What is the meaning of colour in branding?
Updated: Dec 31, 2019
Why is it important to get your brand colours right?
Colour psychology invokes so much conversation and can often divide people.
Our personal preferences, experiences and cultural differences all shape the effect colours have on us. Colours are a powerful way to communicate information about our brand. Some brands are so iconic we identify them from a Pantone colour without their logo. Brands like Cadbury, Barbie and UPS, have even trademarked their defining shades! So why do brands place such importance on colour?
Up to 90% of consumers make an assessment of a brand based on colour alone. And people make purchasing decisions within 90 seconds of viewing a brand. So a brand’s choice of colour is a fundamental element that reinforces its personality and the qualities of the products/services it offers. Colour also boosts our memory and helps us process other images stored in our brain that later make connections to the first image.
But what impact do individual colours have?
Orange is creative, successful and enthusiastic. It is less serious and commanding than red, but less carefree than yellow. Think Amazon, Timberland and Penguin Books.
Orange is an impactful colour for online ordering. Orange attracts our eye without warning or overwhelming us so is a natural choice for e-commerce sites.
Orange looks different on print to online, so you need to be careful to colour match as closely as possible.
Red provokes our strongest emotions. It's scientifically proven to increase our heart rate and blood pressure. The red colour meaning is associated with excitement, passion, danger, energy, and action.
In colour psychology, red is the most intense colour. Red can also trigger danger so be cautious how it is used. If you add red to your website, it is ideal for the call to action if it’ll contrast well with your website design.
Red is the iconic colour used for brands like Coca Cola, YouTube, Vodafone, Netflix, Canon and Xerox. The colour red encourages appetite hence why brands like Coca Cola use it extensively. They also use words like happiness in their branding so they use the colour red to build excitement.
Blue is the number one favourite colour of all people and it is the most commonly used colour in corporate identity.
Blue is the colour of the sea and sky. It represents peace and relaxation. Using soft blue has a calming influence, and a strong vibrant blue is energetic.
Blue is a prominent colour in social media and tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Skype. Whilst health and hygiene companies use blue to promote freshness and cleanliness.
Blue is also used to promote trust and security. Many universities use blue and policemen, of course, wear blue. Plus, it has such universal appeal. 53% of the flags in the world contain blue.
And a final thought. Blue is sharply refracted by our eyes. We perceive that blue areas are receding and smaller. The same refraction causes visual fog if used excessively in interior spaces. So be cautious with overuse.
In colour psychology, yellow revolves around sunshine. It evokes feelings of happiness, positivity, optimism, and summer, but also of deceit and warning.
The colour yellow is used by brands such as Ferrari and Ikea tapping into our aspirations and making us feel excited. Some brands choose to use yellow as the border for their website design. A splash of yellow can help website visitors associate your brand with something positive.
Yellow is the most visible colour of the spectrum. The human eye processes yellow first. This explains why it is used for cautionary signs and emergency rescue vehicles. In fact, our peripheral vision is 2.5 times higher for yellow than red. Yellow has a high light reflectance value and acts as a secondary light source. Excessive use of bright yellow can irritate our eyes.
The emotional perception of green is dependent on the shade. Bright warm yellow-greens are energising, deeper blue-greens relaxing, and earthy greens more natural.
Associated with the season of spring, green is a symbol of life, fertility and nature. Green is also a status symbol for wealth and ambition. Since it takes dominance in the natural world, green takes a lot of space in the human eye's spectrum. This makes it an ideal background in design because it is visible anywhere. Green also has soothing effects on our vision.
Did you know traffic lights are green all over the world? And there are more shades of green than that of any other.
Simplicity and purity are the overwhelming associations with white in branding. The colour white aids mental clarity assists in cleanliness and promotes thought. Using white in your logo design makes it look clean and simple. It is used a lot in the non-for –profit sector due it symbolising positivity.
Where white is far from ubiquitous, however, is in the technology and computing sectors. Whether it's the soothing simplicity of its packaging, the simple purity of its logo or the fact that iPhones and iPads are available in white, Apple's use of white is nothing short of iconic.
There are no shades of pure white because the colour is the combination of all colours. Different sources are used in the production of white though. Colour manufacturers normally use lead, zinc or titanium to produce this colour.
Visually, white gives a heightened perception of space. The negative effect of white on warm colours is they can look and feel garish.
Black is associated with authority and strength. Many also associate it with intelligence - judges and graduates both wear black robes. Black should be used sparingly, however, as it easily overwhelms audiences.
Black is all colours, totally absorbed. The psychological implications of that are considerable. It creates protective barriers, as it absorbs all the energy coming towards us. Black is essentially an absence of light since no wavelengths are reflected so it can result in fear, hence why people are afraid of the dark.
Positively, black communicates absolute clarity. It communicates sophistication and uncompromising excellence and it works well with white. Black creates a perception of weight and seriousness.
It is a myth that black clothes are slimming. In fact, it is the most recessive colour so doesn’t draw attention to yourself.
Like all colours, pink is diverse conjuring up different images from romance to breast cancer. Pink is primarily recognised as a feminine colour. It is a symbol of hope and awareness in the fight against breast cancer. However, in Japan, pink has a masculine association. Pink cherry tree blossoms are said to represent fallen Japanese warriors.
Depending on the shade of pink used, its usage has the power to direct communication in a powerful way. Generally speaking, every variation of pink can be either stimulating or calming. Bright and warm pinks like fuchsia or magenta are vibrant, youthful and encourage a sense of confidence. Communicating similar energy as the colour red, these pinks motivate action and fuel creative thought. However, subdued and muted pinks convey a different story.
Pink is still the dominant brand colour for products aimed at females: from the soft pale pinks used in perfume packaging to the hot pinks used to create that must-have toy for young girls.
Pink’s associations with femininity aren’t as traditional as we may think though, dating back only 70 years. Before that pink and red carried the same connotations. During the mid 20th Century a shift took place. The ability to know the sex of an unborn baby meant baby clothes could easily be targeted and companies took advantage. Pink and blue became the chosen colours to represent girls and boys. This was accelerated by the arrival of the world’s best-selling doll. Barbie hit our shelves in 1959. Selling over a billion dolls, she’s made pink her own and the colour to be seen in for little girls everywhere.
Colour psychology is undoubtedly a fascinating topic and one that triggers a lot of debate. A brands choice of colour is instrumental in its branding and should reflect its personality. Dependent on the shade used, colours have very different meanings. Our experiences and culture also have a huge impact on how we perceive colour.
For help on your brand positioning have a look at my cheat sheet or for some tips on developing brand guidelines read my blog. For a no-obligation chat, please get in contact with me. I offer a free 30-minute consultation with all business owners.