Colours matter more than you think
How to choose the right colours for your brand
Whether you’ve decided to branch out from a company and start your own business, or are launching a game-changing new startup, understanding the impact of colour on consumer behaviour will help your brand become a success.
Research shows that up to 85% of consumers believe colour is the biggest motivator when choosing a particular product, while 92% acknowledge visual appearance as the most persuasive marketing factor overall.
Good thing there’s a method to the colour madness, so in this article, we’re going to help you decide how to choose the right colours for your brand.
Why are brand colours are important?
They say first impressions count. This is especially true when it comes to your brand since your brand colour is likely to be the first thing customers see. Colours elicit emotions and feelings, plus they convey certain information. This enables customers to form an initial impression without even knowing what your product is about. Put simply, brand colours are powerful in helping customers decide whether or not they want to engage.
How customers respond to colour
We all know red is associated with danger and green is associated with nature, but both have additional meanings and associations.
Colour psychology is the study of how colours affect perceptions and behaviours. It allows us to understand colour and use it to our advantage, especially when it comes to marketing and branding.
According to a study, 62‐90% of a product assessment is based on colours alone, so it’s important to get your brand palette right.
STEP 1: Understand what colours mean
A lot of research has gone into colour theory.
You can definitely get lost down the rabbit hole finding the story behind each colour, however, here’s a quick summary to give you an idea:
Red is associated with danger, excitement, and energy. It’s also known for being the color of love and passion.
Pink is feminine, it’s sentimental and romantic. Different shades, like hot pink, can be youthful and bold.
Orange, like it’s namesake, is fresh and full of vitality. It’s also creative, adventurous, and associated with being cost-effective.
Yellow is optimistic. It’s a colour associated with being playful and happy.
Green is natural, often used to demonstrate sustainability. But it can also align with prestige and wealth.
Blue is trustworthy and reliable. It’s calming or often associated with depression.
Purple is royalty and majesty. It can be spiritual and mysterious.
Brown is down-to-earth and honest, often used for organic wholesome products.
White is pure. It conveys simplicity and innocence, often with a minimalistic feel.
Black is both sophisticated and elegant. It can be formal and luxurious, but also sorrowful.
Multicolour is united or open to anything. It’s great for capturing the spirit of diversity.
Of course, within this spectrum, there is a raft of additional colours. Different hues, such as baby blue or navy, also contribute to the colour story. We’ll touch on this later in the article but for now, you should have a rough idea of what colours are best suited to your brand.
STEP 2: Identify your brand essence
Richard Branson identified his brand when he chose Virgin’s vibrant red colour. It encouraged his own customers to be bold and confident, mirroring his own distinct business methods.
So what colours best mirror yours?
First up, identify what your brand is about, as having a clear idea—what your brand’s goals are and how you want your target audience to feel—will help hone the best colours to choose for your brand.
Think about your brand in the following ways:
Brand goals: Do you want customers to be happy, to get rich, be more informed?
Target audience: Do you want them to feel positive, confident, or intelligent?
Personality traits: Is your brand fun, serious, or inspirational?
The way you want to be perceived by customers can help further narrow down your colour scheme. So while your product might be organic—a colour typically associated with brown—your brand essence might be about celebrating the goodness, in which case you may choose to go with optimistic yellow. Even better, you could feature both brown and yellow to be part of your brand colour palette (we’ll get to that later).
STEP 3: Look at competitor brand colours
Brand colours should stand out or at least be instantly recognisable. Since your product often appears among competitors—either online or on the shelf—you don’t want to look the same. We often see sunscreens in a sea of yellow or tech companies in a sea of blue. When every product looks the same, it’s easy to be overlooked.
Instead, think about other things your brand or product does, apart from the obvious. A sunscreen might protect from the sun but if it’s made sustainably, green could be an option. To avoid getting lost in the mix, create a mood board of your competitors to determine how you can separate yourself from the pack.
STEP 4: Create a brand colour palette
Let’s face it, there are many shades of blue, so let’s look at the colours in context, both as an individual brand colour and within a palette.
Types of colour
This refers to variations of the primary colours: red, yellow, and blue. As you’ll probably recall, these three colours can create any other colour, depending on how they’re mixed.
This is when black is added to a colour, and the amount of shade refers to the amount of black added.
This is the white version of shade, adding white to make the colour lighter.
Colour Saturation or tone
This is when you change a colour’s appearance by adding both black and white.
There are three colour codes you need to be aware of to ensure your brand colours can be accurately replicated, no matter where they appear. You don’t need to understand these codes completely but you do need to know what your brand colours are in each format, appearing as a series of numbers for each colour.
CMYK and PMS: CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black) while PMS stands for Pantone Matching System. These are used for printing, either off-set digitally.
RGB and HEX: RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue while HEX stands for Hexadecimal Numeral System. These are predominantly found on screens for things like websites and emails.
Most brands have more than one colour. While the logo might be blue, the website might include yellow or green as well. This is called a brand palette, and important to have those colours work together in harmony.
Where your brand colours should appear
Once you’ve done the research, found your colour, and created a palette of supporting colours, it’s time to put them into action. Across all your touchpoints, make sure your selected colours have the desired effect and will work in a variety of ways.
Here are some places where your brand colours can appear:
Website and emails
Before you commit, test out your colours in one or two formats, like social media or by printing business cards.
Creating brand Guidelines
One thing all brands should have is brand guidelines. Brand guidelines are a book of rules as to how your brand should appear, and this is important for consistency. Building and maintaining a strong brand identity will help you to be recognizable and remembered.
A key component of brand guidelines keeping a record of your brand colours. It should show these in all formats. For print or fabrics, be sure to include CMYK and PMS colours, as well as digital colours in both RGB and HEX.
Some additional things you can also include in your brand guidelines include:
- A brand overview, the history, mission statement, and personality of your brand;
- Tone of Voice: The way you speak to customers or messages you want to communicate;
- Logo treatment. The size it should appear or where it should appear on a page or email;
- Color palette. PMS, CMYK, RGB, and HEX;
- Typography or font. For use in emails, print, or websites;
- Image styles. Such as the photos you use on social media;
- Design styles. For things like office stationery such a business cards or letterheads.
It’s a great exercise to see how your brand looks as a whole, how the colours come together, and that your brand looks the same across the board.
So there we have it, a guide to choosing the right colours for your brand.
To recap, remember to:
Embrace colour theory to understand what colours mean
Identify what your brand is about so you can align with relevant colours
Consider your competitors so you don’t look the same
Create and test a colour palette across all brand touchpoints
Create brand guidelines so your brand always looks the same.
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