What comes to your mind whenever you look at McDonald’s’ iconic Golden Arches logo? Do you think, “Wow, what a nice shade of yellow.” Or is it more along the lines of, “Thank goodness, I could use a quick meal right now.” If you’re like most people, it’s probably the latter.
Most of us are visual creatures. We process as much as 90 percent of information about the world through our eyes. Because color is one of the first things we notice, we’re programmed to have different psychological responses to different colors, as follows.
Being the same color as human blood, red often signifies passion, power and vitality. Lovers give red roses on Valentine’s Day, job applicants wear red ties during interviews and both men and women wear red outfits to enhance their sexual attractiveness. It’s the most emotionally charged color, basically.
That’s not all. Large fast food chains, such as McDonald’s, KFC and Wendy’s, incorporate this color in their logos because it stimulates the appetite of anyone who walks into their stores. It also helps that red ensures a high volume of fast food customers going in and out at any one time. So whether you want to rebrand your drive-thru business or you simply want your new website to burst with energy, consider adding this color to your repertoire of branding tools.
German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe summed it up best when he said: “In its highest purity, (yellow) always carries with it the nature of brightness, and has a serene, gay, softly exciting character.” Like red, yellow gives off an impression of great energy, so it’s not surprising these two colors are often used together. Case in point: McDonald’s, Denny’s and Shell.
Of course, yellow can stand alone as a branding color – see National Geographic and Sprint – but this has to be done carefully. If there’s too much yellow on your website, social media accounts or other marketing platforms, it can be painful to the eyes, and that’s the last thing you want to happen with potential customers.
As a cool color, blue is the go-to hue for brands emphasizing trust and security. For example, we have financial institutions like Bank of America, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr and health care companies like Oral-B and Drucker Diagnostics. Blue has also been traditionally associated with men, so a masculine brand can benefit from this color.
With that said, it’s not a good idea to splash this color all over the packaging of a food brand, unless you sell frozen food and/or bottled water. You don’t want to give the impression your food is of a less-than-satisfactory quality.
Orange combines the best of red and yellow, its base colors. According to Karen Haller, a renowned color and branding expert, orange signifies physical comfort, food, warmth and abundance. It also screams, “Hey, I’m Fun with a capital ‘F’!”, which explains why brands marketed towards children, such as Nickelodeon and Cuties, have orange as their predominant color.
Still, plenty of businesses don’t use orange, and for good reason. If misused or overused, this color can make your brand look tacky or even frivolous. To avoid this, use an appropriate shade of orange, and pair it with a logo style that’s quirky yet bold.
As a mixture of blue and yellow, green has the calming effect of the former, and the uplifting effect of the latter. Traditionally, green is associated with youth (just look at the Boy/Girl Scouts); money (U.S. paper bills and Mint.com); and nature (a good number of environmentalist groups), so if your brand symbolizes any of those, it’s a good color to use.
In ancient times, purple dye was extracted from a sea snail known as the Murex. Because this dye took several days – not to mention thousands of snails boiled in giant lead vats – to produce, only kings and nobles could afford the dyed cloth. Even today, this color is a sign of high status and elegance, making it appropriate for brands like Cadbury and Asprey.
Knowing what colors to use, and how to use them, can spell the difference between a successful branding campaign and a failed one. Give your logo a second look, and think carefully about how it’s coming across to your customers. Who knows; maybe a change of color is all it takes for you to see better marketing results.