Special Event 9/15: How to make your next event sizzle like Broadway on an association budget.
Learn More
Image of a pink clock

How Your Brand Color Palette Affects Audience Perception

Caro Romero

Humans are visual creatures, and the role of color in brand recognition cannot be understated. Shown a palette out of context, many among us can identify the Starbucks green, the brown-and-gold of UPS, or the robins-egg blue of Tiffany & Co.

Our emotional responses to color play a role in what products we buy and institutions we trust. Because of this, color is as integral to a brand as the name and the shape of the logo.

Color Psychology

Color preference is subjective and dependent upon context. Individuals may favor a color based on a childhood experience or their favorite sports team. However, data does exist on how humans as a whole perceive and react to different colors.

For example, red is evocative of action, energy and passion—an attention-grabbing color seen in stop signs and red traffic lights. Studies note that many animals, primates in particular, convey dominance through red coloration and react aggressively when confronted with red stimuli. In the same study, a correlation was drawn between athletes in red uniforms and a higher probability of winning, suggesting that humans also associate the color red with dominance. Organizations that want to communicate energy and strength, or consumers who want to grab the attention of their audience, might consider using red in their branding.

On the other hand, blue is calming and soothing, a popular color for children's rooms. Color theorists suggest that colors with a longer wavelength (like the aforementioned red) have an exciting, active effect on emotional response in humans, whereas colors with a shorter wave-length like blue have a restful effect. Organizations that want to convey trustworthiness, competence and security, such as financial and medical institutions, have long used blue in their visual identities. It is worth noting that blue is universally a favorite color, and that the majority of logos of the Fortune 500 companies are blue

Context Matters

Each industry has trends and color inclinations specific to their audience and intention. For example, restaurant and fast-food branding heavily favors the color red, and research has suggested that red stimulates the appetite. International organizations must take note that color also has deep roots in culture, and not all color meanings are universal – in some cultures the color white may signify peace, in others death.

How do you want to position yourself with your industry? Medical branding is heavily dominated by the color blue, but not all medical brands must include blue by default. Do you want to clearly signal that your organization exists within a certain space, or do you want to stand out in that space? Either is equally valid, but would take different approaches.

Color choice does not exist in a vacuum – the rest of your visual identity will have to feel at home with your chosen palette. A visual identity heavy on warm photography may be elevated by a cooler palette, just as one dominated by sharp, angular shapes may be softened by a warm palette. As long as you find a palette that resonates with your audience and serves the goals you have for your brand, there can be no wrong color choice.

There are a number of factors to consider when building out a palette for your brand. If you think the time is right for your organization to rebrand, contact us for a free consultation.