How to Choose a Brand Color: The Psychology Behind Color
Let's be honest: not every company considers color theory before choosing a brand color. Some are intrinsically lead to a color based on a product they sell (i.e. if you sell potatoes, you might use brown) or other factors like a company name (i.e. Red Tree Realty). But, if you aren't tied down to a color already and want to consider how your company will make people think and feel, dusting up on some basic color theory is a good place to start.
A few disclaimers to keep in mind: each color, although generally evokes a set of positive emotions, has a set of negative emotions that match it as well, if paired with the wrong brand messaging. Make sure you pair your branding with good messaging to match the tone you want!
Lastly, just because you don't use a color that relays a certain trait does not mean that your brand does not have that quality. It may just mean that you chose to focus on other traits instead as the priority. Also, some colors overlap in meaning so don't feel restricted to use one color!
Red is a true power color, which is why a lot of brands choose to use it when they are trying to relay their authority or passion. Fun fact: this is why a lot of countries use red in their flags as well! Red has a physical reaction on the human body in several ways, depending on where it is used, such as increased hunger, raising blood pressure or evoking emotion (good, bad, or other). In general, red is the attention color which is why it was the favorite color of 90's pop-up windows.
Blue is one of the most universally-loved colors across all races and genders. It conveys trust, loyalty, and wisdom. That’s why it’s no surprise that this color is the most used by corporations, by far. Blue is a calming, cool color so it tends to suppress appetites, slow metabolisms and create a sense of cleanliness. Depending on the tone of blue used, you can evoke different feelings: Dark blue relates to expertise, depth and power while light blue conveys health, tranquility and understanding.
As you might have guessed, yellow is the happiest color of the bunch. Because of its relation (aka exact match) to the color of sunshine, it evokes joy, happiness and energy. Yellow is almost immediately associated with warmth (again, sun) so it’s often used by food brands or restaurants. The physical reaction that is created from yellow stimulates mental activity and incites cheerfulness. On the flip side, yellow is an attention-getter so it has often been used to relay caution. Whether it’s a smiley face or a caution sign, yellow is sure to grab your attention and get noticed.
One word: nature. Green symbolizes everything that nature is associated with: growth, freshness, harmony and rejuvenation. A lot of companies that focus on organic products or want to symbolize freshness will use green to achieve that feeling. Another relationship symbolized by green is money. Most financial service companies also use green to clearly tie themselves with money, whether its saving or spending. Physically, this color promotes safety and security.
Closely related to sunsets and warmth, orange increases oxygen to the brain which stimulates creativity and brain activity! That’s why a lot of tech and learning platforms use orange as their flagship color. Orange is a very versatile color that, depending on what it is paired with, can evoke a wide range of emotions. Orange can mean healthy/organic (i.e. orange juice) and is also the color of fall. It is also used to incite action, as it is used in call-to-action buttons often. Lastly, it can be used to symbolize “genius” or a very innovative product or company.
Simply put, purple is the perfect combo of the passion of red and the stability of blue. A lot of luxury brands use this color to symbolize just that. On another path, purple is the most appealing to young children so candies and companies appealing to children tend to use purple often. Because purple is not a naturally occurring color, some are intrigued by it, inciting a feeling of investigation and mystery. Some companies that we associate with excess have purple in them such as chocolate, late night snacking and alcohol brands.
Pink is the ultimate feminine color. Not to say that men don’t like pink too, but inherently, pink represents nurturing, femininity, compassion and love. Pink is also the color of romance and sexuality. In a physical sense, this color tends to tear down walls metaphorically and lead people to be more open and vulnerable. Because of the compassionate piece, it lends itself to trust and care for others.
If you are looking to immediately evoke power and elegance, black is your color. Black is such a strong color that it evokes fear and the unknown but those emotions can be positives for those that love a thrill or a new experience. Black is also to-the-point. Having a brand that is all black (or silver) is a statement and basically saying that you don’t need color for people to recognize you. Black is the most confident of colors and will definitely establish leadership quickly.
Last but not least, brown is earthy and makes you feel at home. It evokes a sense of comfort and reliability that other colors might not. Brown is the warmest of the colors and is often used by brands that want to portray a sense of comfort (maybe that’s why eating ice cream when you’re sad works so well!). Brown is also a neutral color that is less sharp or direct than white or black. This is a great color to pair with if you are using a bright color and want to soften your overall tone.