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The Basics of Color Theory in Branding

October 31, 2019

The most important aspect in selling is relatability, so you can see how choosing colors that make a brand feel approachable and trustworthy is one of the most important aspects of branding.

Choosing the colors of a brand involves more than picking out a handful of your favorite colors. Actually, colors play an important role in your brand’s identity and who it attracts and choosing the wrong colors can really hinder the success of your business.

Choosing the right colors is pretty important, wouldn’t you say? Let’s dive into a bit of what color theory is, how you can apply it to your brand, and why it’s so important to not only your business but more importantly, attracting your potential customer.

There has been tons of research done on how color affects people’s emotions and decisions. But not only do colors have a direct impact on our psyches, they also help us make split decisions about how trustworthy a brand is. Do the brand’s colors line up with their personality and function? Or is there an incongruity that leads to confusion and disinterest?

A brand designer has to keep all of the above (plus some more) in mind while putting together a color palette that stands out against a brand’s competitors.

Understanding the Traits of Your Brand

A brand designer’s job is to personify a business. That means giving it traits that would also be suitable to describe an animate object; a human. Actually, one of the questions in my client homework packet is to describe your business as a person… what would they wear? How would they act? What would their interests be? This not only helps fully understand a brand and it’s traits, but also likely summarizes your brand’s target audience.

There are five dimensions of brand identity: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. Discovering which dimension your brand best fits is the first step in deciding on brand elements, such as color.

Personifying a brand is arguably the most important part of the branding process. It is what gives the brand a “face” that feels recognizable and comfortable to a customer. The most important aspect in selling is relatability so you can see why this step holds a lot of value.

Understanding the Context of Your Brand

Once you understand the persona of your brand, it’s important to understand the context in which your brand will be used. Is it a global brand? In what industry is the brand? Once you’re able to place your brand and it’s traits within context, you can easily move into the next step of understanding color itself. Then, you can begin working color strategically into your design based on your new understanding of your brand’s traits and context.

The Meaning Behind Colors

Every color holds meaning. Some meaning is based in psychology and culture while some is based in natural association. For example, green is naturally associated with nature while also culturally known as a color of jealousy and psychologically can be very tranquil. Taking everything you know about your brand’s traits and context, you can now start to organize the meanings of each color to see how they may or may not fit within your brand’s strategy.

Below is a list of the basic colors and some of the common meanings they can persuade:

REDbold, courageous, visceral, passionate, can stimulate hunger (this is why you’ll notice almost all fast food chains use red and yellow in their logos)

ORANGEenergetic, vibrant, friendly, cheerful, vitality

YELLOWoptimistic, clarity, happiness, positivity, eye catching

GREENnatural, rejuvenating, balance, harmony, health, growth, deeper greens can be seen as prestigious

BLUEtrustworthy, secure, strong, dependable, popular in office settings

PURPLEregal, enchanting, wise, creative, imaginative, royal, lavender can evoke nostalgia, sentimental

BLACKprestigious, serious, classic, bold, expensive, powerful

Color Used as Subliminal Messaging

Like we discussed above, color alone can both hold and evoke many emotions and feelings. But when it comes to using color to persuade a buying decision, it can get a bit more complicated. Certain colors, when strategically paired with certain products, can act as a subliminal message to a customer. For example, think of the last time you went grocery shopping for a healthy sandwich meat. Were you more drawn to the packaging that used earth toned greens and browns? Or the packaging that used bright, eye catching colors? My guess would be the first option. Why? Because subliminally you were persuaded to believe that the turkey in the earth toned colored packaging was healthier… even if in reality the turkey in the opposite packaging was the better option.

Using color as a subliminal marketing tool works best for brands that sell a product a consumer would likely think about before purchasing. However for brands selling grab and go items, color is typically used to stand out from competitors rather than strategically used to subliminally market their product.

What Can Color Convey?

Overall, color can convey a lot of different things. And, depending on your brand – it’s traits, it’s context, it’s products (if applicable), and it’s target market – the colors you choose to represent your brand can vary. Color conveys emotions, associations, perceived value, accessibility, and even memories.

Need help choosing your brand’s colors? Let’s chat about it! Contact me here and invest in your brand… I promise you won’t regret it.

  1. Madison says:

    Absolutely loved this post, Amanda! Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Susan says:

    I enjoyed this post Amanda, its very helpful! I didn’t realize how important colors were for branding

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