This is the final article in our Colour Theory series, and will discuss the ways you can apply colour theory in your business.
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we discussed why colour theory is important and what colour theory is. Now, it’s time to explore how you can apply colour theory to your business’s marketing and branding to create a visual for the personality of your endeavour.
Recall, in Part 2, the 3rd key element of colour theory was colour context. Context is huge when it comes to applying colour theory in your marketing and branding initiatives, both as it pertains to the relationships of colours within your logo and the market context in which you are working.
The Isolation Effect states that an item which “stands out like a sore thumb” is more likely to be remembered. Research shows that participants are able to recognize and recall an item far better when it blatantly sticks out from its surroundings.1 Since the name of the game, when it comes to your branding, is to make a BIG and lasting impact your customers, this isolation effect and the context in which your colours will be viewed are essential to how they are viewed. This means that if your colour palette stands out from competitors, but also has enough contrast and “wow-factor” in itself, it will stick in your customers’ and potential customers’ minds much easier.
For example, consider that you are working in a market where most of your competitors are using shades of yellow in their marketing. Since you want to stand out from the crowd and take advantage of the isolation effect, but still want your colour scheme to fit the personality and identity of your company, you may choose to take up a green palette.
Generally, studies have shown that while a majority of consumers prefer colour patterns with similar hues, they lean towards palettes which also contain a highly contrasting accent colour. This means you might choose to employ a blue-green, green, and yellow-green palette. Using your understanding of colour theory, you could throw in an accent image, phrase, or word in orange-red, red, or purple-red to really stand out and catch people’s attention. To put it into the terminology we’ve been using, try creating a visual structure with base analogous colours (3 colours next to each other in the colour wheel) and contrast them with accent complementary (or even tertiary!) colours for high contrast and high memorability.
Since we understand that colour harmony is crucial in keeping your image pleasing and engaging for your consumers, keep in mind the 3 sources for creating colour harmony as discussed in Part 2:
- Analogous Colours
- Complementary Colours
- Nature-Based Colours
When you use these frameworks to develop your colour palette, you will ensure that your logo and branding will not be jarring for the viewer, or too boring.
In understanding colour theory, you will understand that colour can be interpreted different ways by different people, but that general cultural colour associations exist and can be capitalized on! Use colours that make sense for your business, with splashes of vibrant colour for creative businesses or austere and simple colour schemes for a sharper, cleaner look.
Research has shown that hues with a longer wavelength (such as red, orange, or yellow) can induce states of excitement, though this lessens with the shortening of the wavelengths (red is more exciting than orange, orange more than yellow, etc.). Yellow has also often been associated with cheerfulness or optimism, blue with competence and security, white with sincerity and simplicity, black with sophistication and glamour, purple with luxury, and green with nature and security.2 Though these are generalizations, they may be a good jumping-off point in deciding where to start with your colour palette.
Remember that, in addition to hue, saturation and value play a huge role in the look and feel of your colour palette. All of these things come together in the psychology of colour, and will impact the all-important first impression your branding can provide!
Note: If your business works with colours and naming colours for consumers, such as in cosmetics, textile colours in fashion, paint colours, etc., keep in mind that the names you assign to colours matter as well! Research has shown that when subjects are asked to evaluate products with different colour names, “fancy” names were far and above the preference.1 This means that instead of saying “blue-green” when discussing a beautiful scarf you have for sale, try instead “teal” or “aqua” or “sea blue.” The more unusual and unique colour names you use, the higher the customer’s desire to purchase. When giving name to the colours you are using, consider your audience. For green colours, “camouflage” might work best in some situations, while “moss” or “olive” might work best in others!
When you are creating your brand image or logo, take this understanding of colour theory forward into the process, ensuring that the colours you choose are doing the most for you! Take a look at our article on Brand Identity to apply this knowledge and create a visually harmonious, vibrant, memorable brand image.
If you already have a brand image and colour palette designed, now is the time to look it over and ask yourself if the colour schemes are doing everything they can for you! If not, don’t worry about trying to change your entire colour palette, but try picking out your key colours and creating harmony and visual interest around them.
Download this resource Colour Theory for Marketing, Branding, and Building Your Business’s Image: Part 3 – Application.
1 Ciotti, Gregory. “The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding.” NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna55181736
2 Labrecque, Lauren I., George R. Milne. “Exciting Red and Competent Blue: The Importance of Color in Marketing.” Academy of Marketing Science. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11747-010-0245-y.pdf