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Design Strategy: How Customers Respond to Your Brand's Colors

image for Tiplyashina Evgeniya/Shutterstock
Tiplyashina Evgeniya/Shutterstock
  • The color of something strongly influences the way you feel about it, even though you may not realize it.
  • When choosing colors for your business, consider what feelings those colors will evoke in your customers.
  • Many companies prefer a minimalist approach when selecting their company colors.

When you see yellow, do you think about the sun or feel cheerful? When you see red, do you associate it with anger, or perhaps passion? Color directly affects your moods and subconsciously connects you to certain symbols or experiences.

This is an important factor to consider when you're choosing a color scheme and crafting branded materials for your company. The palette you use for your brand can instantly turn clients on or off to your products and services.

"The science behind color processing is extremely powerful because it affects people's emotions on a subconscious level," said Steve Baker, president of Brandfolder, a digital asset management company. "Studies show that humans may react specific ways to certain shades – a fact that marketers and designers should leverage. When used correctly, color can influence a consumer's perception of your brand and can persuade someone to purchase your product."

What kinds of connotations do your branded materials have? Research by 99designs and a recent study by Vistaprint about color psychology showed the following associations people make with certain colors, and which industries each works best for:

  • Red: excitement, passion, anger, love, danger, strength (example industries: retail, fitness, travel)

  • Orange: invigoration, energy, value, candor (example industries: construction, lawn service, farming)

  • Yellow: friendliness, youth, cheer, warmth, sunshine (example industries: heating repair, travel, pool services)

  • Green: nature, environmental responsibility, sustainability (example industries: agriculture, education, environment)

  • Blue: maturity, trust, competence, dependability, security (example industries: finance, business, travel, technology, health care, real estate, entertainment)

  • Purple: wisdom, sophistication, glamour, elegance, style (example industries: beauty, arts, clothing)

  • Pink: femininity, beauty, friendliness (example industries: beauty, floral, fashion)

  • Brown: ruggedness, masculinity, seriousness, endurance (example industries: fitness, construction, auto repair)

  • White: purity, cleanliness, simplicity (example industries: business, medical, technology)

  • Black: slickness, luxury, strength, tradition, formality (example industries: car repair, religion, fashion)

  • Gray: impartiality, composure, neutrality, balance (example industries: legal, finance, counseling)

Pamela Webber, chief marketing officer of 99designs, noted that customers' responses to colors are influenced by three major factors: aesthetics, learned associations and programmed associations.

  • Aesthetics:Some color combinations harmonize well, while others clash and turn the customer off, Webber said. On the other hand, consumers tune out bland, too-similar color palettes.

  • Learned associations: Deeply ingrained cultural associations, such as brides wearing white as a symbol of purity or funeralgoers wearing black to embody a somber occasion, can also affect how a person perceives color.

  • Programmed associations:Researchers suspect that at least some color associations are the result of evolution, Webber said. For instance, few people choose brown as a favorite color because of the hue's association with rotting produce, while red is a universal sign of heightened, passionate emotions.  

As the owner of your business, you are responsible for your branding. You need to remember that this brand will be what causes consumers to think about your business. When you are considering a design-and-brand strategy, first you need to look at your overall business plan and identify your target consumer. You are not going to be able to appeal to everyone, so you need to figure out your audience and market to that segment. The better you can zero in on your specific market, the more growth your company will see. 

Once you identify your target customers, you need to learn as much about them as you can. Then, you can develop a messaging strategy that addresses their needs. Next, determine your logo, tagline and marketing strategy, and develop a website, as that will be the first point of contact for most consumers. Be prepared to adjust your strategy as needed; what works today may not be successful five years from now.

When designing your logo, website or marketing materials, choose color combinations that work well with the message you want to convey.

"Spend some time thinking about your brand's personality, identity and values, and make sure the colors you consider reflect these," said Dr. Sally Augustin, a practicing environmental and design psychologist and principal at Design With Science. "While a traditional business may use a conservative color palette, a bold business should go with bold colors."

If you're struggling to choose a single color for your brand, she added, you can experiment with combinations that complement each other.

The most common color for businesses is blue. When you think of businesses that use blue, Facebook or Intel may come to mind. Many companies prefer a minimalist approach to logos and use only one or two colors in their logos. Other companies, such as Google, have found success with many colors, but most do better with fewer colors. 

You'll also want to consider what your competitors are doing. Rather than choosing the same hues as other companies in your industry, stand out by choosing a more original color scheme that still achieves your desired psychological positioning.

"For example, if your industry is saturated with yellow logos but you're hoping to convey a friendly, approachable image, you might consider pink or orange instead," Webber said.

Ultimately, Baker said, the best thing you can do for your business's color scheme is to do your research upfront and consult with an expert or professional design firm before you make any big decisions.

"Color is a powerful force," Baker said. "Use it to your advantage."

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.

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