The non-threatening guide to colours and your brand

It takes just seven seconds to make a first impression. In fact, research shows people start making judgments after one-tenth of a second.

So whether you like it or not, colours play a vital role in telling your customers a story about your business. Remember, you’ve only got seven seconds. No pressure. 

The scienc-y stuff

Okay, bear with us while we casually slip our lab coats on.  

When we see colour, the photoreceptors in our eyes send a message to our hypothalamus. Our hypothalamus then sends neurons to our sympathetic trunk which tells the blood vessels to either contract or dilate. This increases or decreases our heart rate, and it all depends on the colour we see. 

That is an incredibly simplified version of what, in reality, is about a 1,000 step process that requires a science degree to understand. Our sincerest apologies to any scientists reading this.

The interesting stuff

We broke down Forbes’ top 100 most valuable brands of 2019 to see if there were any trends in what colours popular brands across the world use.

The Breakdown 

Here’s the most predominant colours the most popular brands are using:

  • 32 per cent of brands use blue (can be used to represent tranquility, stability and reliability)
  • 25 per cent of brands use red (associated with excitement, energy and action)
  • 21 per cent of brands use black (luxury, power, authority)
  • 5 per cent of brands use three or more colours
  • 17 per cent used other colours like yellow, green, orange, silver/grey and brown. 

The easy stuff (?)

So, red = passion, black = authority and blue = calm?

Not exactly. A lot of blog posts make the oversimplified claim that those colours represent those characteristics. In reality, while passion, authority and calm might be associated with these colours, it would be wrong to say there is a direct relationship between the colour and the reaction.

That’s because colours don’t mean the same thing to every person. Two people can look at the same colour and have completely different reactions based on their individual culture, associations and emotional experiences.

If you want to portray your brand as authoritative and luxurious, go ahead and use black but just make sure that’s the most likely association your customers would also make about your brand.

The final stuff

If all of this has your brain spinning faster than a colour wheel, do not give up now. You’ve come this far. 

When used correctly, colours can deliver some pretty amazing results for your brand (Google Heinz green tomato sauce if you’re still skeptical) but it’s important to remember a few key points before committing to a colour palette.

  1. Do your research. Understand your audience beyond their geography, age and gender. We’re talking about where they shop and what they read or listen to on the way to work.
  2. Consider your audience’s emotional drivers. If you want portray your company as bright and cheery you might use the colour yellow. However that could be a bad move if your audience is from Latin America or the Middle East.
  3. Make sure the colours reflect your business. At the end of the day, the most thing to remember is that whatever colours you choose, they should firstly represent and ‘fit’ your brand regardless of the stereotypical associations.

This article is only a scratch on the surface to what colours can do in branding. There are hundreds of articles and research papers on colour psychology you could spend hours reading. To be honest, you have better things to do.

Our graphic designers have worked with hundreds of businesses just like yours to create not only amazing palettes that bring out the personality of their brand but also an overall look and feel that goes far beyond colour. Chat to us to find out how we can make your business (even more) kick-ass.