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Brand Color Considerations + An Assessment

This is part one of a series on Color. See part two here.

In this article, I’ll discuss the important role color plays in your branding. Take the assessment to find out whether you’re on the right track with how you use color throughout your brand identity. 

Have a look at these colors and color combinations. What brands do you automatically think of when you see them? How do those colors make you feel?

[Figure 1] Brands associated with the colors above are listed at the close of this article.

I’ll be diving into #1 a bit more below to explain how function and emotional triggers come into play, but before we do that, let me ask you a couple of questions:

    • If a brand you loved drastically changed its colors after years of use, what would you think? How would you feel?
    • Would you be annoyed and/or feel a bit inconvenienced? Why? 

It sounds a bit strange, but you’ve established a relationship with that brand. You’re invested in this relationship and the “clothes this brand wears,” or its brand identity – including colors (and other branded elements including fonts, icons, etc) – provide ease of recognition. The trust and comfort you feel when you see those colors are important to your engagement with that particular brand. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the same for your own business’s identity? How can you build that trust and recognition?

Let’s break down the hows and whys of color and what you can do to implement its power in your business branding.

Brand Recognition and the Role Color Plays:

Color engages your target audience.
Color establishes trust.
Color influences how people feel.
Color influences decision-making.

But how? Color psychology plays a big role. Let’s take a look!

Color Psychology

Color influences human behavior. It has the power to trigger unexpected outcomes like how things taste, how we might feel in different colored rooms, or why we reach for one item over the other even though they’re exactly the same outside of their color. 

Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

The ways we are influenced by color are functional as well as emotional. Some Examples:

Blue room vs. Red room

If you’re sitting in a blue room you’re probably feeling a bit calmer than if you were sitting in a fire engine red room. In the red room, you might feel a bit more energized and alert.

Imagine a waiting room at a doctor’s office. Which would you rather wait in? A sky blue room or a fire-engine red room? There’s a reason for most peoples’ choice of a sky blue room. It brings a sense of calm rather than the energized and more intense vibe of a red room.

Many studies have shown that there are physiological and psychological effects where color is involved. These aspects regarding the use of color are even found in therapy techniques to treat various health conditions! An interesting piece of information that came up while researching some ideas for this article is that the ancient Egyptians, apparently, documented color “cures” using painted rooms or sunlight shining through crystals as therapy. Side note: I highly recommend looking into color therapy history. It is fascinating!

It’s no wonder that choosing a paint color for your home’s rooms can prove to be such a big decision! 

Red and yellow restaurant branding 

This is an interesting one! I’m not a big fast-food fan or promoting it by sharing this, but this info is compelling. Let’s take a look at McDonald’s (see #1 of figure 1 above) as another example. 

They use red and yellow in their branding for good reasons including:

    1. Mood and Energy: Red has been shown to stimulate appetite and the yellow of the golden arches suggest positivity, happiness, and friendliness.
    2. Functionally: Yellow (and green) are most visible to the human eye in daylight hours.
    3. Decision making: you’re on the highway and see the yellow arches – are you really hungry? Or is it the visual trigger that red and yellow signal, making you think of food and happiness that’s stimulating your appetite?

This is just one illustration of the importance of color in business branding. Could you imagine if the iconic yellow and red in McDonald’s branding were replaced with green and purple? 

It just wouldn’t have the same impact or trigger the feelings that come from seeing red and yellow. And that could impact many things in their business: engagement, growth, perception, and more. 

How Color is Used in Your Branding:

The way you use color in your branding can have a powerful (or not so powerful) effect. To ensure its use is implemented well and makes the most effective impact, color should be cohesive throughout all brand assets. Assets to consider include, but are not limited to: 

    • Your logo
    • Business cards
    • Letterhead
    • Signage
    • Uniforms
    • Social media
    • Website
    • Marketing materials
    • Advertising
    • Interior design for brick and mortar and/or office spaces
    • … and much more!

Color is one of the first things people see when they look at your business collateral. The “clothes your business wears” help to convey specific messaging. In turn, this affects how your audience feels about your brand and influences their decision-making. 

Ask yourself these questions about your brand colors:
    1. Do my colors help build trust and encourage engagement? 
    2. Are people more likely to buy if I use a different color? 
    3. What colors do I see used in the industry I’m competing in? 
    4. Should I stay in the same lane or would doing something different make sense? 
    5. How does the audience I’m trying to reach respond to those colors?

Since color is seen everywhere throughout your collateral and carries so much weight, it’s a bigger decision than simply choosing favorites. 

This is where focus group research can be very beneficial. Let’s take the children’s show, CoComelon as an example. I’ve only just learned about this show, but I’m sure those of you with children know all about it! And from what I’ve read, some adults are quite annoyed with it (for many valid reasons). Understandable – I think I would be too! But for the purposes of this portion of the article around focus groups, I thought it would be interesting to show how targeting research to the audience you’re trying to attract can be so valuable. 

Whether you’re of the opinion this show is a positive or negative one, it’s clear that the investment of time in getting to know the preferences of its target audience has been beneficial. In a New York Times newsletter, I received in my inbox recently, they wrote:

Moonbug treats children’s shows like a science, where every aesthetic choice or potential plot point is data-driven and rigorously tested with its target audience.

I’m not sure if that includes actual toddler focus groups, specifically, but I imagine there’s some of that happening. 

Honestly, I’d like to see what a toddler-driven focus group looks like. I imagine it’s a bit chaotic, but once toddler attention is captured with CoComelon clips, focus group facilitators come away with good indicators of whether design decisions are working. In turn, they’re armed with data to inform which options to use in the end product.

Now, let’s talk brand recognition. When it comes to common collateral that almost every business utilizes (think business cards, letterhead, info sheets, etc.), brand elements, including color, are seen everywhere your company is represented. 

Visit South Jersey Branded Stationery

Visit South Jersey Brand Identity used throughout different company collateral. Design © 2015, Nicola Black Design, LLC • All rights reserved

The way color is carried through all parts of your collateral is part of creating brand recognition. Conveying the same colors throughout your materials, seals recognition that much more over time. By starting off with something strong backed by data and strategy, you are engraining a strong sense of your brand from the get-go. 

Coming soon: In part two of this color article series, I’ll discuss color theory, color harmony, color temperature, and a light breakdown of color meanings. In the meantime, take this color assessment to find out if you’re on the right track with your brand colors:

Brand Colors Assessment:

  • Have you considered functionality when it comes to your brand colors? If so, list a few ways they are functionally used. If not, refresh yourself with some info on color function above.
  • Did you consider emotions that are triggered when choosing your brand colors? If so, list those emotional responses.
  • When you look at your brand materials – everything – are they cohesive in regard to color? Is it clear that all of those materials come from the same business? If not, take some time to think about ways you can implement those colors and combinations of color to convey a clear and full suite of collateral that all come from the same place. It should look like a collection of work that you can instantly tell is connected.
  • Do you have clear answers to the following questions? If not, take the time to do some audience research by hosting a focus group or by putting together an online survey to get at least a basic idea of how your target audience responds to different colors and how those colors make them feel in relation to your messaging.
    • Do my colors help build trust and encourage engagement? 
    • Are people more likely to buy with a different color? 
    • What colors do I see used in the industry I’m competing in? 
    • Should I stay in the same lane or would doing something different make sense? 
    • How does the audience I’m trying to reach respond to those colors?

*Brand color examples in figure 1 (from left to right): McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts

How are you feeling about your brand colors?

After the assessment questions in each section above, how are you feeling about your brand colors? Not sure if what you’ve developed is working for your business? Interested in a professional opinion to see if and where you can improve? Try one of our Light Brand Identity Audit packages!

By booking an audit, you’ll get
  • An understanding of whether or not your messaging is aligned with your current visuals
  • Insight on how you can improve your design assets to better convey your brand messaging
  • Suggested ways design elements can be used to engage your target audience
  • Tips on how to adapt visuals to improve brand recognition
A PDF Report Outlining:
  • What’s done well
  • What needs work/pain points
  • Areas of opportunity for better visual execution
  • Our recommendations
  • Suggested Next Steps
PLUS: A bonus credit:

A credit in the amount of your chosen package to apply to one of our custom Visual Brand Identity Strategy and Design packages.

Book a Light Audit today!

Have another project you’d like to discuss? Book a complimentary 30-minute consultation where we can learn more and get to know you and your business. Have questions or want to send a message? Contact us here.

Or read “Logo To Go: A DIY Visual Brand Identity Assistant”

Logo To Go book cover design mockupI wrote Logo To Go to serve as an in-between for small business owners who aren’t quite ready to invest in a professionally designed brand identity – think of it as the missing link between choosing to DIY and hiring a professional. It’s specifically written for small business owners, who are not designers and don’t have any knowledge of what actually goes into creating a full brand identity.

Jumping straight to DIY can be dangerous without some idea of the process or the insight a professional would bring to the project. That’s why I created Logo To Go – so small business owners could come away with some peace of mind feeling a bit more informed and confident that what they’re creating is more strategic and well-designed than if they go it alone. Read more about Logo To Go and download the first chapter FREE.

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