How Brand Colours Shape Your Brand Identity
Did you know that the colour red is considered to be appetising or that it invokes hunger? This is why many restaurants use red in their logos.
What about purple? Did you know that it often signifies luxury, royalty, or premium collections?
It all has to do with colour psychology. It’s the idea that colours elicit emotions, like fear, anger, sorrow, nostalgia, and so on.
It means the colours you pick, specifically representing your brand identity, can significantly impact how customers see you.
Academic research has shown that people often make subconscious judgments about another person, product, or environment within 90 seconds of viewing.
Their conclusions are 62% to 90% based on colour choice alone.
Colours even play a role in the perception of attractiveness. Study participants evaluated the appearance of models, often citing the colour of their clothes as more influential on their decisions than facial expressions or styles.
Taking that a step further, hues may also be determinant of human behaviour beyond just feelings and emotions.
That plays directly into branding, as you can influence how potential customers might act by planning out and then choosing the appropriate brand colours.
There’s evidence of colours shaping attitudes and actions in the real world.
After installing blue lights at a popular Japanese train station between 2000 and 2010, reports indicated an 84% decrease in suicides.
It’s a bit morbid, but this is an ultimately uplifting example. And colour played a role.
The strategy was so successful that Australian stations are planning to incorporate the same lighting technologies.
That behavioural change was because blue lighting and the colour blue create a more peaceful and relaxing environment.
Something similar happened when the government installed blue streetlights in Glasgow, Scotland, which resulted in a dramatic decrease in crime rates.
The average brand is interested in a more subtle influence, but the fact stands. Brand colours can and do ultimately shape your identity, and whether you like it or not, they elicit a reaction out of potential customers.
The question you need to consider, then, is what kind of reaction are you looking for?
The Power of Green
The colour green often invokes the feeling of health, tranquillity, and power, but in a more personal sense.
That’s why many health care companies include the colour green in logos and their branding. It’s a relaxing area of the colour spectrum, and likely due to its connection with healthy plants and greenery, it exudes a sense of equilibrium.
Try to imagine a brand that incorporates green into its logo, branding, and overall identity.
One of the first that comes to mind is Starbucks. The company’s sugary, flavour-shotted coffee is probably anything but healthy in most cases, and we all know that, but we still gravitate towards their cafes.
Why? What do you feel when you see their logo or walk into a Starbucks location?
Even the design of their restaurants follows the same principles, complete with natural wood styling and blue-green tones all over.
You feel rich, warm, invited, and just an intense longing, generally for that morning to midday shot of macchiato.
It all plays into colour psychology and shows just how well Starbucks’ marketing and brand designers did.
It even carries over to their website, which is filled with hues of green, blue-green, and beyond.
Blue for Confidence and Reliability
Ever wonder why some of the biggest brands shower their logos, websites, and branding initiatives in deep and vibrant blues?
It’s because, like green, many emotions and feelings go along with the colour, and most of them are positive in nature.
Some examples include Ford, Samsung, Intel, and even Twitter.
It embodies more potent meanings like confidence, productivity, reliability, intelligence and, most of all, security.
Unsurprisingly, it’s also an excellent colour to encourage and interact with a broad audience, or a more generic crowd, if you will.
That’s because so many people like or enjoy the colour blue and what it stands for. Many banks, brokerages, and even some medical companies utilise blue in their branding and campaigns.
However, incorporating blue into a design or initiative every so often can make them bolder, giving a solid and I-know-what-I’m-talking-about feeling.
An excellent example of this is Pareto Health. The page is not inundated with blue. There are other colours too, including white, green, and various blue-green hues.
But what you’ll notice as you scroll down the page is that the more critical sections that almost need that feeling of confidence are deep, dark blue.
It shows visitors an element of corporatism but basks in confidence, knowledge, and expertise.
Going for Muted Brand Colours
You may or may not remember Apple’s logo from the 1970s, a colourful rainbow apple.
There’s no denying that the logo was iconic, and it served as a well-known branding icon for the company back then.
But today’s Apple has evolved considerably, and those colour schemes would never work for what it’s trying to do.
The company swapped from an almost juvenile or comical scheme to something much more sophisticated and luxurious with its silver and grey logo that’s used today.
It’s funny because muted brand colours like grey are typically devoid of emotion. Unlike some brighter and more vibrant colour schemes, they don’t elicit the same feelings or experiences.
White, black, silver, grey, and even muted pastel colours occupy a unique space, all of which are more in line with modern and minimal design.
That in itself can be a successful form of branding, especially in today’s world, where many consumers prefer minimalism.
They align with practicality, maturity, and sometimes even solidarity, depending on how they are implemented.
The inverse of this, of course, is Google, which continues to use a colourful logo and branding initiatives alongside more muted design techniques.
Whether you’re talking about its mobile OS, Android, or its web experiences and platforms, Alphabet Inc. and Google use a mesh of colour techniques to speak to their audience.
Please take a quick look at Google’s online storefront for its devices and services. You’ll see blues, greys, and a different wash of colour, over a muted white backdrop.
The Wide and Wonderful Yellow Spectrum
Then there’s yellow, one of the most expressive and versatile colours in the entire rainbow.
It would not be strange to claim that the colour itself is bipolar, with extreme shifts from positive and playful to downright depressing.
By merely changing the shade of yellow in use, between light, dark, and even muted, you can influence what message is being given, how people feel, and so much more.
Consider McDonald’s iconic golden and bright yellow arches. It’s fast, it’s energetic, and it’s even fun! It’s the perfect choice for such a well-known fast-food brand.
McDonald’s choice of yellow is also incredibly close to what Ferrari uses in its logo. That’s the speed talking!
But change that shade a little, make it just a bit darker, and the mood turns depressing, almost melancholic.
Brighten it back up, add a little white to the colouration, and evoke clarity, mindfulness, and productivity.
This influence even works when yellow is combined with other colours. It can augment the experience, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
Imagine Best Buy and IKEA’s logos and branding, for example. Best Buy sometimes has its price tag logo in just yellow, alone.
Other times, it has a deep blue backdrop, which is also used in IKEA’s classic logo and branding. Out of the two brands, IKEA stands out more.
Take a closer look at the company’s current website design. Blue is hardly anywhere to be found. The font is yellow; the action button is yellow. It’s awash with emotion.
Breaking Down the Colours
When it comes to choosing brand colours for your branding, marketing initiatives, and even customer messaging campaigns — like email newsletters — you’d do well to consider the various meanings of each colour.
Interpretations can be subjective at times, making it a little difficult to pinpoint the best ones.
Someone who loves the colour red, for example, will probably experience different thoughts and feelings about red-coloured content and visuals than someone who hates the colour.
That said, here are some of the general interpretations of colour:
- Red – Urgency, intensity, excitement.
- Blue – Peace, productivity, reliability, security.
- Green – Nature, health, tranquillity.
- Purple – Royalty, high-end, admiration, expertise.
- Yellow – Fast, frantic, fun, cheerful.
- Orange – Warm, inviting, sparky.
- Black – Endurance, stability, power, assurance.
- White – Safety, minimalism, purity.
- Grey – Solidarity, confidence, wit, practicality.
Another critical point is that the shade or brightness of the colour can alter its general influence.
Bright yellow, for instance, is much more cheerful than drab or dull yellows.
While technically two different brand colours, black and grey, are also similar variations, you could also include white.
Darker colours tend to take on a more serious, mature, and potentially harmful undertone.
Does This Work?
Time and time again, studies have proven a distinct behavioural and emotional reaction to the colours around us.
One extensive study conducted on a university campus revealed that students responded accordingly to the colours of various rooms and communal areas.
It concluded that “the need to know the effects of colours on moods of individuals is essential for architects.”
The use of “appropriate and correct colours” may increase the usability and functionality of a particular space.
In other words, the colours used in the physical domains around us, such as our favourite rooms, can directly influence our sentiment and feelings while spending time there.
But as the interest in colour psychology continues to grow, some believe there’s not enough empirical evidence to support the conclusions that are being made, at least not without more complex and substantial experiments.
Author Andrew J. Elliot proposes in a review of theoretical and empirical work on the subject that the influence of colour may be too complex to define.
He closes with the following:
“Findings from colour research can be provocative and media-friendly, and the public (and the field as well) can be tempted to reach conclusions before the science is fully in place. There is considerable promise in research on colour and psychological functioning. Still, considerably more theoretical and empirical work needs to be done before the full extent of this promise can be discerned and, hopefully, fulfilled.”
What does any of this have to do with branding and marketing? It’s simple.
While, collectively, we’re still trying to figure out what kind of influence, exactly, colour has over us and why that is so, it’s clear that something is happening.
Colour does affect us, and that point is unequivocal. It also speaks wonders as to how brands and marketers can use colours to influence campaigns and consumer sentiment.
The best way to find out is to take action and incorporate colour more openly in future endeavours.
Choosing Your Brand Colours
It’s important to remember that branding isn’t always just about designing logos and visual elements; it’s about everything to do with the brand, from messaging and digital interactions to consumer sentiment.
How do people perceive your brand in a general sense? It should certainly be considered when you’re choosing brand colours.
What feelings and emotions do you want your potential customers, loyal customers, and even your rivals to experience?
Coming into this, one would be forgiven for thinking choosing a colour was a simple process and a quick decision, but that’s not always the case.
Many resources create a proper branding initiative, so you should not take even something like choosing a colour lightly.
The good news is that with a much better understanding of colour psychology and how brand colours affect people, emotions, and experiences, you are much better off than those who don’t have that knowledge.
It’s a definite competitive advantage, and you can use that to optimise your marketing and branding campaigns.
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Author Bio: Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.