We all have our favorite color; and some of us have more than one. But when it comes to choosing the signature colors for your company’s logo, website and style guide, then it’s vital to shift your perspective from subjective to objective — because research has shown that certain colors can help or harm a brand. Indeed, as one study entitled “The Value of Color Research in Brand Strategy” concluded:
The review of literature shows that color is vital to the communication and relationship building process to both consumers and brands…Overall, the literature shows that color can trigger an emotional response, carry associated and intrinsic meanings, as well as influencing consumers’ perception about what a brand communicates, and whether it’s familiar. The ability for color to alter purchase intent can be beneficial to in branding strategies around the world.
In light of the above — and with apologies in advance to folks who deeply love a particular color and will be heartbroken to discover that it might not be the best choice for the brand — here are some research-based insights on the effect and impact of the three common colors (red, green, and blue) on consumer perception and behavior:
There is a reason why matadors opt for bright red capes, instead of a black or Pantone’s lovely 2019 color of the year, living coral. It’s because studies have shown that red increases both the strength and speed of reactions — which is pretty handy if you’re trying not to get gored by a 2,400 pound bull in a bad mood. Many brands — most notably Coca Cola — leverage the power and impact of red to get noticed, stand out, and create an emotionally-charged connection.
Green is psychologically associated with longevity, calmness, freshness, health and growth — which makes sense, because it’s Mother Nature’s favorite color. It’s also preferred by many financial brands (e.g. banks, mortgage companies, etc.), because of the natural association between abundance and wealth. What’s more, green conveys movement, momentum and freedom — and we can thank traffic lights for that!
Thanks to the nature of sunlight and how it interacts with gas molecules that comprise our atmosphere — culminating in what we perceive as a blue sky — blue is associated with trust, safety, security, stability and reliability. Given this, it’s not surprising to note that it’s the most popular corporate branding color (e.g. IBM, GE, Intel, Amex, Walmart, the Landmark Sign Company, AT&T, Facebook, SAP, HP, Panasonic — the list goes on).
The Bottom Line
Choosing the wrong corporate color or colors typically isn’t fatal. For example, Taco Bell’s decision to go with a mostly purple and pink logo is curious and arguably questionable (yellow and orange are the hues that make people hungry), but plenty of customers are choosing to “Live Mas” anyway — in fact, there are over 5,000 Taco Bells in the U.S. alone.
However, strategically choosing colors based on their psychological impact and effect is a smarter and safer route. Because in a relentlessly crowded marketplace with so much choice, for some customers, it really does come down to judging a book by its cover. Or rather, judging a brand by its color.