Guest Blog by Abby Davies of Calm.Homemade – If you follow me on Instagram, you know how much I love color! When I came across an Instagram post by the talented Abby Davies all about using color in your branding strategy, I knew I needed to reach out to her! I asked her to expound on the post and write a guest post for my blog! She was so very sweet and more than happy to share her knowledge on the subject! I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did!
The Meaning Of Color
In this post, I’ll run through everything you need to know about branding colours and how they each evoke a call to action & emotion. We’ll touch on the meaning and symbolism of colours as well as how to merge them with your business’ branding/marketing needs. But first things first, you need to understand why branding colours matter so much.
Why Branding Colours Matter
What do you think of when you hear the word “love?” Whether positive or negative, it most likely conjures a stronger emotional response than when you hear a word like “nothing.”
Whether we like it or not, emotions are powerful and often drive our decision making process. Because of this, you want to create a strong emotional connection with your audience & customers through your brand. You may not be able to fit your life’s story into one little logo but, by using branding colours as a tool, you do have a way to elicit emotions through your marketing efforts!
Just like the words “love” and “nothing” evoke different emotions, colours like red and blue create different human responses too. Even more interestingly, the same colours tend to provoke similar responses in different people. For instance, yellow tends to awaken similar feelings in people of joy & happiness. This even extends to different shades of individual colours. Take dark blue and light blue for example- they may be in the same colour family but different shade have different symbolisms and create different emotional responses! Light blue tends to elicit feelings of calm & relaxation, while dark blue represents trust & intelligence.
What Colours Do You Identify With?
Recently, I’ve made it my mission to develop my Instagram page, @Calm.Homemade. The page was initially created to help me through my struggles with mental health- it was an outlet, not only to escape for a little while but, to learn, share & get inspired. It may seem cliche- but in my opinion, every cloud really does have a silver lining. What was a dark time for me has resulted in something that has truly brightened up my present and will continue to do so in the future. So, what does this have to do with colours? I was feeling down. I had, as they say, “the blues”. I posted photos meant to help me and my audience feel calm & safe. The base colour being mainly white, signifying purity and innocence, while maintaining a minimalist look. I found it easier to relate to a feed that wasn’t cluttered, as my mind was too full at the time to cope. I also found myself identifying with different colours as my journey to recovery continued.
Each day I would gravitate towards different colours depending on how I was feeling. For me, this truly highlighted the power of colours and the impact they can have on our emotions! It also demonstrated to me the importance of branding for your business’s success. Take a moment to think about how you identify with the colours that make you happy, excited, and proud. Now, how do these colours relate to your business, your brand or your current Instagram feed? Do you already use certain colours to speak to or connect with your followers? If not, now is a great time to start!
Take a moment to write down a few values that are important to you and guide the way you live your life. Things like family, kindness and empowerment may come to mind or maybe you immediately think of things like Community, Caring and Advocacy. Keep in mind, the values that you personally identify with may be different from those of your brand. Understanding this difference will help guide you to the right colours to represent the core values of your brand. Once you have a list of traits & values that you feel represent you, your brand or your business, you can start pairing these with corresponding colors. If your business is all about spreading positivity & joy, or your products are designed to make people happy, you may want to focus on using more of the color yellow. By adding this pop of colour to your grid & branding it will help elicit feelings of cheerfulness in your customers and broader audience. If you’re a designer who wants to ooze professionalism, black may be a good way to show power, elegance and sophistication. Both are fabulous but very different. We’ll discuss this in more detail shortly.
Don’t think that because you’ve picked one or two main colors, values or emotions to focus on that you are stuck with them! Your brand can display professionalism while still showcasing your fun, loving self. Being approachable is key these days in marketing – people don’t buy the products you make, they buy the stories you tell and engage with brands they feel connected to. Being authentic and engaging will make you more relatable as a person not just a business. Just be your wonderful self and let the colours emphasize just how lovely you are!
Using Colours to Build Your Brand
So let’s go back to this word, love. What colour do you associate with it? Yep, Red. It’s one of the most powerful colours and speaks to everyone in different ways. Whether you’re a lover or a hater of the colour (like me), it can fill you with energy or anger, it’s a positive & negative colour. It’s used in all kinds of advertising. A red logo shows that your brand is powerful & high-energy, but can also signify danger or a sense of emergency. A colour with this spectrum of meaning is one that you should think carefully about using.
A great example is the use of red in the food/drink industry. Take McDonalds for instance- the iconic red & yellow branding is world renowned. The use of red is proven to heighten your appetite and many other food/drink companies follow the same pattern for this very reason.
It’s important to know what message you want your brand to present; what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. In contrast to a fast food chain; if you’re an independent vegan restaurant who doesn’t want to convey a sense of urgency, you may want to use a more organic colour like brown that symbolises honesty and wholesomeness. This will make your customers feel comfortable and more in-tune with the eco-friendly message of the business.
Spectrum of Brand Personality Traits
Choosing your branding colours is pretty easy if you know what you’re trying to communicate. Just like human personalities, brands can have a wide range of personality traits! From the list below, which of the options do you tend to gravitate towards? Do you feel like your business should be emulating the same traits? If not, be sure to mark the traits you feel best represent your brand!
Feminine – Masculine
Playful – Serious
Luxurious – affordable
Modern – Classic
Youthful – Mature
Loud – Subdued
Now focus on the core company / personal values you offer:
- Down to earth
- Get up & go
With your choices in mind, you can now pair these traits and values with the corresponding colours and begin designing your marketing color palette:
Red. Love, Passion, Power, Energy, Intensity, Danger, Anger & Urgency
Meaning: Red provokes emotion, whether it’s positive or negative it is certainly the most emotive colour and one that divides opinion like no other. What other colour do you know that can increase your heart rate so significantly that it induces actual hunger?
Red has always been associated with love, excitement and passion. If you look at commercial branding for Valentine’s Day for example, we are bombarded with a sea of red! Feelings are naturally associated with the colour red because of the human heart- which doesn’t just keep us alive, but traditionally was believed to be the source of our emotions.
Passion and feelings however, are not always lovey-dovey and harmonious. There is a fine line between pleasure and pain- as a result, the use of red can symbolise danger, affliction and anger.
Red is used to represent caution- and this is what needs to be done when using the colour in branding. It will evoke strong emotions, it’s up to you to make sure they’re the right ones.
Orange – Fresh, Youthful, Creative, Adventurous & Enthusiastic
Meanings: Orange certainly has the best of both worlds: the warmth of red and the optimism of yellow. Orange communicates activity and energy and this is because of two wonderful things nature gives us: the sun and (of course) the orange! When you draw back the curtains and a glorious ray of sunshine hits you, you want to go on an adventure and make the most of the day. Orange mirrors this, it is warm, it is optimistic and it is rejuvenating.
Orange can be a little overpowering at times and when overused and can be a bit garish if not carefully considered. Personally, I think less is more with orange and a small pop can really brighten up your branding.
Yellow – Optimistic, Cheerful, Playful, Happy, Life, Hope & Spontaneity
Meanings: Being the colour of the sun, yellow represents life, joy & happiness. If you look back in time, civilisations have worshiped the sun as it brings growth and life. This is as true now as it was then and this is the root cause of why yellow makes us so cheerful. Who doesn’t need more yellow in their life?
However, because yellow is the most visible colour from a distance it makes it a cautionary colour. Think about its use in: life vests, police cordoning tape and hazardous areas. The beauty of yellow is that it commands attention whether it’s good or bad.
Green – Natural, Vitality, Prestige, Wealth, Fortune, Growth, Harmony & Stability
Meanings: Green has two very common meanings that are quite contradictory; one being nature and the environment, the other being finance and wealth.
Green immediately comes to mind when you think of nature. Plants, trees, vast rainforests are all green! They are the lungs of the Earth so it’s very hard not to associate green with nature. By being eco-friendly, the aim is to protect nature which is why green is the obvious choice when talking about sustainability and being environmentally friendly.
The other connotation behind the colour green is money, wealth and fortune! A far cry from it’s other, more eco-friendly message! Ironically, you need trees in order to print money. These two things are connected by more than just colour.
Blue – Communicative, Trustworthy, Calming, Intelligence & Depressing
Meanings: Due to its calming, tranquil and versatile attributes, blue is considered the most universally ‘liked’ colour. If you’ve ever looked out upon a peaceful blue sea or gazed up at a cloudless blue sky then you’ll have experienced the calming nature of this colour first-hand. It can have exactly the same impact in branding too. It’s not only blue’s serenity that resonates with us, but it’s power to evoke feelings of connectivity and communication. Companies such as Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn all use blue as their primary colour to highlight the power of communication.
One aspect of blue’s versatility is that it can also symbolise negative emotions such as deep sadness and depression. I’m sure you’re all aware of the saying “feeling blue”. Blue is a colour that needs careful consideration before applying, but if done in the right way, can communicate a very powerful and authentic message.
Purple – Royalty, Majestic, Spiritual, Mysterious & Luxury
Meanings: What did Persian Kings, Roman Emperors and Byzantine Royalty all have in common when it came to the colour of their finest attire? They all wore purple! Since ancient times this colour has represented royalty, opulence and luxury. Even now, The Queen’s Crown Jewels are predominantly purple.
Purple also has a sense of mystery because it occurs less frequently in nature than a lot of other colours. Not only that, but because it was the colour of the highest members of society it would have been seen less in day-to-day life adding intrigue to the colour.
Above, I have focused on darker purple but lighter shades, such as lilac, evoke different feelings altogether. Lavender is quite feminine, sentimental and even nostalgic.
Finally, purple contains the best qualities of both red and blue which are often seen as opposing colours. You could argue that blue dilutes the impassioned nature of red and tops it up with a sense of conscientiousness.
Brown – Organic, Wholesomeness, Earth, Simple, Honest & Warmth
Meanings: Brown can usually be found in branding connected to organic foods & beauty products as it represents the earth. Being such a huge part of nature it’s no wonder brown has found itself to speak for the eco-friendly companies so beautifully. If you want to convey a message of wholesomeness, strength and sustainability then brown is the colour for you.
Pink – Feminine, Sentimental, Romantic, Exciting, Youthfulness & Playful
Meanings: In my opinion, pink can be a tricky colour to use in branding due to the diverse spectrum of shades as well as meanings. For instance, it has been stereotypically associated with being ‘girly’. If you attend a gender reveal party- pink represents the imminent arrival of a baby girl.
However, each shade of pink highlights a different attribute. Pastels, blush and dusty pink, for example, speak of: romance, dreaminess and hold a sense of nostalgia/youthfulness. Seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses as they say.
In contrast, striking hot-pink and cerise hold totally different meanings of hyperactivity, raciness and sometimes even sexualisation.
Before using pink, ask yourself: “What do I want my brand to avoid saying?” as slightly different tones can have significantly different connotations.
Black – Sophistication, Professionalism, Classic, Business, Death, Mystery & Evil
Meanings: Historically, Ancient Egyptians believed that the colour black symbolised life and rebirth. This in -turn shrouds the colour black in mystery. People fear what they don’t understand and as a result, black has its fair share of negative connotations. Black has traditionally been seen as the colour of death, sorrow & evil.
But in recent years, black has come to represent: professionalism, sophistication & elegance. This could be a result of the commercialised and tech-driven society we live in today. Black is bold, black is classic and black means business.
White – Purity, Simplicity, Innocence, Minimalism & Cleansing
Meanings: White represents simplicity, purity, innocence, and perfection. It is often used by designers to convey a minimalist aesthetic and clean, modern image.
One negative message that might be conveyed by the use of white is that it can be interpreted as cold and clinical, lacking comfort and warmth.
From a branding perspective- it’s brilliant to use as a fresh, blank canvas. It’s clean, precise, minimal and perfect for pairing with other colours.
Multicolour – Variety, Fun, Diversity & Optimism
Meanings: the use of multi-colour/rainbow colours in branding displays: diversity, variety and culture. If we look at Google- the use of multiple, primary colours represents their overarching knowledge of available information. A different, but equally positive use of multi-colour branding, can be seen in both the Olympic logo and the LGBTQ’s rainbow symbol. Here it displays a sense of unity in difference as well as community.
One thing to be wary of when using the multi-colours in branding is that it can sometimes be portrayed as infantile. Lots of early-learning facilities use rainbows to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness which is amazing but, wouldn’t necessarily speak to every brand’s primary message.
Before I knew about the meaning behind colours, I found myself connecting most with white and blue, they spoke to me at a time I needed them the most. My branding is all about creating a calm environment but stemmed from a place of sadness. It’s now an outlet where I can focus on being mindful and at peace through crocheting & creating. My feed has pops of pastel colours running though, depending on my mood but overall the white background ties it all together nicely. The power of colour has played a key part in defining my brand and with careful selection it can define yours too.
I really hope you can take something away from this and let the power of colours speak for you and your brand. If you have any questions or need any additional advice on how to use colours in your branding you can contact me, Abby @calm.homemade. I’d love to hear from you.