How to Choose Colors for Maximum Brand Recognition and Results!
Psychology & Meaning of Colors in Branding
Written by Mike Hamers, Lightspeed
Edited by Kate Hamers, Lightspeed and Kris Green, Turn Words 2 Money
Color Instantly Communicates Meaning
There have been numerous attempts to classify consumer responses to different colors. The truth is that color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings. Gender, background, and cultural differences also need to be taken into account, as they have an influence on how color is perceived.
However, results from studies show that the relationship between brands and color hinges on the perceived appropriateness of the color being used for the particular brand. In other words, does the color “fit” what is being marketed. Are you a men’s big and tall shop and branding yourself with the color pink? Pink does stand out, but might not be appropriate for your business or the personality you want established for your brand.
Effective Differentiation and Your Bottom Line
Bottom line? Choose colors for your brand, website and collateral materials based on the appropriateness, personality and emotions that you intend to portray. You must also remember to assess your competition and choose colors that make your brand stand out. Research shows that color increases brand recognition by 80% – so differentiation is key for creating brand identity. It is critical for new brands to specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors. If the competition all uses green, you’ll stand out by using red.
Colors not only enhance the appearance of the item — they also influence our behavior. You will do well to consider the impact that the colors you use will have on your target audience. Market researchers have also determined that color affects shopping habits.
Psychologists noticed that colors stimulate our brains to remember things better. It is much easier to remember a colored picture than the same picture in black & white. Colors increase readability by 40%, ability to remember by 55% to 78%, and understanding by 73%.
Color is powerful. It evokes emotional responses, helping customers and prospects make quick, often unconscious, associations with particular brands. In fact, color helps people remember brands longer and decide what to buy.
Rethink your company's use of color in your marketing, and experience increased conversions. It could translate into thousands of dollars of sales gained or lost – all based on color choices!
For instance, have you noticed that most fast food restaurants are decorated with vivid reds, oranges and yellows? It's no accident that these colors show up so frequently. Studies repeatedly show reds and oranges encourage diners to eat quickly and leave — and that's exactly what fast food outlets want.
It’s no accident that Jaguar, the luxury car with a luxury website, uses a predominance of black and silver. Black is visually equated with “sophistication” while silver brings images of “prestige” to mind. Jaguar markets to people looking for luxury… those with high incomes who consider themselves sophisticated and look for a prestigious vehicle.
Similarly, notice that toys, books and children's web sites usually contain large blocks of bright, primary colors. Young children prefer these colors and respond more positively to them than they do to pastels or muted blends.
So what response do you want from YOUR marketing?
Consider your color choices carefully.
TRADITIONAL MEANINGS: EMOTIONS & EXPECTATIONS
Your branding dictates the expectations of your company, helping prospects decide whether to do business with you. Research conducted by the University of Loyola, MD, has shown that color increases brand recognition by a whopping 80%. Therefore, picking the right color for your business could help to maximize your revenue potential.
Here is how colors are perceived in the westernized nations of U.S., Canada and much of Europe.
BLUE: Loyalty and Stability
• Blue is universally, the most favored color.
• Cool blue promotes serenity and clarity, as well as denotes intellect and precision.
• Deeper shades of blue are associated with formality and elegance. You might have noticed the many ads using blue luxury cars, navy-blue suits and rich blue office rooms.
• Blue increases the concentration ability, so can be used to highlight the effectiveness of a product in terms of its ability to run smoothly.
• Cold blue is used to show refreshing cool drinks and icy cold mountain water. It’s also associated with purity and clarity, which is why window cleaners, mineral water, and glasses are all given blue tints.
• In the realm of food products, though, blue is not a good choice as it suppresses the appetite.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: Can be considered too conservative, predictable, frigid and weak.
ORANGE: Great Taste and Enthusiasm.
• Orange has the energetic heat of the warmer half of the color wheel, but doesn’t have red’s association with negative emotions. Rather, orange is associated with fun, excitement, action, warmth, and passion.
• As a citrus color, orange is associated with healthy food and stimulates appetite – used frequently in energy drinks, orange-flavorings and children-associated products.
• On the negative side, orange can give a strong impression of shoddy cheapness, so although it shouldn’t be used on luxury products, it can be used effectively for lower-priced items like fast-food and bargains.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: Orange can result in being seen as superficial, an exhibitionist or cheap.
RED: Passion and Courage.
• Red is associated with fire and blood so creates feelings of energy energy, danger, strength, power as well as passion, desire, love and vigor.
• Red is an attractive color to nearly everyone—it’s the first color babies can see, the most popular color among children, and generally liked by adults as well.
• Red can physically affect humans by ncreasing breathing and pulse rates so can be used for anything exciting. Sometimes the power of products is described by the use of red, with active use of red in the automotive industry and its associated products—red connotes speed.
• Red is used to arouse adults. Therefore, it’s used in beauty products like nail polish, lipstick and perfume. Since red is associated with the more passionate emotions (both love and hate!) it’s the only color that can really portray any vigorous reaction.
• Reds can stimulate the appetite so is an excellent color for food products. Overall, red is a pretty useful advertising color.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: Red is often associated with aggression and anger, rebelliousness and with being obstinate. It can also bring up feelings of being “wrong” or “incorrect.”.
GREEN: Money, Safety, Fertility.
• Strongly associated with the “go-green” environment movement, green portrays health, growth and nature. Being down to earth and practical.
• Nurturing and tranquil green is the easiest color for the eye to see.
• Green means harmony, so is very useful in advertising. Recall the green check marks and red x marks used in advertisements… green stands for the correct answer.
• Green means “Go”!
• Lighter greens are strongly connected to freshness and vitality. Revitalizing creams and refreshing drinks like tea are advertised in green.
• Money, abundance, financial power and security are associated with U.S. dollars (“Greenbacks”)—and so green is used to depict savings, interest bearing accounts as well as investment plans and opportunities.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: Aggression and anger, rebellious and obstinate, or being "green with jealousy".
YELLOW: Sunshine and Happiness
• The most eye-catching color, yellow can be fatiguing to the eye and overbearing to the mind. Use yellow sparingly by reserving it for important things.
• Yellow is a happy, energetic color and can symbolize rejuvenation; hence its frequent use in beauty products. But somehow, the color remains distasteful to men, maybe because of its conventional “cheap” connotation.
• Yellow is also used to connote the lusciousness of buttery food products.
• Yellow can also bring to mind sunshiny cheerfulness of toys and the happy child atmospheres in general. People tend to associate yellow with sunshine, warmth, happiness, optimism, and friendliness, so because of these positive connotations, yellow remains a good advertising color.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: Yellow can feel impatient and impulsive, spiteful, cowardly, and deceitful.
PINK: Femininity and Friendship.
• Known for its attractive quality, pink is used for all things girl-related. Seen as nurturing, romantic and warm.
• As a pastel, pale pink is considered a baby-color as well. Pale pink is used for baby lotions and powders, and can also represent silky smoothness in lotions geared toward women. Although pink can have a calming effect, men often find pink irritating!
• Pink also represents sweetness and angelic cherubs. As a result, pink food products can entice the sweet tooth of consumers (think “Baskin Robbins”).
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE:Pink can be viewed as immature or girlish, over-emotional, and garish.
PURPLE: Luxury and Wisdom.
• Purple connotes high quality, elegance, dignity, and spirituality.
• Historically purple was a color associated with royalty.
• Because of its costly appearance, it can affect perception of bargain hunters, while at the same time giving quality to cheaper products.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: Purple can give the impression of being immature, impractical, or arrogant.
BLACK: Exclusivity and Power.
• Black brings to mind sophistication, elegance, seductiveness, and mystery.
• Shiny black is a mark of excellence, while black on the whole is a very formal color in advertising. Although black tends to be a more traditional color, it can be used to give class to advertisements as well. Black text is one of the most conventional bromides of advertising, but experts find it useful to use traditional black on white writing as that design makes information pop out better and easier to read.
• Black or gray backgrounds or framing in layouts tend to make other colors stand out and look more vibrant.
• Black can make a product appear heavy, which circumstantially can be good or bad.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: When misused black can be seen as over-domineering, pessimistic, aloof or depressing. Other negative connotations exist: blacklist, black humor, 'black death'.
WHITE: Purity and Perfection.
• Sometimes white is used to depict the simplicity of high-tech products (Apple).
• White is used to give a calm look to a room shown in an advertisement. Modern and abstract, white remains a favorite where clear-cut lines play a role.
• White represents purity, virginal, and cleanliness.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: White can be seen as boring and bland, cold, overly-clinical and non-espressive, barren or lifeless.
GOLD: Prestige, Warm, Expensive.
• Gold evokes images of wealth, prosperity, abundance, and so is used when marketing high-cost luxury items. Frequently the color gold is used by financial institutions.
• Gold is associated excellence, victory and achievement – “Go for the Gold!”
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: Gold can be viewed as being pretentious and self-important.
SILVER: Prestige, Cold, Scientific
• Silver is usually considered modern, sleek, high-tech, and scientific.
• Silver gives the feeling of being glamorous, distinguished, elegant and prestigious.
• Silver is used often with high-tech items and in the automotive industry.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE: Overuse of silver comes across as cold, clinical and impersonal.
Here are examples of logos that I designed for local Colorado companies – I've added some annotations about colors chosen. – Mike Hamers
So what is your logo saying about your brand?
Is the color you are using sending the message you want sent?
Consider and, if necessary, rethink your identity, brand, and values, and then select colors to convey those attributes. With a color palette that evokes your brand's true DNA, your marketing can achieve greater success.
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ABOUT MIKE HAMERS
Mike Hamers is an award-winning graphic designer, illustrator and author who lives and works in Niwot (Boulder), CO. He has been the owner of Lightspeed Design for 23 years. During that time he has won over 20 national and international awards for this logo design, stationery, packaging and font designs.
Mike has had his illustrations in Wired magazine and brochure design work in "The Little Book of Layouts: Good Design and Why It Works". Mike enjoys working with all size companies – from solopreneur's startups to large national companies. His broad experience crosses most industries including bio- and nano-science, biomedical devices, technology and manufacturing, software, foodservice, and more. Mike's comprehensive design and illustration portfolio is viewable at http://www.Lightspeedca.net.
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