When you eat M&Ms, do you organize them by color? Or do you care not to notice? What exactly is color perfection? Is it when you eat an orange? Listen to the blues? Chow down on a plate of greens?No, it's none of that. Rather, it's the one absolute fact that you’re probably already aware of: Color sells. It defines and identifies your brand in a broad, silent, and deep language.
As simple as "nope" or "dope", color helps define and contribute to your content from a cosmetic standpoint, but color can trigger positive emotional queues from your audience that will be forever burned into their retinas when it comes to remembering your business.
This is why your brand color scheme can inspire your audience to listen or run away.
Color's Grand Poohbahs
Break out the crystals and incense and let's add some color to this year's snake oil.
Sarcasm aside, if you're a designer working in an industry where your client's branding isn't front and center, then color trends have more relevance. If you want to dabble in the color astrology sandbox, just keep an eye peeled for PANTONE's Color of the Year. Their bequeathed PANTONE annual pigment will make for some artsy water-cooler babble. You may see their crowned tint showing up in bedspreads, dishes, yoga pants, and backpacks. But to PANTONE's credit, they do put a lot of energy into it and it is mildly entertaining.
Believe it or not, there are other Colors of the Year from virtually every corner of the consumer spectrum. A prime example is Sherwin Williams Paint, whose crowned color of the year is usually not even close to PANTONE's. Additionally, The Color Marketing Group (CMG) is a non-profit collective that meets once a year to predict what colors will be popular among worldwide consumers in the next few years ahead.
This all seems to me like PANTONE is just throwing us shade. Everyone has their favorite colors and manufacturers of durable goods don't stray far from home. As an example, the last time I checked, the majority of cars on the road were black, white, red, or silver/gray. Once in a while you see a blue or green one, but rarely ever an Ultra Violet one. This is because humans don't like to commit to a color that they may fall out of love with in a year, which is why I believe PANTONE's annual celebrity hue is most important for the fashion industry. It's true — their coolest color on the planet has to make a flash in the pan all over our shirts and pants so we have some Goodwill donations in twelve months. Moreover, to prove humans are just as fickle about the color of their cars as they are of their britches, everyone I know will tell you, "nothing beats a good pair of blue jeans."
Boom! (That's the sound of my mic dropping.)
Themes and Schemes
Research shows that warm colors tended to attract spontaneous purchasers, despite cooler colors being more favorable. Call it what you want, the psychology of color plays a daily role in all of our lives — in both blatant and sublime ways. Equally as interesting is how the same color can be perceived by people of differing gender, age, and culture.
When it comes to marketing a business, defining your brand colors should always take into consideration who your ideal client is. In other words, while your brand colors may have been a selfish favorite color scheme on your part, they should also speak volumes to your buyer personas. Company logos express meaning just through the use of color. This is especially relevant for new or unknown companies seeking to cast a perception of their voice, values, mission, and quality to capture their audience’s attention and lead them happily down the buyer’s journey.
More Than Meets The Aye
By now you’re thinking about brand colors that you see every day like Starbucks. For example, never drive a John Deere tractor to a Home Depot. In most cases, it’s illegal. Likewise, driving a Caterpillar tractor to Target to purchase a new phone will make you popular with the local traffic law enforcement authorities. Rather, just order your phone online from T-Mobile and have UPS deliver it.
If you’re like me, you saw a lot of brand colors in this example. These brands know how to rep and own their colors. Did you notice none of them were black, gray, or blue?
Rulers and Droolers
Color perceptions differ between women and men. Several years ago, a study by Brooklyn College’s Israel Abramov revealed how women tend to be more capable of distinguishing a wider range of colors than men. By comparison, males are better than women at distinguishing distant colors. This is truly a biological difference between the human sexes which have evolved over centuries and equate to strengths and weaknesses for each gender.
The study also found that women not only observed varying hues of color when shown objects of the same color, but concluded that males are more likely to observe warm colors as being slightly “redder” or warmer than females. The researchers have concluded this is because males need a longer light wavelength than females to observe and perceive the same shade of color. It is the longer light wavelengths that are associated with warmer tones such as yellow, orange and red.
Although studies may expose such differences, nothing has been able to compete with the color calamity of “the dress” from 2015, in which no one could agree on the colors. Maybe you remember seeing this back then, which went viral across social and news channels.
While “The Dress” wasn’t gender-specific, it did reveal differences in human color perception, resulting in a number of papers published in science journals. To bring color perception closer to home and into the marketing spotlight, let’s say you have a company named, “BestCorp.” You also love your company brand colors, one of which is a blue hue. Do you refer to your blue as, cyan, sapphire, navy, royal, azure, cobalt, manganese, cerulean, or sky? Most likely, you refer to your blue as, “BestCorp Blue.” Furthermore, if you are using one of the more aforementioned detailed names for blue, you’re more than likely female. Males generally just call these lovely, subtle shades and hues of blues as simply, “blue.”
While we are on the subject of blue, let’s start with it.
FACT: Out of all the millions of colors there are on the internet, the most popular color is blue. This fact, courtesy of Wired Magazine and Hebert Designs, is a result from recent HTML and CSS data pulled from a script that went through Alexa.com. Alas, there are more blues than one can shake a hip to. This is a perfect spot in the blog to drop a needle on a B.B. King track — or if you’re like me, a little blue beat lifts my mood over the blues any day.
Blue is wildly popular for many reasons, namely trust. However, the best part about blue is how we humans relate it to tranquility, peace, calm, and clarity. Personally, I think of vacation. The azure skies above Port Of Spain kissing the calm seas of the Gulf of Paria come to mind.
Never mind. Thinking of vacation leaves me blue. However, I think blue is a safe, non-threatening color choice that has no natural enemies. It can be construed as a rather arrogant color troubled with emotional issues. It’s also not a very appetizing color in terms of food, with the exception of a blue plate special. Or perhaps if you love Jolly Ranchers and blueberries. Who doesn’t?
USE BLUE to instill trust, calmness, and intelligence in your brand.
RESIST BLUE if you want to avoid a very tired and overused brand experience.
Did you know green M&Ms are potent aphrodisiacs and rock bands demand them in their contracts? There is a bit of truth in that, however the fact is green is naturally alive and well. In this day and age, we all want to portray that our brands are environmentally conscious and our logos are made of recycled vectors and pixels from water bottle artwork and other repurposed consumer marketing waste materials.
GO! GO! GO!
The pleasure of green encompasses so many verbs. Living green, eating green, building green, growing green, making green — just talking green. Feeling green energy to the point where no yellow will ever slow me down, nor shall a red stop me in my green, green tracks of home. Plus, the tasty, green grass is always greener on the other side of my fence. Don’t worry, I never get eaten up with envy. When I see green, I often I hear birds chirping and squirrels playing among the calm, harmonious leaves of nature. Other times I just hear my car horn blasting at the motorist in front of me, which seems like a perfect yin of energy and yang of anxiety.
USE GREEN for a natural vibe that implies growth and energy for your brand.
RESIST GREEN to avoid depicting a greedy or selfish tone.
While we are discussing green, it’s important to note teal, an awesome variation.
Teal We Meet Again
Step right up folks and get your Mojo sample here! Teal holds a special place on the color wheel for me since it is a primary branding color for Mojo Media Labs. A lot of thought went into our rebranding efforts a few years ago. For those of you who’ve been playing around Mojo’s Wayback Machine might remember the original primary Mojo brand color was a typical, standard form of green. While we wanted to keep our brand associated with the positive aesthetics of the color green, we also wanted to blend blue’s trust and stability into the mix. Therefore, it was decided the new Mojo Green was to become Mojo Teal, which is an optimistic and mentally-balanced hue. Teal is a calm shade that has a natural dignity and isn’t contrived or confrontational.
People who are attracted to teal are authentic, unique, creative and focused.
USE TEAL for a balanced and creative edge to your brand.
RESIST TEAL Can't. Resistance is futile.
Let’s party! Many critics say orange is the new black. I think that is just another overrated Netflix original. In all seriousness, orange is a favorite color of mine. It’s one of the most positive and invigorating colors on the wheel. And while I’ve never owned an orange jumpsuit, I would jump in a suit for orange. This is why many gyms and other fitness-centric businesses opt for orange as part of their branding. Orange can inspire us to be active, stepping up to a challenge with the courage to take a risk or two. Those who are inspired by orange feel the need to be on the move. Because of its extroverted nature, it can lower inhibitions and allow people to let their hair down.
Want to learn new things and develop new ideas? Orange can help. It breaks down barriers while allowing us to assimilate and grow with new beginnings. It fills people with dignity for themselves and others. It can be a bit negative; a bit overt and a braggart It can also be construed as a bit aggressive.
Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana?
Nevertheless, orange is always busy. When you’re green with envy and down with the blues, orange is building something big. Orange gets things done where a new street or building is being constructed. Obviously, the brand that used to confess how, “You can do it, we can help” has moved on to “More saving, more doing…That's the power of the Home Depot.” I do think of HD when I see orange.
USE ORANGE to create a happy and stimulating element in your branding color scheme. Orange also makes a tasteful accent for typographical elements in your content designs, especially in today’s sea of internet blue.
RESIST ORANGE to avoid a shallow and subordinate vibe.
Roses are red and violins play the blues. From romance, passion and energy to aggression, dominance and danger — Red stands ready to respond. While red is a very basic and important color, it wins the bloody battle of attention spans worldwide. Did you know that athletes that wear red in combat sports have the upper-hand? Red makes them feel more powerful and aggressive. Red attracts more attention than any other color.
Love and war reigns on the red planet. Want immediate attention? Use red. Need to warn all the other colors who’s the boss? Use red. Want to seduce your audience with romance and passion? Red is the way to their hearts. Got a fire to put out? Use red. I think you see where this is going and how exceedingly important the color red is. Even my favorite gall durn cup of coffee at that place with the green mermaid logo is a RED EYE. Heck, make that a venti and fill it to the lid. No need for cream or sugar here.
I’m usually as chill as a lazy lemur with a radiating smile like a panda. But on the way to work this morning, this fool cut me off and had me seeing red. Then, they ran a red light — right in front of the fuzz. Red flashing lights and their hotrod antics quickly came to a stop. You should’ve seen the driver’s blushing face when I cruised by. I’m not gonna lie; red often gets a bum rap. But red does it to itself.
USE RED to passionately crush your competition and warn them with love. Red is ideal for calls-to-actions in your content or to use for text that you wish to emphasize.
RESIST RED for obvious reasons. It conjures up a lot of red flags.
“Follow the yellow brick road.” We all know how that story begins and ends so I’ll spare you the details. Nevertheless, that story has a happy conclusion, which is exactly what yellow prescribes. Why are most emotion emojis yellow? Well, I’ll tell you. Yellow signals communication. It’s cheerful, enlightened and warm like Houston sunshine in summer. Okay, not quite [that] warm (and humid.) What I mean is that yellow is strong, full of energy and spirit.
Never, Ever, Ever Eat Yellow Snow
This statement is brought to you by the color yellow.
Yellow is the brightest of all colors and is the most noticeable of all colors and here is why. Yellow is the selfish resident at the community swimming pool with a bluetooth speaker cabinet on wheels, blaring their middle school playlist at painfully high volumes. I’m not saying yellow sucks, but in this case yellow isn’t winning any friends. This is particularly bold of yellow since yellow usually isn’t this brave. But, through all its optimism and happiness, yellow can be wrought with irrationality and deception, just like that narcissistic sun worshiper at the ool — Notice the lack of p.
While yellow is one of the fantastic four of the CMYK combo, it is also the most difficult color to print. So if your content is heavy on the Y, and is designed and targeted for print, you’ll need a little extra preflighting and press-checking to ensure your yellow prints as expected.
USE YELLOW to highlight and accent areas of content that require emphasis. Avoid yellow against white since there’s a lack of contrast between yellow and white. Yellow works well when knocked-out of dark backgrounds.
AVOID YELLOW when you don't want to come across as cowardly or overzealous... and if you don't like animal-flavored snow.
Purple Mountain Majesties. In the song, "America The Beautiful", written by Katherine Lee Bates, the reference is a nod to Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, CO. I’ve been there, survived the toe-curling drive up, experienced a snow storm in June, and sat huffing and puffing through a souvenir oxygen mask at the peak’s apex. I think the only thing purple I saw that day was my face from the lack of O2 plus the fact that I had dressed for the street temperature in Manitou Springs — Not the 60-degree drop I had not planned for during the trek to the peak.
I Love You, You Love Me
You didn’t read that, you sang it in your head.
Despite its friendly, Tyrannosaurus optimism, purple remains as one of my favorite colors. It’s associated with creativity, mystery, magic, and wisdom. Purple doesn’t occur often in nature, with only precious gems and flowers bearing this color. Purple also means passion, vitality, and fulfillment; and bright purple has always been connected to richness and royalty. But for me, purple opens the door to my imagination, allowing creativity to flow in and out of. If you think about it, purple is made of combining two, very opposite colors: Red and Blue. A mix of passion and tranquility; intelligence and romance; fire and calm — Such a perfectly balanced color. Combined with orange, green and black, purple becomes part of the Halloween palette. Not that that is important, I just like that time of year because it’s super dee duper, kids!
USE PURPLE to express luxury, individuality, dignity, creativity, and independence in your brand color scheme.
AVOID PURPLE to prevent a delusional or impractical look.
Gray is Sweden. It’s about as neutral as you can get unless you truly want to unbold yourself and blend into the scenery with some common beige. The mere thought of neutral colors immediately triggers a virtual playlist in my head of Ken Nordine’s word jazz, “Colors.” Beige and Grey both come to mind from that 1966 beatnik classic, which all digital designers certainly could appreciate. Neutral colors will forever be the passive audience at the foot of the stage and will gladly give a standing ovation to its fellow bright accent color.
It goes without saying; gray will always win every battle under the rainbow. Gray can also create a sophisticated look when matched with subdued earth tones. To create tasteful content palettes, think of gray as your framework, then accentuate with color. It’s hard to go wrong here. Why? Because gray secretly flirts with various hues and tones — the key is to know which ones take on a life of their own and which are chameleons.
Just like players in a band, some grays tend to blend in perfect harmony, while others love to showboat and improvise. Have you noticed how gray can cast a spectrum of mutations when displayed next to certain reds, greens, or yellows? Ocular hue-shifts are genuine illusions that digital designers at marketing agencies frequently have to keep an eye out for — and correct when necessary.
USE GRAY to convey balance, timelessness, and sophistication.
AVOID GRAY by using color to cover it while denying your age. This way, you won't look so boring and sad.
Colors Speak Louder Than Rock Bands
If every color in the spectrum decided to get together and start a band, it would probably sound awful. However, with lots of practice and a solid set list, it would be little tighter, but still suck. I’m not exactly sure what kind of audience they’d attract, so it’s best to not use every color under the sun. This is why most businesses have two primary brand colors, — sometimes a third, and then a couple of secondary use colors.
Remember it’s best to K.I.S.S. In the words of Gene Simmons, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” He’d sometimes end that sentence by adding, “Baby” or “Dude,” but that isn’t important right now. Keeping your brand colors few is best in order to help define your brand. Remember, simplicity is the essence of good taste when it comes to your brand and your band.
Color My Whirled
Ready to experiment with colors for your brand? Here’s a little design nugget to grease your innovative engine: Adobe Creative Cloud has a handy, online color wheel that can help you select and customize color schemes in analogous, monochromatic, triad, complementary, compound, and shades of color harmony. It’s fun and if you’re like me, it’s easy to get lost in all the possibilities.
While not all colors were reviewed and evaluated here in this blog, I believe it underscores the importance of color usage for business. It also emphasizes how essential color is for your marketing assets and online presence. In today’s competitive world of promotional brand outreach, the use of color has never been more important. Equally as vital is to put the power of color to work for you by partnering with a marketing agency with experience in branding, strategic campaigns, and customer experience. They can make your brand shine and help you connect your brand with your ideal client.