alongside a darker text or symbol. Fear, caution, and frustration are also often associated with the color yellow, but when used to represent technology (Best Buy, Nikon), creativity (IMDb), and intellect (Post-It), yellow can be a wonderfully eye-catching option to offset important words and shapes.
Whole Foods, Starbucks, John Deere, Animal Planet: Green is the color of health, hope, freshness, nature, growth, and prosperity. Because green is often thought of as synonymous with health and nature, many organic brands and nature-focused companies adopt shades of green into their branding and logos.
Just as green is regularly linked to the growth of plants and nature, green can also be associated with money, power, the military and other means of financial growth. Green is the color of life; an open, down-to-earth and friendly persona is represented by green brands and logos.
Facebook, Dell, American Express, Visa, Ford, Volkswagen: Blue is “the color of reason” and has a calming effect on the brain. Clear skies, the ocean, and hydration are all associated with the color blue. Interestingly, because of the lack of blue in fast food branding, blue has a way of suppressing appetites and is often used in corporate branding.
Blue is an embodiment of trust, loyalty, logic, security, and dependability. This contributes to the reason many banks and car brands chose blue tones and shades for their branding and logos.
Yahoo, Hallmark, FedEx, SyFy, Taco Bell: Purple is a color often associated with royalty. If you want your brand associated with superiority, wisdom and wealth, you shouldn’t hesitate to add a purple aspect to your logo or branding. A sense of moodiness and over-the-top extravagance are often linked to shades of purple, though, so some hesitation may actually be necessary.
Depending on your company’s outlook and mission, using this color for your brand could be received negatively by audiences. It can, however, add a feminine touch to your logo (especially when lighter shades and brighter tones are used).
Barbie, Cosmopolitan, Victoria’s Secret, T-Mobile: It shouldn’t come as a shock that shades of pink and magenta are most commonly thought of as feminine. In addition, magenta can give a sense of youth to a more formal brand in need of a quirky, creative aspect.
Pink is often used to represent hope and comfort due to the passionate, innovative personality of the color. For brands that want to stand out, appeal to younger audiences and “break the mold,” pink may be the (surprising?) best choice.
Nike, Puma, Jack Daniels, Chanel, L’Oreal, Ralph Lauren: Black is hands-down the most powerful color in logo creation and company branding. All-black logos generally have an air of sophistication about them and belong to many fashion and beauty brands seeking minimalistic branding.
Using black and grey in your brand design may give your company a serious, decisive, confident look. On the other hand, black is commonly associated with coldness, heaviness, and mourning, so for many healthcare companies, integrating a second color into a black logo can add a needed bright energy.
WHITE & SILVER
Apple, Sony, Prada, Lexus, Adidas, Cartier: If a white logo or white branding is executed well, a modern, sleek and simplistic look can be achieved. Innocence and cleanliness are often associated with silver and white tones — as are sterility and plainness.
Similar to all-black logos, all-white logos are used by brands seeking minimalistic branding — fashion lines, technology companies, car brands, etc. Silver branding is seen as independent and optimistic but can lack personality and seem like a lazy design move if executed poorly with no creative aspects.
Check out the full infographic for gender preference statistics and more colorful brand examples.