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Visual cues are an integral part of a brand’s identity. A brand’s logo, color palette, and font choices all work together to communicate the brand’s ethos to the consumer. Using color to communicate a message is a tactic as old as time. From birds of paradise to hornets, creatures great and small (humans included!) use color to attract, ward off, and even ensnare others. Whether or not you know it, you’ve probably already assigned certain emotions to colors. Yellow may be joyous; green may evoke thoughts of growth and renewal.
Some colors have an instinctual tie to our emotions, but cultural context is equally important, especially when considering colors for a brand. There are awesome resources on the internet that give in-depth analyses on the emotions tied to each color of the spectrum, but right now we’re going to focus on the 4 most commonly used brand colors. Read on to find out if your brand colors are sending the right message!
Quick disclaimer: the following information is based on the basic principles of color theory, but depending on personal or cultural preferences, it may not all be applicable.
Red is an extremely popular brand color due to its ability to stimulate appetite and express powerful emotions like fearlessness or passion. Sportswear brands like New Balance and Puma use red to convey strength and energy, whereas food chains like McDonald’s, Denny’s, and Chick-fil-A use red’s hunger-inducing properties to their advantage. What messaging do you think CNN and Beats by Dr. Dre are conveying?
Positive Associations: Passion, Strength, Energy, Hunger, Fearlessness
Negative Associations: Aggression, Danger, Warning
A bold black logo instantly establishes an air of luxury and power. Many fashion houses like Chanel and Balenciaga use black for its sophistication, while Apple uses it to establish itself as the premier authority on tech. WWF’s Panda may appear at first to be the only inspiration behind their use of black, but black’s ability to convey power and timelessness also expresses WWF’s mission to conserve nature.
Positive Associations: Timeless, Sophisticated, Authority
Negative Associations: Menacing, Heaviness, Mourning
A serene blue tends to evoke feelings of security and calm. Brands like Oral B, Intel, and Lowe’s all benefit from this color as it reinforces that each brand is knowledgeable and trustworthy in its field. Blue is highly utilized for brands in healthcare, finance, tech, and other specialized industries.
Positive Associations: Loyalty, Logic, Serenity, Trust
Negative Associations: Coldness, Unappetizing
Believe it or not, yellow is an incredibly versatile logo color. It evokes a range of emotions and can be found in logos from restaurants to luxury cars to office supplies. While brands like Post-It and Nikon capture yellow’s ability to convey creativity and joy, National Geographic leans into yellow’s connection to intellect. On the flip side, neon yellow has been used in Toxic Waste warnings and other signage for decades. Yellow is an attention-grabbing color that never fails to turn heads.
Positive Associations: Joy, Creativity, Optimism, Intellect, Hunger
Negative Associations: Danger, Toxic, Anxiety