Brand colors shape how people perceive your business. Up to 80% of snap judgments about products are solely based on color alone. That’s right, 80%!
Think about McDonald’s for a moment. What pops into your mind? The yellow arches, right? McDonald’s has done a fantastic job of using its colors to establish a memorable brand identity that stays with you long after you’ve finished your burger and fries.
So why settle for a forgettable brand image that blends in with the crowd? Let’s sprinkle some color into our article and discover the powerful connection between colors and branding.
Brand colors go beyond aesthetics. They’re a potent tool that businesses use to convey their identity and values. Simply put, brand colors refer to the specific hues and shades a company picks to represent its brand across all channels, from logo to website to packaging.
Why Brand Colors Matter
1. Colors establish brand identity and recognition.
Today’s market is overwhelmed. So, how can you find your top spot there? Using consistent brand colors is a great way to establish brand recognition and identity.
For example, let’s look at Coca-Cola. The company has been using its signature red and white colors since 1886.
Red represents excitement, passion, and energy, while white represents purity and simplicity. These colors have become synonymous with the brand and are instantly recognizable by people worldwide.
Different colors evoke different emotions and associations. For example, green can signify growth, health, and nature, while red can symbolize passion, excitement, and urgency.
Facebook uses blue as its primary color in its branding. Blue is often a color of trust, security, and reliability, which aligns with Facebook’s mission to connect people and create a safe online community.
It also calms people, helping users feel more relaxed and comfortable while using the platform.
A brand color formula is a set of predefined color codes representing a company’s visual identity. It translates into a cohesive look and feel that resonates with their target audience and strengthens brand recognition.
The following formulas outline how to select colors for one, two, three, and four color brands.
Main color: This is the only color used in the brand.
Your primary color articulates your brand’s unique personality and values. Choose a hue that genuinely reflects your brand’s vibe and connects with your ideal audience to ensure a perfect match.
With color theory and psychology on your side, you’ll have all the tools to select a primary color and create a lasting impact.
4. Choose Your Secondary Colors
Secondary colors support your brand identity, adding depth and dimension to your overall color scheme. Use them to highlight accents, backgrounds, and typography and create a harmonious color palette that tells your brand’s unique story.
To create a seamless combo, select two to three colors that perfectly harmonize with your primary color.
5. Test Your Colors Across Platforms
Once you’ve selected your brand colors, it’s time to put them to the test and ensure they work properly across all platforms.
Try them on your website, social media channels, business cards, packaging, and other marketing materials to guarantee maximum consistency and visibility.
You can A/B test the buttons’ colors, backdrops, etc., to identify which brings in the most conversions.
Small changes in color and more straightforward communication through images led to a sales boost for Alpro, a Belgium company that markets plant-based milk products.
Pro tip: Choose your brand and product colors to stimulate a concrete action, feeling, or desire — hunger (= buying food), confidence, inspiration, trust, etc.
Color and Emotions
And did you know that people across 30 countries share similar associations between colors and feelings? A survey of over 4,500 participants from 30 countries found that people easily connect colors and emotions.
What we like: Most colors were linked to positive emotions, while brown, grey, and black were associated with negative emotions.
Fun fact: Participants whose languages and geographical locations were similar had more similar color-emotion associations.
We also highly recommend you watch the video on color psychology by expert Mike Ploger.
Understanding the emotional connection between colors and individuals is crucial in visual branding. “Your favorite color likely came from positive experiences with that single color when you were growing up,” says Mike Ploger.
This highlights the importance of considering color psychology in brand building.
Gender and Color Preferences
Color preference can also be influenced by gender. Women generally lean towards warmer colors, purple (23%) and blue (35%). Men prefer blue (57%), black (9%), and green (14%).
But wait, there’s more!
Have you ever noticed the ubiquitous association between pink and girls and blue and boys? This gender-color stereotype has been deeply ingrained in Western societies, but what about in Chinese culture?
Researchers from several Chinese universities set out to investigate this phenomenon using a modified Stroop paradigm and event-related potential (ERP) signals.
In the experiment, Chinese college students received occupation words stereotypically associated with masculinity or femininity (displayed in either pink or blue). They were then asked to quickly and accurately classify the gender of the occupation.
The study revealed that pink stimuli associated with masculinity resulted in longer response times. In contrast, blue stimuli linked to masculinity did not cause the same delays in response time.
So what’s the conclusion? Pink is a “gendered” color, but blue is not. What a thought-provoking discovery.
However, color preferences in marketing still have a powerful impact on consumer behavior.
While some may argue that colors are insignificant when it comes to gender, it’s hard to ignore that pinky shades have become synonymous with the feminine market.
And we can see it everywhere, from Barbie’s iconic packaging to clothing brands that cater to women.
Colors can affect purchasing decisions by evoking emotions and associations.
For example, red is often used in sales promotions because it creates a sense of urgency and can stimulate impulse buying. Sarah Levinger, Consumer Behavior Analyst, confirms that in one of her LinkedIn posts:
When choosing brand colors, remember to take into account cultural differences. Some colors can have different meanings and associations in different cultures.
For example, white symbolizes purity and innocence in Western cultures. But on the contrary, it has dark meanings, such as mourning and death in some Asian cultures.
In the 1950s, Pepsi decided to revamp the color in Southeast Asia. They swapped out the old and dull dark blue with a new, trendy, and icy blue shade that they believed would make their vending machines look fresh and inviting.
But nobody bothered to check the cultural significance of the color blue in that part of the world.
3. Use Colors to Reinforce Your Brand’s Personality
Colors can also communicate important messages and enhance brand storytelling. If you carefully select the hues that align with your brand’s values and narrative, you can create a much better brand experience for your customers.
For instance, let’s consider Adidas — what sets it apart from others?
Its bold and dynamic colors reflect the company’s athletic and competitive spirit. The iconic three-stripe logo is often black and white, lending a touch of sophistication and timelessness to the brand’s overall look.
However, Adidas also incorporates vivid and lively colors into its product designs, such as neon yellows and electric blues. That exudes a sense of enthusiasm and excitement.
Adding visual contrast to your branding is another key to unlocking the door of perfect design. You don’t have to make it look like a neon sign from Vegas, though.
Pro tip: Use the right color combo to create contrast. You can then emphasize key elements and convey your message more effectively.
No matter the brand, an element of visual contrast is key to every color palette. Having contrast
doesn’t necessarily mean that a brand looks bold or loud. A sense of complementary harmony, be it through hue or value, allows all brand visuals to be clear and legible.
“At Switch, one process we use to ensure that the brand colors we’re planning for a brand have
enough contrast is to desaturate our chosen brand palette. By removing all hues from our colors, we guarantee that the color values are distinct enough and, therefore, work well together.
This is a reverse-engineered process from traditional ‘underpainting’ — where artists would plan their painting in monochrome, only using light and shade to tell the story,” Andrea Meli, Head of Design, Switch
Now, let’s recall the iconic Apple logo with the perfect contrast between black and white. This design showcases how even a simple logo can use visual contrast to make a lasting impression.
Finally, don’t hesitate to change your brand colors if they aren’t connecting with your target audience or no longer match your brand’s personality and values. Stay open to making adjustments that can enhance your brand’s appeal.
And don’t consider that a bad thing. In fact, many mega-popular brands have done the same thing.
For instance, in 2014, Airbnb updated its brand colors and font. The company shifted from a blue and white color scheme to a more vibrant and diverse color palette.
Likewise, Semrush, the leading SEO tool, rebranded in December 2020 to symbolize the creative spark that ignites the marketing engine and the company’s energetic, passionate, and innovative approach to work.
Lastly, check out the list of 10 brands that expertly use colors to create a visually stunning and memorable identity.
Instagram — Purple, pink, orange, and white
LinkedIn — Blue and white
Red Bull — Blue and red
Spotify — Green and black
Ferrari — Red and yellow
Visa — Blue and gold
Samsung — Blue and white
Twitter — Blue and white
Dropbox — Blue and white
YouTube — Red and white
And if you’re looking for an answer to what are the best brand colors, sorry to burst your bubble, but they don’t exist. The trick is mixing and matching different colors to create a unique visual design that sets your brand apart.