Coloring your brand: 5 Important Factors to Consider When Choosing Colors For Your Brand
Our favorite color is purple. What’s yours?
It doesn’t matter, because the colors you choose to represent your brand should primarily have to do with your brand goals, brand identity, and brand personality (communication), and who your target audience is (leave your favorite color to your personal life decisions).
Consider Mattel’s Barbie. Who do they sell their dolls to? Girls—their target audience. That’s why Barbie is surrounded by the color pink.
But it’s not just about being female-friendly and fashionable: Mattel wants Barbie to be all about possibilities (“You can be anything”), which is great since pink does represent possibilities. You wouldn’t know this unless you understand a little bit about how colors work.
Doing some reading on how colors work will totally help you to elevate many aspects of your brand, such as your logo, advertisements, website, and even in-store design.
As you look for articles to read, you’ll want to have some basics on what this whole color thing is really all about so that you don’t get overwhelmed with all the knowledge that’s out there. That’s why we’ve put together this simple article— to help you be equipped with these 5 important things to consider when choosing colors for your brand.
Coloring your brand: In the following paragraphs, allow us to introduce you to some complimentary ideas to bear in mind when thinking about colors as a brand owner.
1. Color on Your Audience’s Feelings
The number one tip when it comes to deciding on which colors to represent your brand is to focus on emotions. More specifically, focus on what emotions you wish to evoke in your audience when they interact with your brand, be it in the form of logos, advertisements, landing pages, or manuals. As humans have evolved to associate certain colors with certain emotions, be sure to only use colors that elicit emotions you expect from your audience.
For example, many skincare products have white packaging because people perceive white to be clean, simple, and honest. These three traits are what people look for in skincare products.
However, the fact that white elicits cleanliness does not mean that it’s the only color that’s suitable for your brand. After all, most brands combine colors. Whilst Simple Skincare mixes white and green, Nivea has a combination of white and blue. Both are skincare products, with individual personalities. Thus, if you’re marketing a skincare product, choose white as your base color.
Essentially, your base color is the most important color to your brand as it reflects your brand’s most central trait and is the color that best attracts your target audience. The colors you choose after choosing your base color are known as accents and neutrals—to put it simply, these colors complement the base color: Whilst accents emphasize the base color, neutrals support both your base and accent by acting as a background to both.
Let’s look at some examples so you get a better idea of what we’re talking about:
IKEA’s base color is blue, symbolizing its commitment to being a brand that everyone can trust and depend on to obtain great products and services. Yellow acts as their accent color, complimenting their “IKEA” words in blue, perhaps because yellow is a color that evokes warm and cheerful feelings and also energy. All in all, when human eyes meet IKEA’s logo—whether it’s in-store or online—an immediate feeling of trust and comfort arises.
CNN’s colors are red and white. Red makes you feel strong, excited, and energized, whereas white makes you feel they’re honest. Combined together, CNN wants its viewers to think that they’re exciting to watch and that what they present is credible. It’s not surprising because as a news-based television channel, the loyalty of viewers is everything, which is why securing their loyalty with those traits remains crucial. It’s hard to not be excited about what CNN reports next—that’s how most people feel, and that’s what their logo promotes.
McDonald’s is a great example of using colors to successfully hack human brains! Besides evoking excitement and energy, red is also appetite-inducing and represents love. Setting red to complement their big yellow “M” sign, therefore, captures the stomachs and hearts of their target audience (which is everybody, really). The yellow of their big “M” sign indicates optimism and happiness. After all, the McDonald’s “Happy Meal” and “I’m lovin’ it” are not just sudden ideas— yellow is for happiness, and red is for love. Happy customers are loyal customers, and McDonald’s knows this very well and applies it to their colors too.
2. Color and Brand Identity
Put simply, brand identity refers to visual elements of your brand that distinguish your brand from others. In short, who you uniquely are as a brand.
Brand identity plays a big role in color choices. As mentioned before, Barbie is about supporting girls so they use pink.
At the same time, pink is also used because it evokes sweetness and femininity—which leads to a major confusion: does Barbie choose pink because it evokes certain emotions or because pink is Barbie’s brand identity?
The answer is both. After all, if you’re passionate about representing something, you will end up evoking similar feelings in your target audience. Thus, the first and second factors of this article are very much related.
However, some brands make a clear distinction between what emotion they want their audience to feel and how they want to be identified. Take the following example:
Smucker’s Goober from the U.S. is a mix of peanut butter and jelly in a jar, allowing customers to enjoy both peanut butter and jam at once. As a consequence, they are known for their stripes of brown and purple. Although brown and purple are the colors that evoke hungry feelings in their audience, their lid covers are two shades of purple.
Their choice of 2 hues of purple for their jar lids is also known as a monochromatic color scheme, in which the main color (in this case purple) is accompanied by other colors that emphasize it.
In other words, despite selling peanut butter and jam, they decided not to have alternates of brown and purple on their lids and instead light and dark purples—we believe this is because they would like to strengthen their message that Goober Grape by Smucker’s is a luxury brand. Thus, use monochromatic color schemes if you wish to be identified as a brand that is rich and grand.
Color choice is also about who you are as a brand, not just what you’re selling or who you’re selling to.
3. Color and Overall Design
The truth is that colors exist in the context of your overall design. You’re definitely not going to have a splash of color on a blank canvas—you’ll have a picture, lines, shapes, alphabets, whatever else that brings your colors to life. This is what we mean by the overall design.
Will it be a pictorial or abstract design? Or perhaps you would prefer a lettermark or wordmark instead, like Pinterest and Google, respectively.
Pictorial designs: The technology company Apple, represented literally by an apple; Twitter and the international NGO WWF also have images that represent their identity very clearly.
Abstract designs: Nike’s checkmark and Pepsi’s Circle with the colors red, white, and blue are abstract designs. Don’t confuse them with pictorial designs, as it is less obvious as to what abstract logos actually mean or represent. NBC’s colorful logo is a great example of abstract design in logos, as it is hard to tell what it truly means with one look. In short, abstract designs require analysis to be understood, whereas pictorial representations are straightforward.
Lettermark designs: McDonald’s big yellow “M” and Hewlett-Packard’s “hp”; lettermarks are basically initials.
Wordmark designs: Google, NASA and ebay’s logos are practically spelled out.
Interestingly, Shopee has used more than one design; in fact, three! The orange shopping bag is a pictorial representation, the white “S” on the shopping bag is a lettermark design, and finally, they have “Shopee” written underneath the shopping bag, which is clearly a wordmark design.
Whatever it is, when designing, be sure to assess if the colors you have chosen match the overall design of your logo and vice versa. For example, you feel that blue helps your audience have more trust towards your technology brand, and at the same time you would like the image of a bird to represent what your brand is committed to delivering: reflect on whether you are alright with having a blue bird and whether a bird is the best image that captures the color blue.
4. Competitors’ colors
Colors of your logo, products, ads, and website must not only match your brand identity and appeal to your target audience, but they must stand out amongst other brands, especially your competitors.
Thus, when choosing colors for your brand, consider:
- Choosing a set of colors that your biggest competitors do not use in their logos.
- Hiring a professional team to work with your brand design.
Just as you wouldn’t leave your storefront signs or website to chance, don’t leave your brand colors to chance.
When hiring a marketing team or a designer, choose one who understands not only your industry but the competition you are facing. How do you know whether you’ve hired a trustworthy designing team? They have great designers.
And great designers have this one trait: they visualize your color choices in every area where your brand exists, from logos, websites, digital campaigns, social media accounts, and all offline materials such as business cards and product packaging.
Check out Tinker Society, the leading Malaysian social media marketing agency specializing in branding and design.
5. Color and Culture
Last but not least, we want to remind you that color is cultural.
This means that although we’ve evolved to feel energized by red and feel inspired by purple, going by these rules may sometimes backfire because culture also affects how people perceive color.
For instance, although red generally evokes excitement and energy, people from different parts of the world may be more likely to interpret red in different ways. For instance, Asians may see red as a symbol of power, fortune, and luck, whereas non-Asians, especially more Westernized nations, may be more likely to see red as a sign of passion or even danger.
But culture does not just refer to ethnicity and race: age, socioeconomic status, gender, level of education, and religion are also aspects of culture. What this means is that choosing colors to suit your target audience might be challenging, since your target audience may be made up of people of various demographic factors. For example, if you were AirAsia, it would be helpful to investigate how Asians from low to middle socioeconomic backgrounds perceive color as they are your target audience—which means that there will be two factors (race and social class) for you to bear in mind when picking your set of colors.
Yet another challenge in choosing colors to suit your target audience is that it may not be very clear who your target audience is. Let’s say you focus on gender when choosing colors for your ice-cream brand. Although it seems like everyone enjoys ice cream, some surveys show that women consume 15% more ice cream than men do, which means that it makes the most sense for you to choose colors that generally appeal to women. Why do you think Baskin Robbins has made it so big compared to other ice cream brands?
Nevertheless, we understand that some designers may choose to leave out culture and assume that everyone reacts to colors similarly i.e. that red will always evoke feelings of excitement and passion and will always command attention (whether it means attention to danger is something such designers refrain from diving into further).
We’ve given you for free 5 important factors to consider when choosing colors for your brand: your target audience’s emotions, your brand identity, your overall design, your competitors’ colors, and culture. Apply these when choosing colors for any aspect of brand design. If you’d like help in applying the concepts outlined in this article, say hi to us and we’ll be more than happy to speak with you.
And when you’re done designing, do the final check to make sure your design and its color are successful at evoking the emotions you want people to associate your brand with. Tip: never neglect your own spontaneous emotions when doing that final check.
Now that you’ve learned something new, apply these concepts, or share them with others by posting this article on Facebook or Twitter. As a result, you will help more people be clear on what to consider when it comes to color in brand design.