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Branding and Colors

Branding and Colors

The Importance Of Color In Brand Strategy


Consider a red can of cola; blue striped capital letters, a black apple, and yellow arches –what brands come to mind? In each instance, color is the predominate element of identification and association with a brand. Color enables us to instantly recognize and draw emotional associations to a brand.

Effective and comprehensive brand strategy must consider the critical importance of color. Color is far more than a simple aesthetic consideration in the tool kit of components that make up brand identity and experience. Color is the very first perception customers will have with your brand, and along with perception comes a whole host of emotional associations.

The color of your brand is an essential character in your brand’s story. When choosing a color to represent your brand, you must think far beyond your personal, subjective preferences.

Color And The Brain

Visual perception is the primary sense humans have for exploring and making sense of their environment. Colors trigger a diverse set of responses within the cerebral cortex of the brain and throughout the central nervous system. The proper perception of color has been one of the key drivers of human evolution. If color is that important to human evolution, just think how important it is to building the value of your brand.

Once we humans identify a color, we instantly have a chemical reaction in our brain that produces an emotional response. This response triggers a multitude of thoughts, memories and associations to people, places and events. Color affects us in profound ways. Our brains are designed to respond to color. This all happens instantly under our conscious awareness.

We all know color is nothing more than the reflection of certain light waves picked up by your optic nerve, transmitted through nerves to your brain. Color doesn’t really exist; it’s only its reflection. Within our conscious minds, we have all been predisposed and indoctrinated to give meanings and feelings to particular colors within the context of what the culture at large values. These cultural associations to specific colors need to be a big driver of your strategic and creative decisions when forming the foundation of your brand’s identity in the marketplace.

Within the spectrum of visible light, there is a physiological effect. Colors with long wavelengths (red for example) illicit the faster recognition response in the brain. While colors with shorter wavelengths (blue) are more soothing and can actually lower pulse, respiration and blood pressure. It’s no accident that an insurance brand like Progressive would have blue as the primary color it its visual identity system.

The same is true for other colors in the spectrum. Yellow is a middle wavelength color detected by the eye. Consequently yellow, because it is the brightest, commands attention more easily. This is why yellow is used in road signs and the Yellow Pages. Yellow is about attention, even caution, while red powerfully represents sex and seduction.

Colors Convey A Mood And Defined Emotional State

Colors affect us in many different ways but all colors create a specific frame of mind for people–it’s called a mood. Having people be in the most receptive mood is essential for their engagement with your brand. Color sets the mood of brand expression, and more importantly, creates mental associations to the meaning of your brand within the context of the world it lives in.

John Deere owns green which means tractor. IBM has a royal blue, which means stability and reliability. Fed Ex chose two clashing colors (orange and purple) which means something important has dependably been delivered to you worthy of your attention–and your signature.

Color And Visual Identity

Color is foundational to the visual identity of your brand in all its expressions and executions–logos, packaging, products, environments and all forms of marketing communications. UPS built their whole brand story around the proposition “what can brown do for you?” Apple transformed how we think of desktop computers through the creative use of color.

It’s amazing when you look back at the profound impact this simple little innovation had in building the foundation of what Apple has become today. For strong ,well managed brands, color is more than a subjective choice–it’s a strategic business imperative.

Selecting The Right Color For Your Brand

To convey a simple idea of meaning and differentiation requires you select a color that properly fits your strategic positioning. Selecting a color (and color scheme) for your brand must represent the audience emotional associations and desires, and the value proposition or promise your brand brings to those desires.

Selecting the appropriate color to represent and differentiate your brand must be based on several criteria. Here are three of the most important:

The Target Audience

Who are those people, what do they care about, what mood do they need to be in to engage with your brand? Different consumers are affected by color in different ways and cultural trends are always in transition. What color best anchors the meaning of your value to your audience and distinguishes your brand from the competition in the category?

The Brand Archetype

If you have determined the appropriate archetype for your brand, what color best represents the attributes of the archetype? For example, if your brand archetype is the Explorer, you probably will consider colors that represent the outdoors or anything that is associated with the persona of that archetype. Red probably would not be a wise choice.

The Culture

Color means different things to people in different parts of the world, in different cultures. In the US, white represents purity, while in some regions of Asia it is the color of mourning. Color perceptions and meanings change with race, age, social class, gender and religion. The demographics and psychographics that are most dominate in the culture will be an important consideration in selecting the color that represents your brand in markets the brand serves.

The Bottom Line

Selecting colors to represent your brand should never be an exercise in trendiness, or coolness, driven by the whims of your ad agency creative director or the personal taste of the CEO’s spouse. Properly chosen colors define your brand’s value, strengthen and support your brand positioning, enable greater awareness and customer recall, and distinguish your brand among its alternatives. Picking the right color should never be underestimated.

Sponsored ByThe Brand Positioning Workshop, the Brand Storytelling Workshop Series and Brand Strategy and Customer Co-Creation Workshops

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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Brand Packaging: Solving The Mystery Of Shelf Impact



Today’s retail environment is unlike any we have ever experienced. The complexity of brand SKUs and myriad POP materials bombards the shopper, making it almost impossible for individual products to stand out on shelf.

Despite brand marketers’ belief that the words on pack are the most important driver of purchase intent, recent studies demonstrate that they are actually the least important component of the packaging mix. In fact, the operative communications hierarchy puts color atop the list, with shapes, symbols and words following in that sequence. When approaching a package redesign it is this hierarchy of semiotics that ultimately drives sales in the store aisles.

Studies show that on average shoppers take just five seconds to locate and select a given product, generally at a distance of from three-to-six feet. Locating that product occurs when it is visible to the passing shopper. Here visibility is measured by contrast and the physiological driver that creates contrast is color. Color is one of the brain’s three visual pathways and, since we process every object within view simultaneously, color is the mechanism that places emphasis on certain areas. In addition to enhancing on-shelf visibility, the appropriate use of color can increase brand recognition by some 80%, while also serving as an important brand identifier.

While color works on one level, it is not the only factor leading to product selection. Memorable shapes also initiate a cognitive process of evaluation and brand preference. Shapes often determine the first impression of a product while metaphorically communicating key benefits and advantages.  In combination, color and shape combinations can signal quality, while enhancing perception.  For instance, symmetrical shapes pair well with passive colors… triangular and diamond shapes with active colors. Color /shape combinations can also communicate brand personality, so like color, the use of shape in brand identity and design plays a role well beyond on-shelf visibility.

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Advertising in Color


Did you know? Ads in color are read up to 42% more often than the same ads in black and white (as shown in study of phone directory ads).

See here for more on the significant impact of color.

Source: White, Jan V., Color for Impact, Strathmoor Press, April, 1997

Sponsored By: Brand Aid

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Branding and Colors

Color Psychology In Marketing


Color Psychology Branding

What colors have you chosen for your marketing materials? What were your reasons for making that particular choice? Was it because you liked those particular colors, or did you have a particular marketing message in mind? While visual appeal is an important consideration, your color choices could be sending a specific message to the people who view them. Are you sure you know what that message is?

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Color & Brand Identity


Color is one of the most important components in creating brand identity. The purpose of a brand identity system is to encode a brand in people’s memory and retrieve it from their memory. In a visual system, the two most powerful components are the consistent recognizable shapes and colors. (Scents and sounds are more powerful than visuals as understood by Cinnebons and Harley-Davidson.) It is best if these shapes and colors are distinctive (at least within the product category). Color can have a significant affect on people’s perception of a product or brand. For instance, burgundy and forest green are perceived to be upscale while an orange label or package indicates an inexpensive item.

Third, colors can actually have an affect on a person’s state of mind and cognitive ability as demonstrated by numerous research studies. For instance, pink has been shown to increase a person’s appetite and calm prison inmates. Additionally, if your brand is sold outside of North America, be aware that colors can have different symbolic meanings (not all positive) in different countries and cultures.

Sponsored By: Brand Aid

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