A brand is a complex organism. This is part seven in a series of articles in which we examine a successful brand’s component parts.

Few, if any, other aspects of branding pack the visceral power of color. When chosen and implemented effectively, color can differentiate, motivate, and elevate a business. If you really think about color’s role in the marketplace, you will see its potential. To demonstrate what I mean, take a quick quiz:

  • In the world of computers and consulting, who is blue?
  • Who “owns” yellow in the construction equipment industry?
  • What ubiquitous business is tied to brown?
  • When you think of rental cars, who is yellow? Who is red? Who is green?
  • If you see a shopper carrying an elegant light-blue box, what do you think of?

You’ll find the answers at the end of this article, but many readers won’t have to look. In people’s minds, these colors are so closely associated with their brands that they’ve become as iconic as their logos. It’s not unreasonable to believe that under the right circumstances a flash of naked color would be enough to bring a brand to mind. That’s powerful stuff.

SEE ALSO: How to Choose a New Company Name, Logo and Tagline

Of course, it takes a lot of exposure over many, many years for a national brand to become broadly associated with a color. But that shouldn’t stop a firm like yours from taking advantage of color’s impact. You can begin to enjoy some of the benefits without sinking millions into advertising. Let’s begin by discussing some of the ways color can help any firm.

Color Differentiates You

Spend a few minutes checking out competitors’ websites. Pay particular attention to the colors in their logo, as these are usually the dominant colors in a firm’s brand identity. Does your current color (or palette of colors) stand out from your competition? If not, think long and hard about making a change.

Color Identifies You

Color can become closely associated with your business. In certain contexts, just seeing a corporate color can activate recall of your brand. According to a University of Loyola, Maryland study, color can enhance brand recognition by up to 80 percent.

Color is Visceral

People react to color instinctively. Color can cut through visual clutter and commands attention—so long as the color is differentiated.

Psychology of Colors

Color choices can affect people’s moods and attitudes. Studies have shown that every color has emotional implications, and many businesses use color to influence people’s buying behavior. Retail product companies, for instance, may test dozens of different package colors in stores before selecting the one that elicits the best response from consumers. To further complicate the picture, different cultures react to the colors in different ways—which may require color testing in each major market.

In the world of professional service branding, however, color choice is less a psychological issue than a strategic one. Because most services are not reflexive purchases, the psychology of color plays a diminished role in the professional service buyer’s decision-making. You would be far better served choosing a color that strongly differentiates your firm from the competition than spinning your color wheels trying to select a color with optimal emotional and symbolic characteristics. That is not to say that specific hues are irrelevant; but their psychological importance is subordinate to color’s role as a differentiator.

Color plays an enormous role in brand recognition. But to have an appreciable impact, colors must be chosen for the right reasons and with eyes open to the marketplace. This means removing your own biases from the process (see Branding Away the Blues, below) and making choices that will provide sufficient differentiation for your business.

Quiz answers:1. IBM 2. Caterpiller 3. UPS 4. Hertz, Avis, Enterprise 5. Tiffany

Branding Away the Blues

If you are like most people, you have a favorite color. Color preference is highly personal and deeply rooted. As a result, nobody should rely on personal preference alone to dictate corporate colors.

Statistically, more people like blue than any other color. Not surprisingly, blue is also the most commonly used color in business. Of course, in a sea of blue logos just about any other color is going to stand out. Savvy brand marketers understand this and search for corporate colors that contrast with the competition. It’s another (and particularly important) tool marketers can use to draw attention away from competing brands.

Read Earlier Posts in This Series:

Additional Resources

How Hinge Can Help

Develop rebranding strategies that better connect with existing clients and prospects. Hinge’s Branding Program can help your firm stand out from the competition and build a brand that drives sustained growth.