How to select the right colours for your brand

Let’s look at how powerful emotional connections are communicated through colour.

Close your eyes for a moment (that won’t help you read this, but you get it). We’re going to say (*ahem, type*) a few words and we want you to think about the colours that immediately come to mind.

Love, happiness, hunger, nature. Alright, open your eyes. If pink, yellow, red and green were the colours that came to mind then dayyyum guuurl – you’ve got a colour thang goin’ on.

Did you know that emotions play a significant role in the way we make decisions? They trigger all kinds of feelings, and ooze both positive and negative feelings – kinda like a yin and yang (because, balanced). The brain processes colour before it processes shapes or words. In fact, up to 90% of product impressions* are made not from touching, feeling or using but from the colours presented to the consumer through branding.

Brands with powerful colour schemes didn’t happen by accident. Like all branding bosses, big brands such as Coca Cola, McDonalds and Apple all harnessed colour psychology to create meaningful and emotional connections with their customers.

For Coca Cola, it was all about expressing energy and impulse purchasing, key characteristics created by the colour red. 

Studies have shown that the colour red can stimulate appetite and excitement – which makes it an excellent choice for branding beverages.

Claimed as ‘its second secret formula’ Coca Cola’s ‘red’ has become a promise over the past century. Infamous for its white scripted text on a distinct red background, has helped the connection between brand and colour ooze deep down in our human psyche without us being consciously aware of it even happening.

For McDonalds, it was creating synergy between the excitement of the colour red blended with the elation and playfulness of the colour yellow, contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t because they looked nice with Ronald McDonald’s clown-like face.

A happy place to eat that’s super friendly? Sounds like somewhere you’d rather be right? McDonald’s branding colours aren’t only limited to their Golden Arches, signage or advertising, they go as far into our other sensory triggers as possible. What are two of the most classic condiments they use on the daily? Red and yellow remind us of Ketchup and Mustard!

McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food chain that adopts this colour palette, Burger King, Hungry Jacks and Pizza Hut just to name a few all use Red and Yellow in their branding too. If you find yourself salivating over a juicy burger and fries the next time you see the McDonald’s logo, it might not actually be hunger, moreso a subconscious reaction to the strategically selected set of colours.

Whereas tech giant Apple stuck to the simplistic and purity of white to match the clean lines of their products and minimalist shopping experience. 

Steve Jobs (the Founder of Apple) selected white for its purity – super aligned to his vision of beautifully-designed, innovative products and at the time of Apple’s creation, the competition. The computer manufacturers market was saturated with gray.

Apple has always positioned themselves differently, unlike any other tech company, this ‘Think different’ theory is the essence of their business model. Their consumers don’t think: “I want this because it’s a Dual-SIM, 64GB, 12-megapixel hexa-core processing smartphone.” They think: “I want this because it’s an Apple iPhone.”

We can head down the rabbit hole into the rainbow-clad world of colour psychology, but we’ve already done that [because of course we have].

Click here to download our cheatsheet and dive deep into how colour psychology came about, plus what each colour evokes in your audience. Now, back to your scheduled programming.

When choosing your official brand colours, we need to think beyond using just your faves, because we went into business to solve a problem for our dream clients right? Your business isn’t about you (did we just say that, yessss gurl, we did). Let’s start by creating your dream customer that aligns perfectly with your brand values and narrow down the colours that partner with them. 

Let’s call her Daisy.

What solution is your brand providing Daisy?
Sure Daisy might be able to DIY the solution at home, sure she might also be able to go to your competitor down the road.

Let’s rephrase the question, ‘what unique emotional solution are you providing to Daisy?’.

How does your business make her feel when you provide this product or service?

When she interacts with your brand, how do you want her to feel? 

Think about the emotional state you want Daisy to feel when she comes into contact with any single touchpoint of your business. This ranges from seeing them in-person to social media posts, website and beyond.

Does she feel confident, inspired, informed, maybe even excited? Driven by your brand values and tone of voice, you should have an idea now about the emotions that align with Daisy’s connection with your brand. 

Using your cheatsheet, narrow your colours down based on your dream client’s emotions you’ve listed [thanks, Daisy], think about where these colours need to go. We’re talking logo, website, your uniforms, the foundation of your marketing designs and even your storefront. As a result, we need our colours to work in harmony with each other and ultimately, become recognisable. A brilliant way to start is by taking your chosen brand colours and creating a colour palette.

A colour palette takes your brand colours and gets much more specific. Many brands will have more than one colour, by generating a colour palette, you’re able to ensure each of them work in harmony with each other across the different elements of your branding. 

Start with your base colour. Of all the good vibes you want your brand to give off, what is the most important one? Which one oozes your brand values and evokes those feel-good Daisy emotions? Your base colour is the primary colour your customers will associate your brand with.

Next up we have your accent colours. A little trickier, your accent colours need to serve your brand personality but also work harmoniously with your base colour. Whilst your logo may hero one colour, your social media marketing may feature an additional two or three. Knowing your accent colours allows you to celebrate your branding in a way that is consistent and memorable. 

Finally, you’ll need to choose a neutral. Your go-to for backgrounds, your neutral compliments your base and accent colours without drawing attention away from the emotional connections they evoke.

With your colour connections created, we recommend adding your specific colour codes into your brand guidelines to showcase where, when and how these colours are implemented across all media platforms (aka – both print and digital).

If colouring outside the lines isn’t your thing then let’s work together to create your perfect palette! Get started by downloading our Colour Cheatsheet to unearth *exactly* what your colours are saying about your brand here.