Choosing the right colour for your brand

How to use color psychology in branding 1 - this!brand - brand & identity design
How to use colour psychology in branding.

Red – Blue – Yellow – Orange – Green – Purple – Magenta – Black and White.

Each of these colours has a psychological impact on what we think and how we feel. That’s why choosing the colour for your brand should never be based on your personal taste, but a strategic decision to shape your brand’s image.

Different colours affect us differently, the right colour can create feelings of trust, excitement and even calm while the wrong colour can invoke feelings of danger, fear or even oppression. Understanding colour psychology will help you choose a colour scheme that can take your brand to another level and build a more intense connection with your audience.

People are emotional beings and emotions influence their purchasing decisions. A brand’s colours affect how human feels about it.

Colours can have a big impact on consumers. Our emotions and feelings can be stimulated by colours. Companies use colour theory in many ways, but one of the most effective is in branding. The right colour combination can make your brand resonate with customers.

Colour connotations can vary depending on context and they have different meanings to different people, demographics, cultures and individuals.

However, using colour psychology, we can outline a general understandings.

Red

Red is a colour that can make you stop and take notice. It’s the colour of stop signs, sales tags, and call-to-action buttons. It’s one of the most striking and stirring colours.

Use red with care because it can trigger powerful positive and negative emotions.

Red is associated with power, passion and excitement. It also represents anger, danger and pain.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia
this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

When should you use red within your brand?

Although the red can create a sense of urgency, it is effective for encouraging appetite. McDonald’s red evokes excitement which is why fast cars and lingerie are popular in this colour. But, on the flip side, it does have negative connotations including danger, fear and anger. Some studies show that the colour red actually, reduces analytical thinking.

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Blue

Without a doubt, blue is the most widely used colour in brands and marketing, the reason for this is the feelings it evokes.

It evokes a feeling of serenity and calm and leans toward the idea of trust and security, that’s why so many brands use blue.

It’s important to understand the context of your brand within your market and although the feelings of trust and security are evoked and you might end up blending in within your market. That’s a strategic decision that you need to make.

The positive attributes associated with blue include trust, loyalty, dependability, logic, serenity and security, but there are also some negative attributes associated with blue, including coldness, emotionless, unfriendliness and unappetizing.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia
this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

When should you use blue in branding?

Blue has a calming effect on the mind and it is considered the colour of reason, strength, wisdom and trust.
So it is common for businesses like healthcare, IT and financial institutions to rely on the colour blue to communicate a sense of trust.

According to a YouGov survey blue is the world’s favourite colour, however, that doesn’t mean that it’s always the right choice and there are shades of blue that will make your audience feel sad or even cold.

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So use blue to foster a sense of calmness and dependability, but be careful because its overuse can make you feel bland and make you blend in rather than stand out.

So it’s not without risk.

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Yellow

Yellow represents youthfulness, happiness fun and sunshine and it can be powerful to use as a complement to darker colours.

Positive attributes and personality traits include optimism, warmth, happiness, creativity, intellect and extroversion.

The negative attributes associated with yellow can include irrationality, fear, caution, anxiety, frustration and cowardice.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia
this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

So when should you use yellow in branding?

It is a very positive colour and we see yellow used with emojis and the iconic smiley face reflects yellow’s associations with optimism and happiness.

Yellow is bright and reminds us of sunshine so it’s a great strategic colour to align with for a warm feeling.

Yellow tints can be straining on the eyes while darker yellows can make people feel a bit sick or ill. It can evoke feelings of depression and sadness, so it’s best to use this colour very carefully.

If you want to evoke feelings of happiness then it might be a good choice.

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Orange

Orange is an energetic, warm and vibrant colour, like yellow and red. It immediately attracts attention, hence its common use for traffic cones. Its brightness inspires innovation excitement and confidence, making it the perfect choice for Mitre 10 or Etsy to encourage you along your DIY journey.

When it comes to brand personality the positive attributes associated with orange include courage, confidence, warmth, innovation, friendliness and energy, but the negative connotations of orange include frustration, immaturity, ignorance and sluggishness.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia
this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

So when should you use orange in branding

Orange harvests a feeling of warmth and energy because when we think of the sun we think of warmth and energy. So it makes it a bright, light and fun choice for youthful

non-corporate brands. Darker shades of orange are generally associated with autumn and earthy sensations. Orange is often used as an addition to grounding colours. Blues, blacks and browns are commonly used with orange.

When using the colour orange, context is key, for example, orange’s negative connotations include silliness and immaturity yet both of these traits can be positive if you’re a brand like Nickelodeon but it’s also worth noting that most people consider orange cheap, so it’s not surprising that brands like Payless use the colour orange.

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Green

In recent years green has been a bit overused with eco-friendly branding and the concept of going green but it can be easy to overlook the importance and the power of the colour green in branding.

From an early age, we learn to associate green with nature because it’s refreshing, healthy and it resembles growth.

From a brand personality perspective, positive attributes of the colour green include health, hope, freshness, nature, growth and prosperity.

But there are also negative attributes and connotations including boredom, stagnation, envy, blandness and debilitation.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia
this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

So when should you use the colour green?

Green is now synonymous with the idea of being eco-friendly and if you’re getting into a market where there are a lot of competitors putting out the same message and using green then it might not be the best choice but there are many different shades and tints

that you can choose from.

Make it a strategic decision and understand the market that you’re playing in first.

It’s also important to remember that green is more than just about eco-friendliness, it also represents power and we see it in finances and military, so that might be a strategic decision that you can make, it really depends on the market that you’re in and the connotations, both positive and negative.

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Purple

Historically the colour purple has been considered luxurious and this goes back to ancient times when fabric dyes were extremely expensive and hard to come by, which meant that only royalty or the upper class could afford to wear purple.

Positive personality attributes associated with purple include wisdom, wealth, spirituality, imagination and sophistication. While on the flip side the negative attributes of purple include decadence, suppression, excess and moodiness.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia
this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

When should you consider using purple in your branding?

Purple lends itself well to brands that want to convey a feeling of class sophistication and prestige however, it can also stir feelings of excess and extravagance so it’s best to be careful with the purple.

Purple shades can be moody but purple tints can provide a feminine touch.

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Magenta

Traditionally magenta is seen as a more feminine colour and it can be very impactful.

It’s a positive colour that inspires comfort and represents hope. Magenta has successfully been used in traditional industries as a way to stand out from the competition.

Some positive personality traits associated with magenta include imagination, passion, caring, creativity, innovation and quirkiness.

But the negative connotations associated with magenta include outrageousness, rebelliousness, flippancy and impulsiveness.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia
this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

When should you use magenta in branding?

Magenta is the most widely used colour to portray femininity, but it’s also an effective colour to choose when trying to break the mould of your industry or stand apart from your competitors if they are more traditional. That was the case of t-mobile using it to differentiate itself from mobile carriers using the classic blues, yellows and oranges.

Magenta works really well as an accompanying colour to inject some youthful vibe into formal brands but, used in excess it can feel a bit eccentric and overwhelming.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

Black

Black is elegant and sophisticated with connotations of wealth and class and that’s why it’s used in so many luxury brands from Chanel to Prada and Gucci.

Positive brand attributes for black include sophistication, security, power, elegance and authority, but there are some negative connotations with the colour black which include oppression, coldness, menace, evil and mourning.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia
this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

When should you consider using black in branding?

When used strategically, black is an effective colour associated with luxury and power. A luxury brand might combine it with white for a minimalist look. On occasion using a bright colour as an accent can add energy to sophistication, however, it is crucial to be mindful of the context. Using black for a sportswear brand would be significantly different than using it for a healthcare brand, which could cause some discomfort as it’s associated with death and mourning.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

White

Where black is the absorption of light, white is the reflection. It’s associated with purity, cleanliness and innocence.

Positive personality traits of white include innocence, purity, cleanliness, simplicity and pristine. But just like any other colour, there are some negative associations with white including emptiness, plainness and distance.

this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia
this brand - brand strategy - graphic design - web design and development - New Zealand - Australia

So when should you use white in branding?

The simplicity of white works well with the classiness of black which is why it’s such a classic combination.

It represents cleanliness and has become the go-to for a modern look and feel, however when poorly executed it can feel lazy and bland. White space can also evoke emptiness and isolation, so the notion of white space in branding is helpful but it should be used sparingly.
Sleek and chic can become sterile and cold with poor execution.

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How do you use colour psychology in your brand strategy?

As you review the psychological associations of the colours above you may be thinking “so what’s right for my brand, how can I take this information and use it to make those strategic decisions?”

There are many different ways to communicate your brand to your target audience and choosing the best colours for your brand is one of those crucial steps.

Colour psychology is one factor to consider alongside aligning colours with your brand’s personality.

So let’s dive a little deeper into the process of choosing the right colours for your brand strategy.

1 – Understand your audience

The first step in any marketing or branding decision is understanding your target audience. Understand who you’re trying to influence.

The brand exists to serve the audience and it’s in their minds that the brand is built, therefore defining and understanding your target audience can’t be overstated.

Understanding your target’s market demographics and psychographics is a very good starting point to get a feel for who these people are now this will help you to make ongoing strategic decisions.

That will be really important when determining the colours that you choose within your brand when you know who your audience is when you know the attributes that they have and the attributes that they’re attracted to. It makes it much easier to find a colour palette that will appeal to who they are.

2 – Define your brand’s position

A strong brand positioning strategy is an absolute must for all businesses striving for success. Brand positioning is all about setting your company apart from the rest and defining your unique value to the customer, understanding how you compare to your competition and where you will sit in the market comparatively.

It’s helpful to use a positioning matrix to help you define your brand’s position in the market. Establishing a competitive position will help to inform and guide your branding process, your logo design, your slogan and your colour scheme.

It’s important to choose colours that feel appropriate to your industry and authentic to your brand, but it’s also important to remember that you’re trying to stand out from the competition and differentiate yourself from the rest of the market.

3 – Craft your brand’s personality and attributes

Go beyond simply defining your brand position. Firmly convey your brand’s personality and attributes within your brand strategy. Personality is something that we attribute to humans which is why it’s so impactful.
In branding, we connect with brands in the same way that we connect with humans. We look for attributes that we like and that we’re drawn to and brands that display those attributes are more likely to get our attention.

Since colour is such an immediately provocative tool for evoking emotions it’s one of the easiest ways that you can convey your brand’s personality to your audience. Colour isn’t the only way to communicate your brand’s personality but it is super simple and effective. Colours are jarring, they’re conflicting they evoke emotions and when you understand the attributes that your audience is attracted to, the role that you want to play in their lives and what you want to communicate to them, then your colour can play a really important role in shaping how they perceive your brand.

4 – Match your brand’s attributes to relevant brand colours

Once you can clearly communicate your brand personality and your position, then you can think about choosing suitable brand colours.

Do youthfulness and cheerfulness characterize your brand? If so then maybe yellow is a good choice for your brand.

Are you a healthcare provider looking to instil a calming trust in your audience? Maybe incorporating blue into your brand identity is a good idea.

Are you a luxury fashion brand or boutique looking to make a splash in the elegant and sophisticated but competitive world of high fashion? Then maybe black would be a great base but consider other colours to differentiate your brand from the rest.

5 – Create a colour palette to express your brand

When you think about colours in the brand identity you tend to think of logos. But in fact, colour psychology and branding will go beyond the logo into other elements and depending on the business, this might include web design, in-store design, staff uniforms and so on. As such you’ll need to understand the collection of complimentary colours otherwise known as a colour palette. What colours are you going to use as the primary, what colours are you going to use as the secondary and how do they work together? This means choosing colours that don’t clash with each other but work well together and are pleasing to the eye.

6 – Apply your brand colours consistently

Once you’ve thoughtfully selected your brand’s colour palette you’ll need to utilize it appropriately. Building brand consistency is crucial in establishing your relationship with your ideal customer. Brand recognition takes time so you need to inject your brand’s personality into your consumer touch points over a sustained period of time. Why? Well, ultimately brand consistently considerably increases revenue over time.

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Final thoughts

Remember as humans we connect through attributes and emotions and there are a few tools as powerful as colour to do just that.

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