What is the meaning of colour in branding?
Updated: Mar 14
Why is it important to get your brand colours right?
Colour psychology invokes so much conversation and can often divide people particularly in my experience of working on brand projects. This is because our personal preferences, experiences and cultural differences all shape the effect colours have on us. Thus colours are a powerful way to communicate information about our brand so it essential you get this right for your business.
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! 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 businesses 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.
But what impact do individual colours have?
Blue is the number one favourite colour across the globe 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.
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.
This year, the world famous Pantone Colour Institute, have created a new colour for the first time. Encompassing the qualities of the blues, yet at the same time possessing a violet-red undertone, PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages courageous creativity and imaginative expression. The Pantone Colour of the year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions around the world in fashion, interior design, and industrial design, as well as packaging and graphic design. It is hugely influential so look out over the next year to see how this colour will be adopted in different industries and by thousands of brands.
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 not-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.
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.
Although a strong brand identity is absolutely crucial, you do need to think about your brand strategy and in particular start with your brand positioning. Don't just dive into choosing a colour palette without understanding who you are as a business and what is unique about you. Everything needs to work in harmony together from your strapline and your values, to your font choice and logo colour.
Are you interested in seeing how some of this works in practice? Then view my client case studies including Creating a brand positioning for a 180 year old family business and Launch of a new publishing brand to drive new business.