The Psychology of Color and Your Brand

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One of my favorite topics is color. There is the obvious visual appeal, and then there is because of the fascinating psychology of color. When you look at a color, the perception of how it makes you feel may not be obvious, but it is indeed there. When it comes to selecting colors for your brand, you’ll want to think about the colors you use in your logo and marketing materials of course. But you also want to think about the colors you use besides your brand colors. Think about the buttons on your website, the colors of your links, and what you use in your social media imagery.

Besides the individual colors, sometimes when you add two colors together, your brain jumps to obvious combinations and what they represent. Green and red for Christmas, orange and black for Halloween. Red, white, and blue for the United States. And then, we can think of pairs like red and yellow which many of us associate with fast food.

With each color, understand that there is a spectrum of color from light to dark. This is called hue. Technically, red and pink are all hues of red, but the meaning can change drastically between them. And by having let’s say a bright red, as opposed to a dark red can change things as well. But again, we’re going with the overview for the sake of keeping this post brief.

Now let’s get to the fun part. What the colors mean! I’m going to run through the ROYGBIV, aka the rainbow with the addition of brown, gray, black, white, and pink, because sometimes the rainbow just does not have enough colors.

Red can mean a lot of things and as with all of the colors, has both positive and negative aspects. It can be danger or aggression, but it also can be strength and passion and power and energy. It also means love, excitement, appetite, and determination.

Brands that use red are Coca-Cola, Band-Aid, CVS, Target, Netflix, Pinterest, and Marvel.

Orange can be enthusiasm, success, social-ness, it can be warmth and creativity. It can mean youth, friendship, and innovation. It can also be excitement and energy, just as red can.

Brands using orange are Reese’s, Dunkin, Nickelodeon, Harley Davidson, Home Depot, Etsy, and Fanta.

Yellow can make you think of joy, attention, freshness, energy, optimism, intelligence. It can be warmth and happiness. Positivity, cheerfulness, and hope.

When we come to yellow, we have Post-it Notes, Stanley tools, McDonald’s, Best Buy, IMDB, and Hertz.

Green, of course, makes us think of leaves, and things growing, it’s a color representing nature. It also can be for calmness, balance, safety, and freshness. Health, fertility, finances, eco-friendly and good luck are all thought of with green.

For Green, we all know Starbucks and the siren in the green logo, BP, Whole Foods, Sprite, Xbox, and Mint.

Blue makes us think of responsibility, trust, confidence, calmness, loyalty, intellect, and peace. It also can mean cleanliness, security, order, strength, and reliability.

Blue includes IBM, Facebook, Dasani, Goldman and Sachs, Dell, Samsung, PayPal, GE, Visa, and HP.

Purple represents royalty, power, arrogance, luxury, and wisdom. It also can be spirituality, mystery, sophistication, feminity, and glamour.

Purple has Hallmark, Taco Bell, Curves, Cadbury, FedEx, Yahoo!, and Roku.

Brown at first seems like it’s not the biggest logo color until you start thinking about those rugged or outdoorsy brands. Ruggedness, trustworthiness, dependability, simplicity, natural, not overthinking things.

Brands that use brown are UPS, Carhart (a light tan), M&M’s, Hershey’s, Nespresso, UGG and A&W.

Gray, a hue of black, and can also be viewed as silver can be seen as futuristic, responsible, technical, authoritarian, and maturity. It can also feel classic, modest, and neutral.

Gray/silver brings Mercedes, Apple, Toyota, ad most cars have a silver version as it’s used as an emblem on the car.

Black is bold, powerful, mysterious, elegant, stability, formality, dramatic. Black can also feel efficient.

Black, we have Gucci, Prada, Chanel, and most luxury and high-end fashion labels nowadays. In fact, when I rebranded years ago with my jewelry, it was definitely a black text on white logo that seems to be the trend in most fashion right now. And many of those fit into that. The New York Times, Nestle, Sony, Bentley.

White on the flip side of that is purity and innocence, but also luxury, security, peacefulness, cleanliness, simplicity, and honesty.

White is tricky. Really you could say a lot of these have white text on a black or color background, think about Tesla. White tends to come into play as the negative space a lot.

Pink, it seems to be most often the brighter and deeper hues. It’s rarely in the super pale pinks, so keep that in mind when considering pink. Pink is compassionate, sweet, sensitive, caring, emotional, love, sensuality, and sophistication. It’s also hope, inspiration, dreams, and childhood.

Brands that use pink are The Susan G Komen foundation with the pink ribbon, Barbie. T-Mobile, Hello Kitty, Vinyard Vines, Lyft, and Airbnb.

Note that with logo colors, you need to be able to print your logo in black and white. So even if your logo is colorful, you should have a non-color version.

The most important thing to remember is that there’s not one factor to determine the colors you select. In the shortlists I provided, you can see that industries are across many colors if not all. This means that you need to be pigeonholed by industry. You can absolutely bring some flair into what your logo, your branding, your buttons on your website. But just think about what we innately think about with the psychology of color. As you do start to make these decisions.

Did you love this topic? To dive deeper, head to Google and have fun! If color theory beyond selecting brand colors interests you, I recommend Interaction of Color by Josef Albers which I read in art school and still love.

Lastly, if you are a tiny business owner, you can find my book, Smarter Starting at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book places if you want to understand how to build a business with 5 or fewer employees.

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