The colours you choose will ultimately play a huge part in how your brand is perceived by potential clients/customers, and could make the difference between building a recognizable brand and one that vanishes in the crowd of competitors.
If you’ve done any research on the subject, then there’s a good chance you’ll have happened upon all manner of charts, tips and claims, pointing you in the direction of one colour or another, based on your corporate values and target demographic – but it’s wise not to place too much importance on these for one key reason: they rarely factor in the relatively unquantifiable personal experience of the customer.
Colour associations tend to be made on a very personal level, based on the past experiences of the individual in question, their environment growing up, their culture and their previous engagements with companies using similar colours. There’s no “one size fits all” approach to selecting the colours for your brand, but there are some general concepts that can help guide you in the right direction.
Who Are You Trying to Reach?
Before you dive headlong into colour charts or try to identify the colours that speak best to your corporate voice, the first thing you need to do is figure out who your primary demographic is. Spare no detail in breaking things down – focus on gender, age group, ethnicity, culture, language and tradition, examine brands that have successfully tapped into your desired group and explore the reasons why their corporate branding elements have worked. Similarly, take a look at those that have failed and learn from their mistakes.
With all that in mind, let’s touch upon some of the broader concepts we mentioned earlier. Generally speaking, the bulk of studies and infographics you’ll find on this subject refer to westerners, and factor in their observed preferences over time. If that’s not who you’re attempting to appeal to, you’ll need to make a few adjustments – but you’ll figure it out easily enough!
Blue is the Colour
According to research group Marketo, the most used colour when it comes to corporate branding and logos is blue, with around 33% of studied logos featuring it as the main colour. This ties in with the fact that 57% of males and 35% of females (a comprehensive majority in both cases) list blue as their favourite colour.
Clearly, then, the suggestion is that in order to ensure you appeal to as many people as possible, you should opt for a blue logo, right? Not necessarily. Literally hundreds of studies down through the years have all arrived at similar conclusions regarding the subliminal “messaging” associated with blue in our culture; that it’s a secure, trustworthy colour that suggests dependability and loyalty. However, many of those same studies have found blue to be a colour that’s associated with budget products by some shoppers.
What Do Colours Mean?
The question now moves from “why not use blue if it’s everyone’s favourite colour?” to “do I want to associate my brand with a ‘budget’ colour?”; these are the issues you’ll begin to find with increasing regularity the more you read into the subject. Ultimately, any concerns about using blue will have mattered little to companies like Facebook, IBM, Skype, WordPress, Samsung and Ford!
That’s not to say that there’s not some useful information to be gleaned from the countless colour studies down through the years. At very least, they put you in a position to make an informed decision based on the kind of companies that are already established as using the colour(s) in question.
Red has been chosen for some of the most iconic brands in the world, from Coca Cola to Target to YouTube to CNN and ESPN. It’s a colour that creates a sense of excitement among westerners, instilling them with the urge to act, and inspiring impulse purchases. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that red on its own can be a little overwhelming for some, and accepted best practices in branding tend to suggest that keeping it as an accent is the best way to get use from it.
Unsurprisingly, pink is viewed as the colour of romance, or female-friendly products. Interestingly, up until relatively recently, pink was viewed as a predominantly male colour. These days, however, it tends to be quite the opposite – something that has been used to great effect by Breast Cancer Awareness, Barbie and even Victoria’s Secret. If your business is rugged outdoor equipment, it might be a good idea to shy away from the use of pink in your branding (although, unexpected use of colour can help make your identity stand out from the competition, so perhaps don’t rule it out entirely).
Green, most often associated with the environment, is also known for being a colour favoured by cost-aware shoppers, although it can also be used when it comes to finances, signifying wealth. Purple is another colour that is often used to signify wealth, although usually more along the lines of opulence or luxury. It can be used as a fine substitute for blue, should you choose, and brings with it a sense of regality or mystery.
Yellow, preferred by the likes of McDonalds, DHL, Ferrari and Ikea, is typically associated with fun and creativity, and is often used by brands seeking a more youthful audience. Orange, similar to yellow, is seen as playful and light, but retaining a moderate sense of urgency and impulse, something that brands like MasterCard and Dunkin’ Donuts have used very well. Think of it as a happy middle ground between yellow and red.
Finally, of the most common colours used in corporate branding, we have black. Usually associated with power and superiority, it’s no surprise that companies like Nike, Apple, Porsche and Lamborghini have favoured blacks and greys for their corporate identities. Used sparingly, black can create a real sense of grounding for your brand, and often emphasizes other colours to an impressive degree.
Break from Stereotypes
As we touched upon while discussing pink, it’s very important that you don’t take stereotypical associations too seriously when it comes to creating a colour palette for your brand. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something that’s going to make you stand out from the crowd – sometimes an unexpected approach can make your brand memorable instantaneously. Using colours that are too similar to your main competitors, or brands that dominate your space, can often render you little more than a pretender in the eyes of your target market. By all means, draw upon the ideas that have worked for others, but make sure to stamp your own identity on things, too.
Above All Else: Know Your Audience
By that same note, however, it’s essential to know your target audience. Attempting to be too creative can have its own pitfalls. Associating your brand with a colour that contradicts your core values can lead to confusion on behalf of potential customers, and make you appear unfocused or untrustworthy.
You know your products and services, and you should know your customers, so by working with that data, as well as a general understanding of how certain colours are perceived, it should be possible for you to create a logo, and associated branding elements, that focuses on what makes your company unique, memorable and attractive to potential customers.
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