How to pick the right colour for your brand

by Ben Harbinson
on 25 Jul, 2017
Ben Harbinson

Colour plays a big role in the perception of the services, value and personality of your brand. It has the unique capability of conveying a message or meaning without the use of words. More importantly, the colour palette you choose for your brand can form memorable first impressions with potential customers by creating an immediate emotional response.

Colours always come with an association – positive or negative.  Depending on the context in which you use colour, these associations can change. Personal experience, culture, time period, location and gender will all have an effect on an individual’s interpretation of certain colours. Consider how different shades of one colour can create a different feeling – hot pink vs baby pink.

Colour can also be used to create contrast and may help establish a point of difference for your brand in a competitive market. Below, we share 4 tips to ensure you pick the right colour for your brand.

1 Establish your brand identity

Establishing your brand identity generally involves a workshop to better understand the values, goals and story of your business. Consider what you offer, what your customers want, what they are drawn to and what they are likely to be loyal to.

Learn more: How to build a strong brand

Representing these values visually is the key to ensuring your product or service stands out from the competition and remains instantly recognisable. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through colour. Also, make sure you look at what’s already out in the marketplace. Don’t try to go head to head with Cadbury by using purple if you’re a chocolate maker – for a start they have that colour trademarked!

2 Define your brand’s archetype

When developing a colour palette for your brand, start by defining your brand’s archetype. This ties in nicely with establishing your brand identity. There are many reasons this is beneficial in determining your branding, however the main reasons include:

  • Knowing who you are and what you stand for: cement your brand identity
  • Establish deeper emotional connections with your customers: encourage brand loyalty
  • Steer future directions for your company: product and service development

This isn’t a complicated step. In simple terms, you are assigning a personality or genre to your brand – a symbolic representation of everything you and your customers stand for.

One way of approaching this is to imagine that your brand is a person. Think about the range of characteristics that portray your brand – ‘fun’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘friendly’, ‘empathetic’, ‘generous’, ‘ruthless’ – you get the drift! Consider the driving force and motivation to why your brand exists and what it provides.

Again, if we use Cadbury as our example, the archetype structure of this brand is the Jester. It’s primary values and brand story is humour, joy and frivolity. The product itself is a treat, consumed as a reward, on special occasions, and a sign of happiness. The use of the colour purple reinforces Cadbury’s archetype, keeping their customers loyal to a brand that embodies those particular values of humour, joy and a little bit of luxury.

Explore more: Top 12 brand archetypes

3 Understand the message you want to convey: colour psychology

Now that you have a greater understanding of your brands values, goals and offering, you can consider the key messages you want to convey about your brand. This is possibly the most important step as it will drive all of the other decisions you make. When thinking about your key brand messages and how you will convey these through the colour palette of your brand, it is worth considering colour psychology.  Colour psychology is the study of colour and its effect on human behaviour.

Colour psychology has been around for some time and identifies the role colour plays in evoking an emotional response. In fact one article (Impact of color on marketing) found that people establish a particular view about a person, environment or product within 90 seconds of their initial interaction. Up to 90 percent of these perceptions are based on colour alone!

Therefore, it’s incredibly important to consider how these visual cues will have a physical effect on your consumer base. Red, for example, will increase your heart rate and blood pressure and blue will reinforce values of trustworthiness and authority.

Read more: The role of colour psychology in marketing

4 Tips for choosing a memorable brand colour palette

Now combine all of your ideas and insight from the previous three steps to determine your brand colour palette. Remember – you want something that will stand out from the crowd!

A singular colour creates a bold and symbolic representation of your brand . However, it can often be more beneficial to develop a colour palette with multiple colours, shades or tones. This gives you greater scope when it comes to designing your website, targeting your customers, staying consistent and developing brand awareness. A strong palette includes a balanced mix of light, medium, and dark tones, regardless of whether it uses a monochromatic, analogous, or complementary colour scheme.

Here are some of our top tips to consider when choosing your brand colour palette:

  1. Gather inspiration from… everywhere! Pinterest might be a good place to start. Create a new board and collate images that relate to or represent your brand’s archetype. Identify recurring colours and patterns.
  2. Road-test your colour choice on your target market (not your friends and family!) Your designer can suggest what they think works best to represent your brand story and values, but feedback from your customer base will ultimately tell you if you’re connecting with your market.
  3. Get your designer to select spot or Pantone colours when creating a style guide. Even if you don’t intend to use the PMS colour just yet. It will ensure consistent use of colour applications regardless of which printer you use.

You may also choose to use one (or more) of these 3 tools to help you pick a colour palette that suits your brand:

  • Adobe Color CC: a great tool to use if you want to play around with colour preferences and combinations. Use the colour rule toggle to generate variations of one colour – monochromatic, triadic, complementary etc.
  • Coolers: another interactive tool that can be used to generate, save and share colour palettes. By clicking the space bar you can flick through multiple arrays of colour palettes to find what you’re looking for.
  • Dribble: a platform where design talent from all over the world share their creations. This can be a great place to start for inspiration. Take a look at how other designers are using colour combinations to create memorable designs.

Ready for action?

Still feeling a little lost? The colours you choose will play a large role in the perception of the services, value and personality of your brand. Contact the team at Thirst Creative today if you need help developing a strong brand strategy and design. We’ll show you just how successful an effectively branded business can be!

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