May 3, 2023
By: Kari Amarnani
Your brand colors say so much about your business, much more than you know.
Understanding the psychology of colors in branding can help you choose the most suitable and relevant hues for your business. Brand colors aid in building trust and eliciting certain emotions that customers can associate with your new business.
Have you noticed that most popular brands have strong associations with their logo? This is because their brand colors (which almost always feature in their logo) strongly reflect their business principles. Some are so established that they don’t need to involve text.
Take Nike, for example. Most people can associate that black ‘swoosh’ (as they like to call it) icon on a product to be the Nike crest right away. There is no title of the brand, yet people instantly recognize it. Nike chose black and white for their brand colors—one of the most powerful combinations for memorability and minimalism.
It is significantly helpful to learn the psychology of colors as it allows you to send a specific message to your target audience. The impact of colors can increase brand recognition, brand association, and ultimately, total sales.
These are colors that will be associated with your business and almost every aspect of it: your products, website, logo, landing pages, and much more— so it would be best for you to take your time learning which colors represent your business perfectly.
What is the first color that comes to your mind when you think of Airbnb? It’s probably that tinge of coral pink, officially known as Rausch. Primary brand colors are a company’s first-choice hues that appear in most, if not all, of its branding and marketing activities.
For example, the red and yellow color combination that goes in nearly every McDonald’s ad can be classified as the brand’s primary color combination. Primary brand colors are the shades that help evoke the brand in consumers’ minds and have a few qualities that set them apart from other colors:
Unless you’re doing a brand refresh, you should keep your primary brand colors consistent. Changing them too often and without reason will confuse customers when they interact with your brand. People identify a company through its brand grammar — logos, colors, communication tone, store look, etc. Drastic or recurrent changes in any of these things may make your customers doubt the authenticity of your brand.
While you can change your primary brand colors, it must happen for a reason and be preceded by marketing activity that explains this shift to consumers.
Primary colors in branding are a core part of every company’s communication and can’t look odd or out-of-place compared to every other brand asset that goes out to the world. For example, a brand that wants to convey happiness will most likely not choose faded, dull, or traditional sad colors like blue.
If you don’t know what a company’s primary brand colors are, just look at the logo. Given that logos are the most visible brand asset, it makes sense for primary brand colors to go on them. It could also be said that a company’s logo wouldn’t be the same without the primary brand colors. The shape of the logo combined with these colors is what gives the logo its distinctive identity.
Primary brand colors can’t be the only ones that go on brand visuals because that would make everything look monotonous. Companies also go with hues that complement primary brand colors — these are secondary brand colors.
You can have more secondary brand colors compared to primary ones to make your branding more vibrant and diverse, but don’t go overboard when choosing these. Having ten secondary colors would be on the higher end, and unless your brand identity is extremely colorful, you shouldn’t exceed this number.
You should exercise consistency with secondary brand colors despite having a variety of shades at your disposal. Every additional color you add to your brand palette should come with a reason and purpose. Not doing this will make your branding look random and unprofessional, which is something you don’t want!
Your brand colors should completely align with the emotions and impressions you want to instill in customers and prospects. Every color in branding evokes a different response in users, but there are core symbolisms that create a subconscious connection.
Once you have read on and decided which color/s suits your brand the best, you may also want to consider between cool and warm tones. For example, warm red is not the same as cool red.
Cool tones express energy and excitement, while warm tones are associated with stability and calmness. Cool tones are visually brighter, while warm tones have a more solid-looking display. Depending on your brand principles, this is another category to consider regardless of the colors you choose.
You don’t necessarily have to put yourself in a box between warm and cool. You can choose any shade of the color/s you want, but before you get to this step, you have to determine what these core colors are.
By the time you’re done with this article, you will understand how colors can affect your performance as a brand and what each color symbolizes in terms of your business principles.
Below is an overview of brand colors and what they would mean for your business:
Blue is a popular choice among brands because of its association with security, trust, and confidence. Blue puts people at ease with an air of calmness and serenity. Some of the top brands in the world utilize blue as a brand color because it suggests integrity and dependability.
Because blue expresses a quiet determination, many offices or conference rooms feature this color, especially when making new partnerships. It can also increase motivation in the workplace with its comfortable atmosphere.
Blue is one of the few colors favored by both men and women, making it a great choice from a business standpoint. Industries and sectors that tend to gravitate towards blue include health, finance, information technology (IT), and insurance.
Red is a brand color that has been gaining traction in the last couple of years. One of the benefits of using red is its ability for attention-grabbing, leading to a boost of memorability. Red evokes a fiery and visceral response that creates an atmosphere of excitement, easily capturing the attention of anyone who sees it.
Red is not a color that everybody likes due to its sometimes overwhelming nature, however, it is associated with passion and risks. Red represents motivation and flair, making it a great option to show customers that you are distinctive and passionate about your work.
Red can encourage users to take action and dive into the business. Because red can be overbearing, it can also be effective in small doses. You can feature a touch of red as a sign of energy and passion. Industries and sectors that tend to use red include health and retail.
Green evokes feelings of freshness and growth. From a business perspective, green can also symbolize prosperity and transparency. Choosing green as a brand color shows that you are dedicated to business growth and success.
For most people, green represents nature and healing— two aspects that provide a calming effect. Because of its lack of visual power and emphasis, green is not a common choice for up-and-coming businesses. Instead, green is mainly used when a business is:
Though green does not have that oomph, it can make people feel more secure and protected. Adding a touch of green can symbolize reliability in your business, allowing people to feel as though they are safe in your hands. Industries and sectors that feature green include health and agriculture.
Purple is the color of sophistication and mystery. From a business perspective, purple takes on a different light, one of luxury and royalty. Many brands use purple for their high-end products due to its association with elegance.
Because purple is the color of the unknown, it also represents curiosity and creativity. Using purple as a brand color shows that you are an innovative thinker and that your business is sophisticated and classy.
Users tend to associate purple with the high life, so if you aim to portray your business from a confident and royal standpoint, this is the way to go.
Purple’s mysterious quality is also linked to spirituality, which brings a magical feeling to your branding. Industries and sectors that are inclined to purple include design, luxury, and technology.
Yellow is a popular choice for businesses that want to exude positivity and mental stimulation. Yellow is a representation of the sun, a symbolism of optimism and hope. Similar to red, yellow can easily catch one’s attention due to its bright element.
Yellow stands out from other brand colors by evoking feelings of stimulation and peace (opposing qualities) simultaneously. Using the right amount of yellow can show customers that your business is one with a warm and inspiring atmosphere. Yellow can allow users to associate your brand with joy, helpfulness, and positive outcomes.
Too much yellow can be a little bit distracting and almost stressful to the eyes. Imagine looking too long at a fluorescent light. Eventually, you feel compelled to look away. Too much brightness can lead to users feeling overwhelmed, so if you have plans for cheery yellow, you may want to find a balance that isn’t too harsh on the eyes.
Industries and sectors that use yellow include fitness, digital, and budget offerings.
If you want the positivity of yellow and the power of red in one combined color, orange is precisely that. Orange represents a unique blend of motivation, friendliness, and adventure. Businesses that use orange as a brand color portray an outgoing and lively zest for life to their customers.
Orange allows users to feel inspired and intrigued by your business as it is a color that expresses extroversion and playfulness with a side of passion. Orange is symbolic of expansion and adventure, showing that your brand is daring, bold, and fearless.
Orange can indicate that your business is constantly on the move and developing. Industries and sectors that tend to feature orange include logistics, fitness, weight loss medication, culinary, and technology.
Black is a popular favorite among many brands, and there’s a reason for it: it’s a timeless classic. Black’s sophistication effortlessly makes businesses stand out. It is a versatile choice as the color can be used for both the basic and the luxurious. Black is a powerful element that can easily mix with other colors yet always retains its appeal.
If you want black as a brand color, it won’t be that complicated to find pairings. Black is effective as a supplementary color that amplifies the qualities of other hues and elements. Many businesses use the combination of black and white for a minimalistic yet strong effect on their visual branding.
Black is also an excellent choice for businesses that offer a wide range of services. It may be challenging to find a brand color if you have a large selection of different products and offerings, but black is neutral enough to unionize everything regardless of their disparities.
Industries and sectors that tend to use black include fashion, design, automobile, technology, luxury, and finance.
White is a representation of a blank canvas— clean and full of potential. It evokes purity and trust, making it a go-to brand color for many businesses in the healthcare sector.
Though it fits perfectly with some niched industries, white can pretty much be used for any business regardless of the industry. In fact, it’s encouraged. White as a brand color can also be categorized as the ‘space’ that emphasizes the other hues. This is known as white space, and it is a fundamental principle of design.
When choosing your brand colors, you have to remember that this is something users will have to see and digest. White allows customers to take in your visual easily. The last thing you want to do while picking your brand colors is overcrowding with too many.
Using white drastically increases the comprehension of your visual branding. It also leaves much to the imagination, allowing users to think more freely about your business. Picking white as a brand color shows that you are dedicated to timeless growth and potential.
Industries and sectors that tend to use white include health, medicine, wellness, and technology.
Variations of pink have traditionally been used as brand colors by companies with a female target audience. Mattel uses pink as a primary color for the Barbie doll range, and the color is also utilized by Victoria’s Secret for marketing purposes.
The use of the shade can go beyond targeting female customers because, according to color psychology, pink can also evoke a sense of calm. It can be used by brands that want their customers to feel relaxed and at ease. Case in point: the Baskin Robbins logo uses pink extensively, and what could be a more fitting color for ice cream? Strawberry, anyone?
Mindfulness and yoga industries also tend to use pink for their brand colors. For example, the popular meditation brand Breethe uses a combination of blue and peachy pink, which go together well to evoke calmness and peace for their users.
On the surface, gray can seem like a very odd color for any brand because it seems dull, bland, and uninteresting. Yet, brands like Apple use it regularly. How does it make sense for one of the world’s most innovative corporations to use that as one of its brand colors?
According to color psychology, gray represents practicality and reliability, which are two qualities a tech or educational brand needs to have. It would also explain why Wikipedia uses silver-gray for its logo. They would ideally want everyone to feel that the information they provide is reliable.
Chocolate brands like Hershey’s most prominently use brown, and for an obvious reason — chocolate is usually brown. But is brown’s usage only limited to evoking people’s taste buds? The answer is a resounding no.
One of the most prominent brands to use brown is UPS, whose iconic brown trucks are hard to miss. Brands such as UPS like brown because it also represents a sense of security, reliability, and warmth, and as a customer, you’d like to know that your package is safe and will be delivered on time.
Brown also complements yellow and gold by acting as a shade to their brighter tones, making them look less distracting. It is why luxury brands like Louis Vuitton have used it as one of their secondary brand colors to evoke luxury without making their imagery too in-your-face.
Brand colors are powerful. They allow you to build a genuine and emotional connection with your target audience. If you believe in these colors and use them consistently, the sight of a particular color can instantly remind users of your business.