Color: Your Brand’s Superpower!

by Nora D. Richardson

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Happy Spring, Everyone! There’s no better time to talk about color, so we decided to make color our April theme here at The Branding Spot!

Did you know that color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent?
Source: University of Loyola, Maryland study

Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing, and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.
Source: CCICOLOR – Institute for Color Research

Color is a strategic tool in your branding arsenal—so don’t underestimate its power over your target market. Color should never be chosen on a whim! This week, I sat down and interviewed a few of my colleagues to show YOU that branding is SO MUCH MORE than just picking your favorite color, slapping on your favorite font, and calling it a brand.

GREAT branding is about choosing THE right color for your brand: the color that truly resonates with your ideal target clientele (while distracting them from your competition)—simultaneously embodying your company’s business, industry, traits and values.

The Big Color Question:
What elements do you consider when choosing color for a brand identity and why?

Industry Branding

Seth Erickson of Kodis Interactive says industry branding is a key point.“For example, we might go with blue for banking, or we might go green because everyone else in the banking industry is blue.”

Nora Richardson @ The Branding Spot: “Yes, it’s always good to know the colors of your competitors/colleagues. When I develop brand color palettes, I like to envision the existing industry brands on a supermarket shelf, then ask questions, like: Which colors are already on the shelf? Which colors aren’t on the shelf? Which colors stand out? Which colors are overused?” Please see the example of the boots? Which boots pop off the shelf?

Rochelle Wiener of Andiamo Creative agrees.“If you want to stand out as different and better, you must always review the competition’s color palette(s). If the whole industry is doing blue, don’t do blue. Again—you want to be distinctive—and better.”

Time Trends

“And when you’re thinking trends,” Rochelle continues, “always look at current trends in color. Avocado green and goldenrod say 1970’s; burgundy and navy say 1980’s. Every era has its color trends, and you don’t want to look dated. You must strive to be current AND classic at the same time, so your brand won’t look ‘out’ in a few years.”

Rebecca Gallagher of Fresh Folio Design offers this tip: “I keep in mind how a company will be using the logo. Ideally, the color will be used in all their materials and would be identified as “their” color. (Think Starbucks green.) So is this a color that will work long-term and in a variety of settings? Or is it just a trend?”

Seth adds, “We also consider the age of the company, and the age of the customers the company is interested in.”

Rochelle offers that her client’s particular tastes can trump any color choices. “It won’t matter one bit how ‘in’ orange is right now or how great it is for the client’s brand – if the client hates orange, you’ll never sell him on it.”

Evoke Emotion to Communicate

Rebecca says, “Color is unique in that it evokes emotion in a way that other graphic elements do not. So, I ask questions, such as: ‘what does this logo need to communicate?’ For example, if it’s a youthful company or perhaps a fast-paced industry, I’d be looking for colors that communicate energy and vibrance. Or, if the identity is more steadfast, secure, trusted—I would consider more muted, traditional tones.”

Seth: “Sometimes there is a feel a client wants to convey, and certain colors may be appropriate.”

Rochelle adds, “Color palette is one of the chief concerns when building a strong and recognizable brand. UPS brown, Tiffany’s blue, Target red, McDonald’s golden arches: these are huge successful brands and they are all identified not just by name and logo, but also by color. However, color palette is always developed AFTER the logo mark has been established in black and white. No other step in the process is as much influenced by personal feelings and emotion as color.”

Nora: “I totally agree, Rochelle. I always show my logo marks in black and white first, before ever adding color. I may have ideas on what color I would like to use, but the client needs to make a decision on the mark first, before seeing it with color. Color evokes emotion, sometimes good and sometimes bad. That way, it’s easier to decipher a client’s concerns if you know the mark is the issue, or if they’re only focused on the color choice(s).”

These are only a handful of the many ways each of these designers and branding experts choose the right color(s) for a particular brand! Color can also depend on things like: practicality/use, business name, and, if it’s a brand makeover, the existing brand palette—and oh so much more.

The Bottom Line: You can’t just use color for color’s sake. Color has to be strategic. Color is one of the main elements in your brand identity. It is the most influential and the most dangerous! So always ensure you have a significant, valid reason for a certain color choice. Your entire brand depends on it!

Thank you to all my colleagues who participated.

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