Brands and colors are indistinguishably linked – think Golden Arches, Amex Black Card, Tiffany Blue or breast cancer’s Pink Ribbon. After all, colors create a vibrant visual experience. They make things more attractive, affect our mood and can even subconsciously shape action. As a result, brands put a lot of thought into the colors they use.
According to the Institute for Color Research (CCICOLOR), the average person makes a subconscious judgment about a product, person or the environment within 90 seconds. More than 2/3 of that judgment is based on color!
That said, individual experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, and context can also shape our response to color. For example, in America, white is most closely linked with happy bridal occasions, whereas in India, white is worn when someone dies.
Some colors, however, evoke universal emotional responses. A great example would be the color blue, which conveys honesty, trust and dependability. Blue is often used in logos, such as:
Other brand color associations include:
- Pink/Purple: Feminine, fun, youthful – frequently used to promote beauty products.
- Green: Good, healthy, organic – and can be used to convey relaxation, nature or environmental issues.
- Red: Designers use red in high-energy context; often to convey a sense of urgency or boldness.
- Silver: Sophistication, class, with a little bit of mystery around it.
- Black: Elegance, boldness, power, sophistication.
- Orange: Fun, warmth and enthusiasm.
- Yellow: Cheerful and optimistic.
International brands like McDonalds use high-energy colors like red and yellow, which convey the same feeling of activity and cheerfulness no matter which country you’re in.
How to Choose the Right Color Palette for Your Brand
The first step to choosing the right brand color is to establish your brand’s voice and feel. To help, consider where your brand falls in the list of colors above. With that context in place, brand colors will be much easier to pick. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right colors for your brand:
- Start with one color that conveys your style or voice. If you have a logo, use the dominant color in your logo as your first primary color. Afterwards, add one more primary color, a secondary color, and an accent color.
- Need ideas for where to start? Use this quiz, and check out Color Hunt, Palettab, Paletton, or Adobe Kuler to help pick complementary colors.
- To make sure your brand colors remain consistent, create a style guide with hex values. Also be sure to define different background colors and grayscale. This will help down the road when you expand your range of visuals and design.
- Aim to use a maximum of four colors. You can add some variety by using different shades and tints of those four colors. 0to255 is a great tool for choosing the perfect hover or gradient colors.
- Repetition is key to success when it comes to establishing a well-known color palette for your brand. Use your color scheme everywhere in your marketing. This includes your marketing and sales collateral, your brand’s site and social channels, and more.
- Remember to avoid confusion with other brands by staying away from your competitors’ colors. This will help you stand out to prospective customers as a unique and memorable offering.
How We Put Our Own Advice into Practice
We actually suffered from own brand color-crisis here at AddThis. At one point we were using every color in the rainbow, making it difficult to establish a strong, recognizable brand identity. We also were inconsistent about using the same shade of a given color across our site. For example, we were using three different types of blue for our CTA buttons.
Another issue was the lack of definition between our primary (other than orange) and secondary colors in our marketing and sales assets. Plus, our colors did not play well together. For example it was hard to use the green and purple colors alongside our orange and blue palette.
To remedy this color confusion, we tested multiple variations of our new colors in existing designs before we settled on a palette that was ‘happy’ without being aggressive or obnoxious.
The end result was to drop a few colors and bring in a complementary teal shade that worked well with the AddThis orange. We also made our primary yellow, which was a bit too bright, into a more golden tone so that it would be easier to see on different screens. Here’s what our new color palette looks like today:
We think our new palette more effectively reflects and supports our brand values of being open, flexible, empowering, approachable and helpful — and we hope that by sharing our story you are better able to pick and implement a color palette that works for your brand.
Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below!