Women In Business

Want to improve your business? Think about colour

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“Oh, that colour really brings out your brand!”

It’s true! Certain colours “look” better on your brand than others. A brand’s colour scheme — encompassing everything from a logo and website to advertisements and storefront —  is much more than just an aesthetic choice. In a split second, colour can communicate what kind of brand you are to the rest of the world. Even subconsciously, individual colours evoke distinct emotions in customers, and a smart business owner can use this to their advantage.

Sadly, more than half of us are missing out on this valuable marketing tactic. We just completed a research study that shows 65% of entrepreneurs and small business owners choose their logo colours based on “personal taste and preference,” and 48% do little to no research on the wider implications of their colour choices. Given that a logo is often the first thing that customers encounter when interacting with a brand and one of the first brand assets new business owners create, this is a significant missed opportunity.

The benefits of colour psychology are inexpensive and relatively easy to apply, so you should think about how you can amplify your brand values and personality through thoughtful use of colour.

What is colour psychology?

Let’s start with the basics: colour psychology is the study of how colours affect human behaviour. It’s largely an emotional connection — different colours elicit different emotions, but a particular colour will tend to create the same responses in different people. For example blue is often used to create feelings of security and trustworthiness, while red reflects youth and excitement. Purple creates an impression of luxury, while black is perceived to be powerful and sophisticated. There are lots of resources available online for in-depth analysis of which colours represent specific emotions.

Diving deeper, accredited neuroscientist Antonio Damasio explains how emotions play a crucial role in decision making, more than even logic.[1] Applied to a business context, that means customers generally make purchasing decisions based on how they feel about a brand, and that feeling can be influenced by colour — for better or worse.

Having ill-fitting brand and logo colours can easily communicate the wrong message to customers. Colour choices influence whether people view your business as sophisticated or casual, affordable or luxurious, playful or strictly professional. If you choose your brand or logo colours randomly, i.e. by personal taste, not only do you risk sending the wrong message about your brand, you’re also missing a key opportunity to attract potential customers who identify with and share your values.

How colour psychology improves your bottom line

When applied effectively, the potential impact of colour psychology on a business is significant. Academic research has directly linked branding colours to customers’ purchasing intent and perceived value of that brand.[2] As such, if the colours in your current logo and branding don’t reflect the personality of your business, changing the colours people identify with your company could be an easy way to bump up your earnings.

Your chosen colour scheme can be used everywhere you interact with existing or prospective customers to ensure consistency. There are countless opportunities for using colour to enhance and communicate a coherent image of your brand, for example on your logo, website, packaging, and advertisements, or even on staff uniforms and storefront.

If you’re currently using a grayscale design for any of these items, introducing colour can help improve your results. To give an example, experts have found that people are ten times more likely to keep a colour business card than a black-and-white one, which demonstrates the impact colour can have on behaviour.[3]

Which colours will help your brand the most?

Now down to the specifics: which colours can best help your business? There are a few different factors to consider when identifying the best colours for your logo and broader brand colour palette:

  • What is your brand personality?
  • Who are you trying to appeal to?
  • What is your industry?
  • What colours are your competition using?

The best branding colours for you will take into account the answers to these questions, but you may need to do a bit of research beforehand. Let’s go through each individually.

Brand personality

First and foremost, you want colours to represent who you are as a brand. Are you playful and easy-going or are you professional and no-nonsense? Is your business more masculine or feminine, youthful or mature, modern or classic? The first step is answering these questions so you’re comfortable with what you’re trying to communicate.

If you’re having trouble pinpointing what kind of brand you want to be, there are some common exercises that may help. Try making a list of 30 adjectives to describe your business. Traits like “witty” or “by-the-book” can shed some light on what kind of message you should be trying to send.

If you are struggling to describe your brand personality, try asking yourself some of the following questions to get started: Why did you start this business? What are your company’s values? What sets you apart from the competition? We have  developed an interactive tool to help you identify the key elements of your brand personality according to standard metrics like “masculine vs. feminine,” or “luxurious vs. loud” on a sliding scale based on how strongly you identify with certain traits. The tool then recommends colours that match your brand personality. Give it a try!

Target customers

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wup_K2WN0I

[2] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11747-010-0245-y

[3] https://theamericangenius.com/business-marketing/the-science-of-business-cards-its-more-than-just-color-choice/

Your target customers should of course be determined by your market research and experience. Whoever they are, they should strongly influence your brand personality. For example, if you’re targeting retired people, having a youthful shade like red may not be the most effective choice. If you’re targeting women, more feminine shades might be more appealing.

Industry

Likewise, the industry you work in should factor into the colours of your logo and brand. Consider the tech industry: almost every company in the space wants to appear modern and trustworthy for obvious reasons — designing a brand that seems old-fashioned or capricious might detract from their credibility. This is why blue is so prevalent in the logos of companies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Samsung, Intel and IBM.

On the other hand, you can break the conventions of your industry to purposefully stand out. Take Snapchat for example. By selecting bright yellow as the main colour in its logo, the company consciously broke away from the norms of the tech industry to attract the attention of users, while also using a shade that reflects youth and happiness, which is a great fit for its brand proposition.

Each industry has its own popular and less used colours. Passionate marketing firms prefer flashier red, while healthcare companies play up the importance of cleanliness and sterility with white. It’s worth keeping an eye on major trends to see what is resonating in your sector, which brings us to the final point…

Competition

It’s best to double-check what colours your rivals are using. You can either follow suit to take advantage of the same benefits, or you could use that information to make colour choices to stand out from the crowd. Just remember that standing out won’t be as advantageous if you have to use colours that counteract your brand personality, so take the time to find the right middle ground if you choose this approach.

Takeaway: Is blue your favorite colour or your customer’s favorite colour?

Of course a business is extremely personal to the entrepreneur who founded it, but when it comes to logo and branding colour, making it too personal could ultimately hold you back. If you’re putting what’s best for your business first, it doesn’t matter what your favorite colour is – what matters is what message those colours are sending to your customers. If you utilise your colour palette like you would any other marketing tool, it might just help close that next sale.

About Pamela Webber

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.

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