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How to Choose the Right Colors to Represent Your Brand

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Goepps brand colors

Most business owners and marketing professionals underestimate the impact color can have on the success of their promotional efforts and overall business results.

Research from Color.com shows that up to 85 percent of consumers say color is the biggest driver in choosing a product or service provider.

That number may strike fear in the hearts of companies selecting brand colors. There’s a lot at stake.

Never fear! This article will explain what you need to know to choose colors that will not just make your brand look good. They’ll help you generate business results, as well.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT BRAND COLORS

Why Brand Colors Are Important

First impressions matter.

This is especially true with brands. Life today runs at a fast pace, and you may only have a few seconds or less for your brand to make a positive (or negative) impression on consumers. You only have a little more time to get them to take action by making an appointment, getting contact information, or selling something.

Your brand colors are the first things most customers see. Colors bring out emotions and feelings, and they convey information. Colors cause customers to form impressions without knowing what your product or service is and how it could benefit them. In short, brand colors play a critical role in helping customers decide whether or not they want to engage with your brand.

Examples of Brands With Memorable Colors

Many brands are almost as famous for their colors as the products or services they sell.

Some of the most memorable:

  • Target’s brilliant red catches the eye.
  • Google’s rainbow reflects the brand’s accessibility.
  • McDonald’s yellow has drawn in diners hungry for a burger for decades.
  • Home Depot’s orange conveys how-to competence to homeowners and contractors.
  • Apple’s white and neutral tones have helped make it a leader in tech.

None of these brand color palettes happened by accident. Coke’s brilliant red was chosen because it’s a known trigger color for impulse buys. Steve Jobs picked his neutral palette to spotlight the modernity and fine design of Apple’s tech products. It still communicates these values today. Google selected red, blue, and yellow because they are bright primary colors, but added green to break the rules. This childlike palette makes Google seem less intimidating and more human and inclusive than its colder competitor, Bing.

These companies have done a fantastic job of building brands that can be recognized by color alone. Your goal should be to do the same.

Creating Your Brand’s Color Palette

Developing a color palette for a company isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort because it can pay off in higher brand recognition and improved business results. Here’s what you need to know to get it right.

Identify the Essence of Your Brand

So, what is your brand all about?

Take some time to determine what your brand’s goals are and how you want your target audience to feel about it. This is a critical first step in selecting the colors for your brand.

Ask yourself:

  • What do consumers want from your brand: to be happy, get rich, be more informed, or something else?
  • How do you want the people in your target audience to feel about your brand: optimistic, confident, loving, or another emotion?
  • What is your brand’s personality: fun, serious, confident, or another attribute?
  • How do you want your brand to be perceived by consumers: organic, truthful, intriguing, or another way?

Once you define and document these things, you’ll be better able to pick your brand colors.

Check out your competitors’ brands

Your brand palette must differentiate you — and hopefully stand out — against your competition.

Whether online, in a store, or on the street, your product or service will be compared with those of others in your industry. You certainly don’t want to look the same as they do. You will not want to be viewed as another blue insurance company or white tech firm or yellow sun protection product. You must stand out so people in your target market will pick you rather than another business offering similar products or services.

As you work through your brand attributes, consider why you’re different from your competitors and define the reasons. The comparison will help you pick colors for your palette that include nuances that differentiate you.

Understand What Different Colors Convey

Much research has been done on color and the impact it has on the human psyche. Here’s a brief overview of some common colors and the effect they have on people.

  • Red conveys danger, excitement, and high energy. It’s also known as the color of love and passion. Red is the perfect color for companies that want to get noticed and generate bold feelings and emotions in consumers.
  • Pink is sentimental and romantic. It’s often associated with feminine traits. Brighter shades, such as hot pink, come across as youthful and exciting. Companies thinking about using pink should proceed with caution because it may attract many female consumers, but it could turn away other people.
  • Orange expresses freshness and vitality. It also conveys creativity and adventurousness and is associated with being thrifty. Businesses that use orange as a brand color stand out from their competition.
  • Yellow is optimistic and happy, like sunlight. It’s also an attention-getter. If you want your brand to convey cheerfulness while getting noticed, yellow is THE color for you.
  • Green is the color of nature and conveys sustainability. Financial companies also use it to express wealth and success. You may want to think twice about using green as a standalone color because so many companies already do.
  • Blue expresses trustworthiness and reliability. It’s calming. If you want your brand to be viewed as “true blue,” this is the color for you.
  • Purple is all about royalty and majesty, perhaps with spirituality and mystery mixed in. Purple can be polarizing, so be cautious if you select it.
  • Brown is viewed by most customers as down-to-earth and honest. It’s often leveraged for organic and wholesome products. Brown tones may not stand out against brighter shades, but if it conveys what a customer is looking for, it could be effective for your brand.
  • White is purity, cleanliness, and modernity. If your brand is a contemporary one, white could be an excellent choice.
  • Black expresses sophistication and elegance, formality, and luxuriousness. However, it’s also viewed as sorrowful because it’s the color of death in many cultures. If you select black as a brand color, make sure it expresses what you want it to.

Of course, you can use multiple colors to create a unique feeling and meaning for your brand. For example, red is about passion, and green is a nature color, but when presented together, they’re the palette of the Christmas holiday season. Red, white, and blue used in tandem stop being about passion, modernity, and calm and instead evoke feelings of patriotism. The rainbow isn’t about the individual colors. It is universally viewed as a symbol of diversity.

Most businesses have a palette made up of a primary brand color and three or four others that complement it.

Work with your team to identify colors that convey the meaning of your brand and what you want people to feel about it. They should also stand out against the competition.

If you’re not sure the colors you are interested in are expressing what you hope them to, test them with people in your target audience and see what they have to say.

Fine-tune Your Color Palette

If you find that your brand color palette is close to right but not quite perfect, there are adjustments you can make to get it to a point where people in your target market fully respond to it.

Let’s start by looking at the types of colors that exist. Understanding this will help you explore colors more deeply and get your palette perfect.

Color Hues

Hues are the purest form of the primary and secondary colors: red, yellow, blue, green, purple, and orange. (Blacks, grays, whites, neutrals, and “off” colors like turquoise are not hues.) Hues are solid and robust. If you choose to use hues in your brand palette, you’re making a statement. Companies that want a brand that’s more subtle and nuanced tend to stay away from hues.

Color Shades

Shades are the result of adding black to a color. The shade refers to how much black has been added, for instance, medium blue, dark blue, or midnight blue. Shades are viewed as more serious, somber, and authoritative than pure hues. If these are attributes you want your brand associated with, you may want to use shades of colors in your brand palette.

Color Tints

Tints are what happens when you add white to a color. Tints are usually seen as lighter, airier, and less serious than pure colors. If you want people to feel comfortable, calm, and reassured when they experience your brand, you may want to include tints in your brand colors.

Color Saturation or Tone

Saturation or tone refers to the purity and intensity of a color. The more saturated a color is, the better the chance it will stand out. Brands that want their products to jump off the grocery store shelf use highly saturated tones. Breakfast cereals are examples of offerings that use saturated colors to get attention.

If you find it challenging to select a color palette on your own, support is available. Use an online tool like Canva’s color palette generator, which will help you find colors that work with your brand attributes and are effective as a palette. Or search online for websites that offer sample color palettes you can use to guide your selection. You may also turn to a professional branding consultant or agency that will work with you to pick a palette or develop a complete brand.

Once you fine-tune your brand colors by testing out different color shades, hues, tints, intensities, and tones, you are ready to define and document your brand colors.

HOW TO DEFINE, DOCUMENT, AND COMMUNICATE YOUR BRAND COLOR PALETTE

Once you settle on your brand colors, document them so you can communicate them to others. It will help ensure they’re always consistent, whether they appear on screen, on a wall, in a brochure, or anywhere. There are four ways to do this:

  • CMYK: Stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). The CMYK system assigns a number to each value to define a color.
  • RGB: Stands for red, green, and blue. Like CMYK, RGB applies a number to each value to identify a color.
  • HEX: Stands for Hexadecimal Numeral System. This system assigns a six-digit alphanumeric code to each color. The HEX system is the newest way to document and communicate about colors. It emerged in response to the countless colors that are generated by computers.
  • PMS: Stands for Pantone Matching System. The Pantone system provides a number for every color it recognizes, and there are thousands. Pantone used to be the most popular color system but has slowly fallen out of favor as more and more design is done digitally rather than in print.

PUT YOUR COLOR PALETTE INTO USE

There are many places where your brand colors should be leveraged, including your:

  • Logo
  • Website
  • Emails
  • Social media banners and posts
  • Advertising
  • In-store displays
  • Packaging
  • Stationery
  • Business cards
  • Staff uniforms
  • Events
  • Signage
  • Billboards

It’s a good idea to test your brand colors in a few of these executions to make sure they’re effective. A color that works on a sign may not be attractive (or visible) on a logo in a social post.

One thing all brands should have are written guidelines. Brand guidelines are rules about how your brand should appear in different executions. Having guidelines helps ensure your brand appears consistent and recognizable to consumers. Building and maintaining a strong brand identity will help your business be recognized and remembered.

A crucial part of your brand guidelines is a record of your brand colors, which should be documented in all formats, including CMYK, PMS, RGB, and HEX.

Some other things typically included in brand guidelines are:

  • Brand overview. This can consist of your company history, mission statement, and additional essential information about your business.
  • Brand personality. Describe your brand using human attributes that people in your target audience will respond to.
  • Brand tone. Define how you speak to consumers and the messages you want to communicate.
  • Logo. Don’t just include an image of your logo. Also, define sizing and placement in different media and situations.
  • Font. Select one or more typefaces and explain how to use them in all media types.
  • Images. Detail the types of images that reflect your brand and how to use them. Include photos, videos, infographics, memes, and any other graphics your business uses to market itself.
  • Design styles. Provide specs on how to create social posts, emails, office stationery, uniforms, and other assets.

Documenting all these things and requiring everyone who works on your brand to refer to them while working on marketing projects will help ensure your brand is consistent and that you maximize its impact.

Now that you know the importance of color in business and understand how to create a brand palette, isn’t it time to get started on exploring color options for your company?