The Best Colors for Branding

From the site Branded for Success, here are some terrfic thoughts from Jim Howard, Heather Kirk and Chris Howard about how color impacts your brand:

We’re conditioned to notice color. It’s one of the first things we notice on products or materials. The way we view those colors psychologically triggers how we feel and think.They even influence us to buy.

Your color choice will project a message about your business. When designing a brand, it makes sense to use color to establish a perceived image based on the way that color is perceived. That’s good marketing.

Think about some of the top brands. When you picture IBM, Wal-Mart or HP, do you see blue? When you think of a Target store, do you see the red bullseye? With American Express, you automatically see green. When you think of McDonald’s, don’t you see those yellow arches with the red sign?

Those colors were not chosen by accident. IBM represents business. American Express is all about money. McDonald’s wants to get your emotions stimulated and make you hungry. They know their target market.

What emotions are you stirring with your brand? Are they the right emotions to reach your target audience? You don’t want to waste time and money by overlooking the message you are conveying with color.

Here’s a list of frequently used colors and how people generally associate them:

WHITE – White is associated with innocence, purity, peace and contentment. It’s considered clean and sterile. It’s cool and refreshing. White can have a calming, stabilizing influence.

BLACK – Black is the ultimate power color.It suggests strength, potency, authority, boldness, seriousness, stability and elegance. It’s distinguished and classic, great for creating drama. Black has more weight than other colors. Too much can be ominous.

GRAY or SILVER – Gray can be associated with conservative qualities and considered traditional. Business-wise, it symbolizes high tech and suggests authority, practicality, earnestness and creativity.

GOLD – Gold suggests wealth. It’s considered to be very classy.

BLUE – Blue is the favorite color of many businesses. It suggests sanctuary and fiscal responsibility. It inspires confidence. It is the most popular and second most powerful color. Darker shades are authoritative. Dark and bright blues represent trust, security, faithfulness and dignity. Paler shades can imply freshness and cleanliness, although they can imply weakness.

RED – Red stimulates many kinds of appetites. Red commands attention, alerts us and creates a sense of urgency. It’s considered the sexiest of all colors. Red symbolizes heat, fire, blood, love, warmth, power, excitement, energy, strength, passion, vitality, risk, danger and aggressiveness. Financially, it’s associated with debt.

YELLOW – Yellow is the sunshine hue and is a spiritual color. Yellow represents a warning, but it can also bring happiness and warmth. The most preferred yellows are the creamy and warm ones. Bright yellow can be irritable to the eye in large quantities. Yellow speeds metabolism. It’s often used to highlight or draw attention.

GREEN – People associate green with the color of money, as well as nature. Olive greens are associated with health and freshness — a good choice for environmental concerns. Green suggests fertility, freedom, healing and tranquility. Green represents jealousy. Businesses use it to communicate status and wealth. Green is a calming, refreshing color that is very easy on the eyes.

BROWN – Brown is associated with nature and the earth. Dark browns represent wood or leather. Brown and shades of cream are associated with warmth and coziness. Brown suggests richness, politeness, helpfulness and effectiveness. It is solid, credible, mature and reliable. Light brown implies genuineness.

ORANGE – Orange is associated with vibrancy and the tropics, as well as warmth and contentment. It can instill a sense of fun and excitement. It implies health. It suggests pleasure, cheer, endurance, generosity and ambition. It can make an expensive product seem more affordable. It appeals to a wide range of people, both male and female.

PINK – Pink is considered to be a very feminine color. It represents gentleness, romance, well being and innocence.

PURPLE – Purple represents royalty and luxury. In darker shades, it’s considered a wealthy color. It suggests spirituality and sophistication. In paler shades, such as lavender, it’s feminine and romantic.

When determining the color choice for your brand, be sure to ask yourself if the color adds or detracts from your message and use these tips to help rocket you to success.

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  1. Wow! I honestly had not given much thought to the “color” of branding, although as I read through the post I realized that I had previous knowledge of much of the information. One of the things which stood out to me was, “Your color choice will project a message about your business.” As I design the message that is my passion, I will seek the types of colors that best lend to that message. The cover to my book is orange – which (according to the article) appeals to a wide range of people, both male and female. I guess this is one part of the puzzle that helps to explain why a book that has a primary target audience of African-American men, also appeals to many African-American women as well. I will definitely refer to this post’s information to help in my branding efforts. Thanks Phil.

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  2. This article is not only true but is Biblically sound. God used colors too, in very significant ways to tell His story and to get our attention. Just as we are trying to do today, to get others' attention. He was "Branding" with color from the beginning.

    As you read and study the Bible, especially the O.T. you begin to see patterns and will notice that absolutely everthing has a specific meaning to God; including names, numbers and even colors. They were all significant and pointed to or spoke of the character and nature of God…and His coming Son. NOTE; the instructions given by God to build the Tabernacle. The colors of the curtains; blue (pointed to the Heavens and the majesty of God), purple (spoke of the royalty of God and the soon coming King) and scarlet (spoke of our sin and the covering of Jesus' blood over them) and then the gold threads. Gold always speaks of purity in the Bible.  The gold threads represent His purity/perfection that "holds" everthing together. NOTE; the different colored metals used in the structure of the Tabernacle. Gold (purity), silver always points to His redemption in the Bible and the brass which represents that which is incorruptable. NOTE; the Ephod worn by the High Priest which had 12 different stones of different colors. Each one representing one of the 12 tribes of Israel. The care of the 12 tribes was always "on His heart." Now, That's Significant! Even His first covenant with man was done in a splash of colors painted across the sky in a Rainbow.

    We are told to study to show ourselves approved, as we do, we grow in God's great multi-faceted wisdom. We do well to know His mind, even in the colors He created in order to understand how they were to then and now, have affect on us. What are you trying to accomplish and what are you trying to say?  As we know and understand His mind and original design, we too, become, much more affective.  

  3. Shauna… all I can say is… powerful. Truly God’s revealed Word to us is the illumination by which we are to light our paths. You have taken the issue of color branding to a deeper, foundational level. God was doing marketing and branding before we even KNEW what He was doing. I referenced this issue before in another of Phil’s posts on advertising where you see evidence of this – Deuteronomy 6:6-9. (You probably already know this). Here, God sets up how His people are to surround themselves with His message in order for it to permeate their hearts and minds. Advertising/branding/positioning moguls have basically adopted this strategy in order to get consumers to buy their products… but, as you mention about the issue of color, the principles behind what they do originated with God.

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  4. Thanks Phil for bringing this to our attention. Needless to say on day one when God created light, he created color. It's an expression of who God is. Being in the business of creating brand experiences for many organizations, we find that color selection is often the most significant single starting point in any design solution. It can set the tone for everything to come, even form. Consider what H&R Block's green square says about their organisation. It's worth taking the trouble and spending the money to find someone who is skilled and gifted in associating a color to your unique brand. Sure we can all select colours but in my experience I've seen too many clients' attachment to 'their' colours go against the grain of established color theory principles. If there's one message in the branding area of working with colour that my experience compels me to share, it's summed up in the word 'control'. The degrees of which usually sets apart the men from the boys. True beauty is so often in the subtleties. Bobbie Houston of Hillsong fame once told an employee of mine that she had 'a gift of colour'. I'm not sure where that stands theologically, but a gift it is. Bring on the day we honour our skilled artists as much as the evangelists. We've had 'Futurists' as headline speakers at our media conferences, maybe its time to give the 'Colorists' a go. My all time favourite reads on the subject are: 'The Elements of Color' by Johannes Itten (a Bauhaus classic and staple of art education around the world) and 'White Hot by Tricia Guild (although relative to interior design, the color principles are universal).

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