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How colour psychology impacts your brand: is your business sleeping on its benefits?


Experts agree that colour creates an emotional response in humans, and smart business owners can use this to their advantage when it comes to building better relationships with their customers. A brand’s colour scheme – including everything from logos and websites to ads and shop signage – is about much more than aesthetics: creating a strong emotional connection by leveraging colour psychology can have a real impact on a company’s bottom line.

Unfortunately, the majority of entrepreneurs and small business owners are missing out on the benefits of this valuable marketing tactic. 99designs recently completed a study that reveals 65% of entrepreneurs are choosing their logo colours based purely on personal taste and preference, with around half doing little to no research on the wider implications of their brand colour choices.

This is a missed opportunity considering a logo is often the first thing a customer encounters when interacting with a brand. By ignoring colour psychology completely, business owners could be getting off on the wrong foot with potential customers.

What is colour psychology anyway?

The psychology of colour (also known as colour theory) is essentially the study of how colour impacts human behaviour. Certain colours tend to evoke specific emotional responses in people. Blue, for example, tends to create feelings of trustworthiness and security; black suggests sophistication and power; and red creates feelings of youth and excitement. If you want to learn more about the specific emotions associated with different colours, there are lots of online resources analysing what different shades mean.

Diving a little deeper, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio shows us how emotions play a crucial role in decision making processes. When applied in a business context this means that consumers generally make purchasing decisions based on how they feel about a brand, and colour choice will influence these feelings. But it’s not just a question of emotion – academic research also proves that purchasing intent is greatly affected by how a brand is perceived visually, so colour can have a real impact on your bottom line too.

If the colours in your branding and logo don’t reflect your company’s personality and values, it’s very easy to send customers the wrong message. Colour choice shapes how people perceive you at the most basic level: do you want to be seen as luxurious and classic, or disruptive, young and affordable? By choosing the wrong colours, it’s easy to miss out attracting customers who share and identify with your values, while getting it right means that your audience will instantly know who you are, what you do, and what you’re all about.

Incorporating colour theory into your brand is relatively inexpensive and easy to do, so it’s worth considering how you can amplify your business and brand values through the thoughtful use of colour. Here are some tips to think about when getting started:

Know your brand personality inside out

First things first: how do you work out what your brand personality actually is? Sometimes when you’re focused on creating a product and building up a business, establishing who you are as a brand can fall a bit by the wayside.

If you’re having trouble nailing down what kind of brand you want to be, there are a number of exercises you can do to get started. Try to imagine your business as a person. We all have unique personalities and individual styles, and businesses aren’t that different. Try making a list of adjectives that describe your business – working out what traits your business already has should shed some light on the message you should be trying to communicate with your customers. Are you easy-going and playful or professional and no-nonsense? Is your business witty and whimsical, modern or efficient?

If you’re struggling to describe your brand personality even in this way, try asking yourself some of the following questions to kick things off: Why did you start this business? What are your team’s values? What sets you apart from the competition?

We have also created an interactive tool to help identify the key elements of your brand personality according to a few standard metrics such as “masculine vs. feminine,” or “luxurious vs. loud”. There is a sliding scale based on how strongly you identify with certain traits, and the tool then recommends colours that match your brand personality.

Work out exactly who you’re trying to reach

As much as your colour choices need to reflect your brand personality, they also need to align with your customers’ personalities. Your target audience will of course be determined by your market research and experience, but whoever they are should strongly influence your own brand personality and colour choices.

If your customers are generally retired, for example, having a youthful, loud colour like red might not be the most effective option. Equally, if you’re targeting men specifically, more masculine colours might be more appealing and communicate your value proposition more clearly.

Consider industry context

Your industry will also influence the best colours for your logo and brand. We analysed 14,000 logos created on the 99designs platform as well as brands of industry leaders, and it’s fair to say that each industry has its own trends and most popular logo colours.

Take technology for example – almost every company in the space wants to come across as modern, trustworthy and credible. Take it from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Samsung, Intel and IBM: there’s a good reason that blue is far and away the most prevalent hue when it comes to tech logos. Passionate marketing firms tend to prefer vibrant and youthful red, while healthcare companies tend to emphasise cleanliness and sterility with white.

However, while it pays to keep an eye on major trends and be aware of what is resonating in your sector, purposefully avoiding conventions to stand out against competitors can also be really effective, as long as the colours you choose still reflect your brand personality and align with both your own and your customers’ values. Snapchat famously breaks away from the dominant blue of technology with its bright yellow logo – a shade that evokes feelings of youth and happiness, which is a great fit for its brand proposition.

Of course every business is extremely personal to the founder, but when it comes to logo colours and branding, making things too personal can ultimately hold a business back. If you’re serious about boosting engagement and putting your business first, it doesn’t matter what your favorite colour is – what’s important is the message those colours are sending to your customers. After all, if you approach your colour palette just as you would any other marketing too, it might just help lock in that next sale.

Pamela Webber is Chief Operations Officer at 99designs, the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love. Earlier in her career, she served in various corporate strategy and marketing positions with brands Borden, eBay and its subsidiary, PayPal, Inc. A resident of San Francisco, Pamela received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MBA from Harvard Business School.

Pamela Webber