The Calculated Creative

The Subconscious Power of Color in Branding

Skillfully employing color choices that complement a thoughtful brand identity can enhance a brand's messaging and connection with its audience.

Branding experts constantly emphasize the importance of choosing the right colors for our brands.

But after hours spent trying to determine if red or blue best represents our brand personality, we are still left confused and uncertain.

Contradicting claims about universal meanings of colors like blue and yellow make things even murkier.

Rather than focus on presumed color meanings, start with the emotional experience you want to convey and always ground in consumer research.

By using color to strategically complement branding, not drive it, we can elevate brand messaging and create powerful connections.

The power of color may be overrated

  • Multiple studies show that color has a minimal impact on consumers' willingness to purchase a product - other factors like price, quality, features, and reviews are much more important drivers.
  • People are still able to recognize major brands when their logos are stripped of all color, suggesting that specific colors are not essential to brand recognition in many cases.
  • Differences in color preferences and meanings across cultures means that universal color meanings don't necessarily translate - a color that evokes one response in western cultures may provoke a completely different response in eastern cultures.
  • Color rarely appears alone in branding - it interacts with other brand elements like fonts, imagery, shapes, and packaging design. So its impact depends heavily on those pairings, which makes isolating its singular influence complex.

So in many instances, color seems to be less potent than we believed in swaying customer perceptions and choices.

Don't underestimate the color red

  • Of all colors, red does tend to increase consumers' excitement, attention, willingness to purchase and luxury brand perceptions more consistently than other colors like blues and greens.
  • These effects span product categories and cultural boundaries more broadly than other colors, suggesting an underlying primal reaction at work.
  • Studies show these reactions to red happen quickly and subconsciously before more conscious rational thought occurs. Researchers believe it ties to our biologically ingrained reactions to the color red present throughout nature.

So while most colors may not have definitive universal meanings, the color red does seem to hold an unusually high degree of subconscious power across humanity.

Use color as a complement to your brand identity

  1. Instead of fixating on overly-specific meanings assigned to individual colors, focus first on choosing colors that evoke the general tone and texture of feeling you want associated with your brand.
  2. Pick color palettes that will best match the emotional landscape you want customers to experience - vibrant and energetic, soothing and calm, elegant and sophisticated, clean and refreshing etc.
  3. Remember that cultural associations with specific colors can change quite quickly over time based on exposure, context and trends - so leave room for evolving interpretations.
  4. Test possible color selections extensively with your target demographics through surveys, focus groups and psychology tests to gain insights into how they consciously and subconsciously perceive the colors.

The Takeaway

While color may not always radically alter perceptions and choices alone...

Skillfully employing color choices that complement a thoughtful brand identity can still enhance a brand's messaging and connection with its audience.

Make sure to ground color decisions in hard consumer insights rather than leaning on subjective universal meanings.

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