Is Your Color Killing Your Brand?

Visual Theory

Color affects how people feel about your brand—even if they don’t do business with you.

As a business owner thinking about branding, you consider positioning, image and promise. But equally as critical in your branding is color, argues Mike DiFrisco, founder of Madison, Wisconsin branding firm BrandXcellence. “Color is very emotional, and it’s very personal,” DiFrisco says.

For better or worse, color is also what many people are going to remember about your brand. However, many business owners choose colors without looking at what science tells us about their meaning. Research of color use in branding is evolving, but a number of studies tell us that a brand’s color scheme can have an important effect—whether positive or negative—on how it’s perceived in the world.

  • Color affects how consumers feel about your brand—even if they don’t do business with you. A 2014 study at the University of Missouri examined how consumers responded to a logo when it appeared in various colors. Study participants identified blue with feelings of confidence, success, and reliability. Green logos were seen as environmentally friendly and sustainable, as well as tough and durable. Pink was the color of fashion and youth, while purple was perceived as feminine, glamorous, and charming. These ingrained perceptions can have a powerful impact on your messaging.
  • Consumers judge your ethics by color. In fact, a 2015 University of Oregon study found that logos featuring eco-friendly colors like green made a company seem more ethical even when its practices were unclear. Conversely, logos that appeared in colors that are not considered eco-friendly made the company’s practices seem less ethical. So, choosing the wrong colors could send a damaging perception of your company.
  • Personal perceptions can impact color reactions. People’s individual preferences, cultural backgrounds, and even their psychological states can play a role in how they perceive color. It’s critical to understand how your color scheme translates among your target audience members.

It’s important to understand the scientific aspect of how people respond to colors, but it’s equally important to test the color combinations and messages your brand is sending with your audience, DiFrisco says. Because color perception has so many variables, if you’re not fine-tuning your brand’s color scheme in the context of your audience, location, positioning, and other factors, you could be sending the wrong message and driving away the very customers you spend so much time and money trying to attract, he says.

Explore simple, effective ways to build your brand and business with graphics.

If you do not already work with one, connect with a branding graphics professional by entering your zip code and searching for a professional near you.