Color has the power to influence, attract your customers and leave an indelible impression. Strategically using color across all of the pieces associated with your brand can increase the impact of every ad or brochure you put into the world, and increase how memorable your brand is to both current and potential customers. Developing brand guidelines and establishing a color set for your company will ensure your brand looks cohesive across all marketing and channels, and is the starting point for gaining impact. Without clear brand guidelines, you are effectively rolling the dice with your image, leaving company perception to chance.

One of the challenges we experience as an agency working with companies and undefined brands is a broad variety of tones and colors across their marketing materials. What we have noticed is that, depending on the designer, there are slight variations in logo colors and it becomes difficult to provide new direction to our designers. But, if you have documented brand guidelines, every single vendor who touches your materials will know the exact color codes to use with YOUR brand, so the right color is consistently utilized. This is the first step to gaining total control over your brand’s image. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, and trying to tell you the how rather than the why.

French Poet, Charles Baudelaire, considered one of the most compelling poets of the nineteenth century said “Color… thinks by itself independent of the object it clothes”.

So why is color so important? It’s a direct line to your audience’s emotions. Although color perception is a deeply personal thing, there are some cultural touchstones most of us share, and commonly shared reactions that have been discovered through consumer research on the human reaction to color. While we journey through these ideas, we will share a few color palettes; notice your emotional reaction to the colors. Do you like them or not? The answers below may reveal why you are drawn to certain colors.

The practical explanation to the impact of color is that light travels to us in waves from the sun. When light strikes our eyes, the wavelengths are converted into electrical impulses that pass to the hypothalamus, the part of our brain which governs our hormones and biological clock. Color is energy and delivers a physical effect on our mood and addresses our core neurological need for stimulation.

According to the US Institute for Color Research people make a subconscious judgment about an environment, product or person within 90 seconds of their initial interaction. Between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone. While color is subjective and the impacts vary based on age, gender, lifestyle, interests, and nationality the psychological effects are universal and predictable.  Here’s why:

Color evokes emotion and sets the tone for perception. Colors symbolism, the learned association based on culture, defines the look and feel of countries, national celebrations, politics, religious celebrations and more. Since your customers are comprised of varying demographics and psychographics, including age, income level, social habits, lifestyle, interests, race, gender, buying interests and motivators, and more, your color palette should compliment your customers. Staying true to your identity is important, but make sure you remove any barriers that could lessen the impact and use color for brand differentiation.  

The most important considerations when selecting brand colors are company values, audience demographics, location of customers and the types of  products or services you are selling.

Understand the role that color plays in marketing your products or services

While all colors can evoke both positive and negative emotions, as in nature, we don’t respond to colors in isolation but in combination.  Here’s a quick look at the perceptions of vibrant colors across the globe and some familiar puns associated with that color (just for fun):

Blue is considered the safest color choice around the world and represents trust, security, and authority. In some cultures, it also represents love, immortality, protection, good health, love and divine joy. However, for promoting your brand, depending on the tone, you may want to use it sparingly because it can also feel cold. Well known brands that use this color include Facebook, Oral B, HP, Lowe’s, Oreo, Walmart and Twitter.

In Mexico, green is a national color that stands for independence. In Western cultures, green represents luck, nature, freshness, spring, environmental awareness and earth. In some countries it represents inexperience and jealousy, fertility and infidelity. Does this leave you feeling green with envy? Think of the country flags like Italy and Mexico. Brands often use green as a way to show peace and growth. Green is used for popular brands like Whole Foods, Starbucks, Animal Planet, and Holiday Inn.

Has anyone ever made you so mad you are you seeing red? It’s no wonder; red symbolizes excitement, energy, passion, action, love, and danger. In some cultures it also represents revolution. In other cultures it symbolizes good luck, joy, prosperity, celebration, happiness, and a long life. Without a question, red makes its point. Brands that make a point with red include Target, Netflix, Coca-Cola, CNN, and YouTube.

If the thought of yellow warms you up inside, it should! Yellow is mostly associated with happiness, cheeriness, optimism, warmth, joy, envy, happiness and good fortune. Depending on how it’s used, it can also mean caution or weakness, but all-in-all, it’s a happy maker. Warm brands that use yellow include Best Buy, Nikon, McDonald’s, and Ikea.

Orange represents autumn, harvest, warmth, and visibility in western cultures. In other cultures it’s a sacred color and stands for royalty, sexuality, love, happiness, humility, and good health. Orange just makes you feel good like a ripe, sweet, sun-kissed fruit. Orange has a way of making us feel cheerful and confident with popular brands like Nickelodeon, Fanta, and Mozilla Firefox.

Purple is often associated with royalty, wealth, spirituality, nobility, creativity and wisdom around the world. While it can be the color of mourning in some countries, for others it symbolizes honor.  Brands that use purple give a sense of creativity, imagination, and wisdom. These brands include Yahoo!, Taco Bell, Barbie, and T Mobile.

How do you create your brand’s color story?

If you are uncertain about where to go next in establishing brand colors, you’re not alone! Many companies find it difficult to narrow their colors down and then to stick to them. That’s why we have developed a unique method of helping our clients formulate their brand guidelines, from font choices to color palettes, so as to create the maximum appeal and impact to their target customers. We’d love the chance to chat with you about it!  


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