“Colour is a power that directly affects the soul”
– Wassily Kandinsky
Think of a famous logo.
- What colour is it?
- Does that colour evoke any feelings on your part?
- Is it appropriate to the brand?
- Does it make you want to buy?
When we think of a company’s branding one of our first impressions is of colour: it’s easily recognised, easily remembered, and creates a ‘feeling’ that goes with that company.
Cadbury’s Chocolate was established in the Victorian era and purple was used as a regal and venerable tribute to the Queen. It says “our chocolate is high quality; our chocolate is a cut above”. So successful is Cadbury’s branding, that they trademarked their own Pantone colour in 2008.
Apples are usually green or red, but Apple inventor Steve Jobs chose white for his branding, as it invoked a sense of cleanliness, precision and class. Other computer manufacturers of the time stuck with functional greys, but Jobs was looking past pure function: he wanted Apple to be a statement brand, and he certainly got his wish.
Then there’s McDonalds: the red was chosen because red is thought to stimulate appetite (people on diets are recommended to avoid red in their kitchens and on crockery!), while yellow is happy, sunny and upbeat; representing a ‘coming together’ of family and friends.
These are not just random jabs at a colour wheel, these are carefully thought our palettes chosen with surgical precision and design to sell product.
Research has time and again shown the importance of colour, with 85% of consumers citing colour as the biggest motivator when choosing a particular product, and a massive 60% saying that they will decide whether or not they’re attracted to a message based on colour alone.
How to choose your brand colours
So how do you go about choosing the right colour palette for your business?
You need to start by understanding the basics about colour psychology, and how this relates to you and your company, and I’ve put together 5 top tips for helping you make the right choice:
#1: Understand colour psychology
‘Colour psychology’ refers to the ways in which colour can affect, impact & influence human behaviour. Understanding colour psychology will help you to build a strong, memorable and relatable brand.
So let’s start with common colour associations:
Red is associated with danger, excitement, and energy. It’s also known for being the colour of love and passion and, as mentioned earlier, is believed to stimulate appetite.
Pink is feminine and romantic. Different shades, like hot pink, can be youthful and bold, while pale or dusky pink can be calming.
Orange, like its 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 and can evoke nostalgia and sunshine.
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 but also often associated with depression.
Purple is royalty and majesty. It can be spiritual and mysterious. In Ancient Greece purple was a difficult and expensive colour to create and was therefore used only for the wealthiest of people – this reputation remains.
Brown is down-to-earth and honest, often used for organic wholesome products.
White is pure. It conveys simplicity and innocence, as well as cleanliness and precision, 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.
#2: Define your brand’s essence
To do this you must ask yourself:
- What is my brand about?
- What does my brand stand for?
- Who am I trying to attract?
- What are the goals of my brand? (for example, do you want your customers to be more informed or do you want to excite and inspire them through the products you sell?)
- How do I want my customers to feel? (empowered, supported, confident?)
- What is my brand’s personality? (serious, quirky, intelligent, fun, inspirational?)
Once you have figured out how you want your brand to be perceived by your customers, and what your brand’s essence is then it’s time to choose a colour palette that supports your business.
For example, if your business sells natural products and cares about the environment then green is a great colour to choose because it represents nature and the natural world. It also has strong associations with tranquillity, good luck and health.
#3: Get inspired!
Once you have a good understanding of the essence and style of your business, then it’s time to get inspired.
Create a board of colour inspiration in Pinterest. There will be certain colours that you will be attracted to and because you have determined what your brand essence is, you will be able to make a judgement as to whether the colours you have picked are right for your business and what you want to convey.
Once you have created your board then choose 6-8 colours that you feel are right for your brand and that will work together.
There are lots of tools that you can use to help you generate colour palettes. Canva has a really useful tool called The Colour Generator
#4: Start selecting colours
Brands often have more than one colour as part of the colour scheme (remember McDonalds’ red and yellow). A business may use one primary colour in the main, but this colour will be supported by an accompanying palette (Samsung’s green Android is instantly recognisable, but its blue font is just as important).
Colours that are chosen in a brand palette must work together harmoniously. If the colours do not sit well together then the brand’s identity could end up looking messy and disjointed.
When you are choosing your brand’s colours, it’s worth creating a primary palette which consists of 1-3 core colours and a secondary palette of 3-5 colours.
Your brand’s primary colours will be the colours most associated with your brand for example… Tiffany’s signature Blue or Coca Cola’s red.
Once you have chosen your primary palette, pick 3-5 secondary colours that complement your primary palette. These colours will either appear next to your main colours or they may appear independently. Different types of secondary palettes may include:
These colours sit very close to your primary colour scheme. For example if your main primary colour is green then you can add other cold colours such as blue and purple. Analogous colour schemes are harmonious in their appearance.
These are various shades and tints of your primary colour. For example, if your primary colour is red then your secondary colours may be light red and dark red. Monochromatic colour schemes can be used to enhance your primary colour.
Contrasting colours are often seated across from each other on the colour wheel, or they are a selection of vibrant tones, such as red, blue and yellow. This colour scheme can help your brand to pop and can give it a contemporary feel.
Once you have picked your primary and secondary colour palettes then it’s time to choose your neutral colours. Neutral colours bring a balance to your colour palette and they are often the colours that appear across all your marketing collateral, such as backgrounds and text. Neutral colours often consist of white, cream, beige, grey and black.
It’s worth including both light and dark shades within your colour palette. A strong and distinct colour palette will include a mix of light, medium and dark tones.
Creating both a primary palette and a secondary palette will help to visually strengthen your brand’s look throughout all your design collateral. It will also make it easier to create a more distinct and memorable design. If you just limit yourself to 3 colours, it may make it harder to evolve your look.
Your colour palette is most likely to appear in your logo, website and emails, across your social media platforms, in your advertising, throughout your brand’s stationery and on staff uniforms. In fact your brand colours should appear anywhere where your business shows up so it’s worth taking the time to get it right!
#5: Test, test, test…
Once you have chosen your brand colours, bring them all together and create several different colour combinations to make sure that all the colours complement one another, and convey the right message.
If you are unsure then get outside feedback. Ask a few trusted people to give you feedback on the colours you have chosen. You can then measure their answers against what you were looking to achieve to see if the colours are aligned with your brand’s message and how you want your business to be perceived.
It’s exciting to start a business (actually it’s pretty exciting no matter how long you’ve been doing it!) and it’s very tempting to choose colours based on your own personal likes.
Whilst it is vital that you like your own colour palette (after all, you’re the one who has to live with it), it’s even more important that the colours you choose express the nature and goals of your company. I may have a fondness for yellow and pink, but I wouldn’t have used those colours if I’d been setting up a funeral home!
Sure, that’s a pretty simplistic example, but it illustrates just how wrong the wrong colours could be, while the century plus of success enjoyed by our old friend Cadbury proves that, with the right colours, the sky’s the limit!
Elevate Your Brand with Colour
If you are in the process of defining your brand’s colour palette and need a little help then download our free ebook which has been designed to:
- Walk you through the process to defining a distinct colour palette for your brand
- Break down the colour creation process into manageable chunks
- Give you a step by step guide to creating your own unique colour palette
- Help you to define your brand’s essence
- Give you an insight into colour psychology
- Create an effective mood board so that you can visualise your creative ideas
Download your FREE ebook ‘Elevate Your Brand with Colour’ and start creating your powerful brand today.
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