Quick…. Think of your favorite brands from your childhood. What do you remember about them? How did they make you feel?
We probably don’t spend too much time thinking about why we find certain things more visually appealing than others. But the truth is that those feelings actually have deeper roots than we think.
Color is a critical part of all of our experience. We become instantly attracted to or repulsed by the combinations of colors we experience, simply by walking into a room, reading a menu, or looking at a brochure. And yes, this absolutely extends to the decisions we make when we are deciding on making a purchase, both big or small.
What’s up with Color?
From logos to landing pages, to print media or full websites, color is something that creates a visceral reaction in humans. We can’t help it! Colors create an emotive response from each of us, whether based in culture, past experience, or personal preference. There is no way that we are not affected by color, even from our earliest ages.
No small feat for something that technically, doesn’t actually exist. Color is essentially based in perception, and businesses know this. The way we experience brands are rooted in those perceptions, but even knowing that doesn’t stop the way that we feel when we derive a common meaning from each of those colors.
Let’s take a look at some popular brands and how they use color to shape our decision-making experiences.
Meaning: Excitement, Passion, Strength, Energy, Violence
In branding: In some of our most popular brands, we tend to associate the color red with energy, excitement, strength, and passion. Coca Cola uses this perception to their advantage, as they take the top spot as a reliable industry leader in refreshing beverages. Target is adept at using this in its logo to inspire confidence in their customer base that yes, you can find exactly what you need within their doors.
Example: Coca Cola, Target
Meaning: Trust, Loyalty, Dependability, Friendliness, Calm, Tranquility
In branding: Ah, trusty blue. Few colors are as popular in branding, because blue and its many hues are able to communicate so many different but important messages to consumers. Nothing shows this better than Facebook’s logo. At its essence, Facebook is essentially a space to connect with friends, and nothing conveys this more efficiently than through the use of the color blue. Even Blue Apron is in on the action, as there are few things more relaxing than the comfort of a good meal at home.
Example: Facebook, AT&T, Blue Apron
Meaning: Energy, Positivity, Happiness, Extraversion
In branding: Yellow can be a tricky color to brand with, because it can create such distinct reactions in people. At its core though, yellow tends to represent energy and positivity. IKEA utilizes this effectively by featuring the color prominently in its logo. What could be more exciting than the possibility of a creative new beginning for your living space?
Example: Denny’s, IKEA, Post-It
Meaning: Freshness, Energy, Vitality, Health, Nature
In branding: We can often find green where we need to express some vitality or freshness, which makes it a really popular color for brands that want to associate their products with health or nature. Whole Foods is a great example of this, and its name has become synonymous with fresh, healthful products.
Example: Starbucks, Whole Foods, TicTac, Sprite
Meaning: Excitement, Warmth, Confidence, Friendliness, Optimism
In branding: Well, hello there Orange. Often associated with friendliness, extraversion, and excitement, it’s no wonder brands use orange to inspire optimism in their customers. Check out how Tinder uses the color in its super simple logo to inspire people to use their dating platform. Get out there!
Example: Home Depot, Nickelodeon, Tinder
Meaning: Wisdom, Royalty, Spirituality, Honor
In branding: There’s something about purple that inspires a sense of respect. Depending on its warmth and hue, brands often use purple to evoke feelings of authority with their customers. We often tend to associate the color with a sense of wisdom and royalty. Is it any coincidence then, that Hallmark uses a crown in its logo? We think not.
Example: Hallmark, BBC
Meaning: Elite, Exclusivity, Sophistication
In branding: There’s a timelessness to the color black that we’ve come to rely on. Often exclusive, sophisticated, and always impactful, businesses have come to rely on the color to communicate the message of sophistication. Think about how Uber uses black all through its branding, from its logo, to it’s “elite” “black car” upgrades; this message is an intentional one.
Example: Uber, Louis Vuitton, Apple
Meaning: Romance, Innocence, Femininity, Innovation
In branding: Depending on its shade, the color pink can communicate so many things. When it’s soft, its more obvious qualities of romance and femininity are highlighted, and brands like Victoria’s Secret know this and use this to appeal to its clientele. When it’s used at a deeper shade, like magenta, you’ve got a sense of fun and innovation behind it. Think Lyft’s pink mustache campaign, which serves to communicate the direct opposite of older brother and chief competitor, Uber.
Example: Victoria’s Secret, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lyft
Meaning: Earth, Nature, Reliability, Dirtiness
In branding: Brown is another color that can be so effective when used well and can go so wrong when used ineffectively. It often serves to communicate a connection with nature and a sense of reliability. Brands like Cotton and UPS know this and use the color to craft a message around reliability with their brands.
Example: UPS, Hershey, Cotton
Color and Your Brand
It’s almost impossible to dive into the meanings of all colors, just like it is almost impossible to detail each person’s experience with those colors. But what’s crucial to know is that color is indeed important, and it absolutely has an effect on our deepest and earliest emotional responses. These feelings, of course, affect our buying choices, and even the way we elect to engage with our favorite brands. For marketers, it’s critical that we are taking this unique psychology into consideration when building out brand personalities.