Written by Mark Williams
When it comes to your corporate identity, which is, basically, the visual expression of your brand personality, your colour choices are crucial.
As explained on the UXPlanet.org: “Colors hold power to influence your audience’s feelings and behaviors. They are a vehicle for meaning and sense.” Moreover, choosing the right colors will “help [to] convey your personality, while creating an emotional connection with your audience. In contrast, the wrong colors can mislead people about who you are and deter the ones that you would like to attract.”
In other words, the colours you choose for your corporate identity, showcased in everything from your letterheads and invoices to signs, packaging, staff uniforms (possibly) and your website, will help to shape perceptions of your business. So, what do your colour choices say about your business?
According to www.colormatters.com: “Red is the color of extremes. It’s the color of passionate love, seduction, violence, danger, anger and adventure.” Red captures our attention; it’s one of the most visible colours.
Marketing agency CityGro goes as far as to say: “Red raises the blood pressure and makes people hungry” (which is possibly why so many food brands use red). Red is reportedly used by 29% of the world’s top 100 brands in their corporate IDs.
• Did you know?
Approximately 77% of the world’s country flags feature red, which is the international colour for stop. Red is considered a very lucky colour in China.
“Blue is cold, wet, and slow” in contrast to “red’s warmth, fire and intensity”, www.colourmatters.com tells us, adding that “blue has more complex and contradictory meanings than any other colour”. While dark blue signifies “trust, dignity, intelligence and authority”, bright blue signifies “cleanliness, strength, dependability and coolness”, with light blue signifying “peace, serenity, the ethereal, spiritual and infinity”.
While blue connotes sadness, it also signifies safety, reliability, tradition and convention – which partly explains why it’s the most commonly used corporate ID colour (it’s used by a third of the world’s top 100 brands). Blue is believed to suppress our appetite, which is why it’s rarely used to market food brands.
• Did you know?
More than half (53%) of the world’s flags feature blue. About 8% of people on Earth have blue eyes.
Green signifies growth, rebirth and fertility. It also has associations with nature and the environment, of course, as well as being “go” to red’s “stop” in traffic light systems. Green also suggests vitality, healthy living and freshness, which is why many supermarkets use it.
According to BournCreative.com: “Green is soothing, relaxing and youthful. Green is a color that helps alleviate anxiety, depression and nervousness”. Green also “brings with it a sense of hope, health, adventure and renewal, as well as self-control, compassion and harmony.”
• Did you know?
In Ireland, green is thought to be a lucky colour, while it’s considered a holy colour in Islamic countries. Dirty jokes in Spain are described as green jokes.
According to www.colormatters.com: “Yellow is the most luminous of all colours… It captures our attention more than any other colour. It’s the color of happiness, optimism, enlightenment, creativity and sunshine.”
However, in some cultures, yellow is associated with “cowardice, betrayal, egoism and madness”. BournCreative.com says: “Yellow helps activate the memory, encourage communication, enhance vision, build confidence and stimulate the nervous system”.
• Did you know?
In China, “adult films” are referred to as “yellow movies”. In Japan, yellow represents courage.
Orange (according to www.colourmatters.com) “symbolises energy, vitality, cheer, excitement, adventure, warmth and good health”, while it can also apparently “suggest a lack of serious intellectual values and bad taste”. Orange is also thought to stimulate the appetite – something that can’t have escaped Sainsbury’s attention.
Light purples are “light-hearted, floral and romantic”, with darker purples “more intellectual and dignified”. Purple is also associated with decadence, conceit, snobbishness and mourning.
According to citygro.com, pink is “feminine, innocent and gentle”, representing “innocence and delicateness”. Brown is “natural, earthy and rough”; it’s used to “represent construction and depth”. And while white signifies “peace, purity and cleanliness”, black is distinctive, sophisticated and classic; it’s serious and has authority.
• Did you know?
Only two countries have purple in their flag – Dominica and Nicaragua. Black is an “achromatic colour”, a color without hue, the same as white and grey.
Choosing brand identity colours
Your colour choices should be guided by your business’s personality and how you want it to be perceived. According to Canva.com, Richard Branson chose Virgin’s vibrant red colour to encourage his customers to be “bold and confident, mirroring his own distinct business methods. Coca-Cola shares this approach, using red to appear energetic, vibrant and memorable”.
Offering advice, it adds: “If you want someone to be excited or energetic while browsing your website, consider bold colors [such as] red, yellow or orange. Or, for a calming effect, try pastels or nature-inspired blues and greens.” Looking at your competitors’ colour choices may help you to choose the right corporate ID colours, although, obviously, you need to set yourself apart (and their choices may not be effective). You can take influence from successful brands, of course.
It’s often said that there is no such thing as “bad colours”, although bad colour combinations certainly do. Some colours work well together, others don’t. There are colour theory rules, and once you’ve decided on a main colour, a colour wheel may help you to decide others (some website-design software and templates provide helpful set colour palettes).
It’s not wise to use too many colours in your corporate identity. Less is most definitely more. And as with most things in life and business, simple is often best. According to Matt Solar’s blog on the Marketo website: “95% of the [world’s] top 100 brands only use one or two colors.”
As explained on Canva.com: “Many designers recommend using the 60-30-10 rule, which suggests you choose a palette of three colors, using the ratio of 60%, 30% and 10%”. Once you’ve chosen your colours, you can put them together on a mood board, to gain a better idea of how well they work together and what emotions they evoke.
Not everyone has an eye for colour, of course, but creating the right corporate identity is very important. So, budget permitting, you could always pay an agency or freelance to create your corporate identity. If so, set a budget, get at least three quotes for comparison, check out their work for other small businesses, understand exactly what you’ll get for your money and stick to your budget. You can great a highly impressive corporate ID even on a tight budget.
Mark Williams is a freelance editorial consultant, editor, journalist and SME content specialist with more than 25 years’ experience. He has written for The Guardian, numerous leading brands and award-winning magazines and websites. Visit www.markiwilliams.com