Colorful Marketing: How to Choose Your Brand Colors

Miranda Lial
March 16, 2020

Colors are everywhere in our world… and in the marketing world. If you own a business and you’re creating your brand, you’ll need to choose a color palette. But with so many shades to choose from, how do you pick? Let’s dive in and see.

Color isn’t just an accent to your business.

Colors are closely related to how things feel to us, and can dictate whether something is energizing or calming, youthful or mature, and affordable or luxurious. And we are all exposed to color in branding from a young age, where pink is associated with brands for young girls, and blue for boys. With this in mind, you’ll need to be mindful of any feelings your brand colors convey. Simply choosing your favorite color may not be the best decision.

A study by the secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo concluded that consumers admit color is an important factor in choosing products. So, let’s say that you have started up a law firm and start working on your brand. You choose your favorite color: pink, as the main color in your brand. While it may be a visually appealing choice for you, pink is often associated with playfulness, love, and youth. These aren’t ideal characteristics for a law firm.

You can see that if you choose your colors poorly, they can convey a feeling you may not wish to associate with your company. However, choose wisely and it will help you make a good first impression on potential clients.

Yes, color is that important, but don’t get overwhelmed. Most brand-breaking choices are easy to avoid with a basic knowledge of color psychology. No need for special classes or lectures. These rules are easy to learn.

Color Psychology (abbr.)

Did you know that colors have long been believed to affect the human brain? It’s true. Colors can bring customers to your business as well as any mission statement or logo. Let’s look into what some of the most popular colors can mean to your audience.

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You can see that some colors have a wide range of meanings, and therefore can be used in a variety of companies and styles. Darkening or muting your colors will also make them more suitable for use in a professional brand.

Your favorite companies all use brand psychology. McDonald’s uses red and orange to attract attention as you drive down the road, and because they are usually associated with energy and happiness. Hallmark primarily uses purple because, in addition to its qualities listed above, it is associated with creativity.

Okay, so how do you choose for your business?

Settling on colors follows the same guidelines as the rest of the choices you make for your brand. You must determine what characteristics your business embodies. Using the graphic below, determine where your business’s image falls in each category.

Brand-Characteristics.jpg

Deciding on who your dream clientele would be is also a critical step in creating your brand’s colors. A palette for a daycare would be in sharp contrast to that of a metal shop.

Once you have answered all of the above points, you can best determine which colors to choose by using the keywords we’ve listed for each color.

Need a visual example?

We’ve got you covered. Luna has just opened a vegan restaurant. She has a logo design, but is unsure of which colors to use for it. In the below example, we will break down exactly what does and doesn’t work with each of her choices.

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Option A

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Option B

In the first version, the green and brown colors chosen are pale. Green works as both a traditional color of natural ingredients, and as a symbol for health and wellness. Brown can be used to represent earth, but a dark hue would be a bit too bold for this design. Lightening the brown maintains the underlying meaning while also complimenting the softer color palette.

The second option is much bolder. It also uses green, but the shade chosen is neon in color, which is more unnatural. The black makes the logo feel modern, but it’s also a bit jarring. Although this palette could work for a company that wants to invoke a more modern, energizing image, such as a gym or personal trainer, it doesn’t work for a vegan restaurant.

But maybe you want to be bold?

A soft color palette isn’t for everyone. We’re not all like Luna. So, let’s suppose you have a music production company. You want something modern, eye-catching, and bold.

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Option A

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Option B

With option A, you can see how a color can work against the image of a company. More akin to a spa than a music company, the blue is too pale and calm for this logo. And although the black pops against the blue, it doesn’t help the logo feel any more modern.

In option B, the orange invokes an energizing, creative image. The use of white inside the graphic is used to make the logo feel more modern, and for a sharp visual contrast. In this case, it’s actually preferred for the orange color to be brighter and more vivid, as it helps bring in an electric quality. Orange also ties into the music industry, as it is typically used in animated equalizers.

Now…to Make a Palette!

You probably aren’t going to use only black and white, and even if you do pick them as your main colors, you’ll still want to pick one or two accents. This is why you need a palette for your brand. Ideally, you should stick to four colors that include your main color, secondary color, accent color, and at least one neutral shade.

For accents to your main color, you can use a variety of different pairings, which include: monochromatic, complementary, analogous, triad, split, tetrad, and square. Below, you can see examples of each pairing on a color wheel and in practice in a popular logo.

Monochromatic: A combination of shades of a single color, such as the blues in the PayPal logo.
Complementary: Any two colors opposite each other on the wheel, such as blue and yellow in the Ikea logo.
Analogous: Any 2 – 5 colors adjacent to each other on the wheel, such as red and orange in the Mastercard logo.
Triad: Any three colors equally spaced from each other on the wheel, such as blue, red and yellow in the Burger King logo.
Split: A pairing of three colors—one primary and two accents on either side of the primary color’s complement, such as blue, orange and green in the Fanta logo.
Tetrad/Square: Four colors, which include the main color, two accents, and a fourth to complement the accent colors. These are most often equally spaced around the wheel, such as the red, green, blue and yellow used in the Microsoft logo.

If you use a monochromatic palette, make sure that your colors aren’t too similar to each other. You want to be able to tell them apart whether they are used together or separately. Below you can see that in the blue palette, the shades are too similar to each other. However,  in the neutral palette, the colors have enough variance between them even though they are all shades of brown.

One last thing to think about is the vibrancy of your colors—whether they are soft and understated, or bright and bold. Keep in mind that you don’t have to include all of your colors on every piece of material you design or print. Accent colors can be used for something as specific as hyperlinks.

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Soft and Calm

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POW!

It’s Complementary, Watson.


It’s Complementary, Watson.

Colors dictate much of your brand’s appearance and personality, but by following our tips and tricks, you’ll find it’s not hard to pick the right palette for you. Plus, there are free resources to help you, such as:

And if you need help with any other part of setting up your brand, such as choosing the fonts or your logo design, check out The Small Business Guide to Designing Your Brand. Or, if you’re ready to dive into the next step, be it sending materials to clients or setting up your website, we can help with that too. Browse our other posts or contact us so we can help you grow your business to its peak potential.

So, are you ready to get shady?