The Psychology of Color: How To Make Your Brand Stand Out

November 23, 2016 / Graphic Design & Branding

Color plays a larger role in marketing than most people are aware of. Color initially determines and strongly influences the way your company is perceived by the public. It doesn’t matter how awesome your logo or message is- if you’re using the wrong color, your brand will suffer.

Color is the first thing that people see, registering in the human brain before typography and/or other images.

In 2007, a University of Loyola, Maryland study found the correct use of color could increase brand recognition by up to 80%.

Studies have proven that different colors invoke different emotions in the human mind. Smart companies use this knowledge to their advantage when creating a brand identity. Take a look at what your mind perceives when you see certain colors (note that these examples are based on our Western culture; colors are associated with different emotions in other parts of the world):

  • Red – power and passion. The color red also has a lot of energy associated with it and is considered bold and youthful. It can trigger hunger and creates a sense of urgency which makes it good for impulse buys. Red is also arousing and desirable and physically affects the body by raising your blood pressure and heart rate. Brand/product examples: Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Nintendo, K-Mart, Target, YouTube, Netflix, KFC, Budweiser, Nabisco
  • Blue – logic and communication. The color blue is also associated with nature: both water and sky, giving it a calming and peaceful effect. Blue can make your brand appear reliable and trustworthy. Blue induces a calming effect on the body, making us feel safe and secure. For that reason, it is seldom associated with food as studies have shown this calming effect naturally suppresses the appetite. Brand/product examples: JP Morgan, Lowes, AT&T, American Express, HP, Ford, Facebook, Twitter, Walmart, IBM
  • Green – health and nature. The color green represents balance and harmony and is often used to promote environmentally-friendly campaigns. It is associated with peace, earth, and universal love. Dark green is also associated with wealth and money. Brand/product examples: John Deere, Animal Planet, Tropicana, Starbucks, BP, Whole Foods, Heineken, Xbox, Girl Scouts, Land Rover
  • Yellow – happiness and optimism. Yellow is a friendly color, invoking feelings of cheerfulness and well-being. It also is associated with high energy, youthfulness, and enthusiasm. Yellow grabs your attention and can also be a sign of caution. Brand/product examples: Best Buy, Yellow Pages, Cheerios, McDonald’s, Denny’s, Shell, IKEA, Goodyear, Ferrari, AOL
  • Orange – playful and fun. Orange is very similar to yellow in the mind’s eye. It is seen as exciting and sociable. Brand/product examples: Nickelodeon, Amazon, Orioles, Shutterfly, Harley Davidson, Hooters, Fanta, Payless, Starz, Gulf
  • Purple – Royalty, wisdom, and respect. Purple has long been associated with royalty, and since it’s not a dominant color in nature, it is linked with creativity and imagination. In food products, it is associated with luxury and decadence. Brand/product examples: Cadbury, Yahoo, Hallmark, FedEx, Monster, SyFy, Welch’s, Aussie, Taco Bell, Ralph Lauren
  • Pink – soft and feminine. Pink can portray love, romance, and sweetness but can also be sexy and daring, depending on the shade. Brand/product examples: Victoria’s Secret, Susan G Komen, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Barbie, Hello Kitty, T-Mobile, Taco Bell, Owens Corning (Pink Panther insulation), Cosmopolitan
  • Brown – safe and dependable. Brown is also associated with warmth and safety and can be seen as rugged and earthy. Brand/product examples: UPS, Starbucks, M&M’s, Godiva, Hershey’s, Cotton, Edy’s
  • Black – powerful and sophisticated. Black is seen as a status symbol and carries an air of exclusiveness with it. It is seen as elegant and glamorous. Black can also symbolize grief and death. Brand/product examples: Adidas, Puma, Nike, Black & Decker, Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Polo, Honda, New York Times
  • White – pure, clean, and safe. White is associated with sincerity, peacefulness, and simplicity. It can also spark creativity when viewed as a clean slate. White is typically paired with black in an attempt to portray balance, harmony, and neutrality. Almost every brand has a black-and-white version of its design.
  • Gray – timeless and neutral. Gray is a combination of black and white, and can also be seen as boring and dull. Grays are often utilized in black-and-white versions of designs.

Were you aware of the importance and significance of color in your branding? Color can make or break your brand.

Companies have gone as far as trademarking colors that are specifically associated with their product.

For instance, Tiffany’s has trademarked its robin’s egg blue, UPS has trademarked “Pullman brown,” Owens Corning has trademarked pink insulation and “Coke red” is protected from other soft drink companies.

It’s important to note that these trademarked colors don’t ban all companies from using these colors, just companies that are manufacturing the same type of product. There are colors that cannot be trademarked as well. John Deere is unable to trademark the color green for its tractor because green is a “functional color,” meaning it symbolizes vegetation- the grass and fields- that you would use a mower on, but they have trademarked the green and yellow color scheme that has become synonymous with a John Deere tractor.

Would you like to learn more about what color or color combinations would best fit your brand? Choosing the right color is a very important step in the marketing process. Who is your target audience? What emotions are you trying to elicit from your potential customers? Contact us and let’s brainstorm together.