How to choose the right colours for your brand

still-life-838336_640As En Vogue rightly stated back in the early 90s, there’s nothing wrong with being colour blind. But when it comes to branding, a little attention paid to colours goes a long way. Why so? Simply, colour matters for brands. A lot. Are you ready? Here comes the science bit…

Colour increases brand recognition by up to 80%, according to one study by the University of Loyola. In other research, it was demonstrated that people make subconscious judgements about products within a minute-and-a-half of first seeing them, and that up to 90% of that is based only on the colour. Visual factors are far and away the most important when making a decision to purchase a product.

Sight is usually the first way we interact with something – a product, a person, an environment, and therefore it is naturally the sense that influences us most. It has an emotional resonance that has a powerful effect on our internal decision-making processes. Creating a professional website has never been easier or less expensive thanks to WordPress hosting from UK2 and others, but while factors from bandwidth to security to the type of server to host the site are incredibly important, you should never neglect the colours that are being used, because they can make all the difference.

Colour is contextual. It can make your product stand out from a crowded supermarket shelf, or disappear. It can make visitors to your website warm to your brand instantly, or feel repelled by it, purely on a sensory basis. Example? Think of the colour blue. Blue triggers connotations of purity and cleanliness, meaning it’s great for toothpaste packaging. You might want your new brand of toothpaste to be distinctive though, and package it in a brown and orange-striped box. Hard to miss, but very unlikely to sell in great quantities.

Blue is also said to connote trust and reliability, which, given they collect so much of your personal data, may be why so many social networks (here’s looking at you, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) choose to use it in their branding. Barclays and the NHS, two other organisations where trust is all-important, also use blue prominently.

So if you’re in the process of creating a brand, what colours should you be looking at? It depends on what you want to convey to people:

Red – Being the colour of blood and fire, red conveys warmth, passion, energy, strength and courage. One of the best-known brands to make use of red is of course Ferrari. They’re passionate about making powerful, fast cars.

Green – Green is a peaceful, natural colour. Companies with an ethical or environmental message to impart uniformly gravitate towards it. It can symbolise purity, but we also associate dark-green with money. Harrods has a dark-green logo that one unmistakably associates with premium products and high-expenditure.

White – The colour of snow, white implies purity, cleanliness, and safety (reliability). It also conveys a sense of simplicity. Famous brands that use white include Apple, which is lauded for its uncluttered, smooth designs and the safety of its technology from hacks (until recently anyway), and Danone, whose plain yoghurt is made from all-natural ingredients.

Purple – Purple, combining blue and red, takes something from both colours – the power and passion of red, the depth, cleanliness and trustworthiness of blue. It is commonly associated with royalty, especially with purple velvet in crowns and robes. Cadbury’s uses purple in its branding, giving a sense that when you bite into one of their bars, you’re experiencing a luxury, an extravagance. In fact such is the resonance that Cadbury’s most famous advert, the high-concept and frankly awesome drumming gorilla from 2007, was able to remove the brand name from the ad almost entirely, relying on the colour purple to trigger a clear association with Cadbury’s from viewers.

When it comes to selecting colours, simplicity rules, usually. Many branding experts suggest sticking with one or two colours, or risk the branding looking messy and confusing. Although Google and eBay may beg to disagree.

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