Brand Color Theory and Practice – Part 1: Why Color Matters to Brands

What is your brand color? Did you spend time selecting the best color to consistently and effectively communicate your brand promise or did you just pick a color you like? Did you consider color psychology and the theories of color marketing and color branding? Many brands get it right when they choose a brand color, but even more get it wrong. In my new Brand Color Theory and Practice series, you get to see how brands are using color, how it’s helping their businesses grow, and how you can make sure you’re using color the right way to build your brand.

Brand Color and Cause Marketing

brand color theory If you’re not sure why color matters to brands, then consider the many nonprofit organizations that have successfully tied their causes to a specific color. In a stroke of marketing genius, nonprofit organizations created an emotional connection to their cause brands through color in the form of ribbons. People who wore a specific colored ribbon were part of the group that supported the associated cause.

This use of color ties to consumers’ emotions related to wanting to feel like they belong and wanting to feel like they’re doing something good. The ribbons are a proud mark of honor and people who don’t wear them are outsiders.

How many people have seen that Seinfeld episode when Kramer wouldn’t wear the ribbon during the AIDS walk? It perfectly addressed the power of brand color as a part of cause marketing.

Breast Cancer Pink

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so breast cancer pink seems like the perfect place to start this brand color series. Every October, a variety of brands go pink and introduce pink products (following the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s brand identity standards, which cite the specific Pantone colors in the brand’s color palette). In recent years, some of these products stick around throughout the year, but October is when you can find pink products on the shelves of every store (or so it seems).

breast cancer pink

From Nike to Post-It and Campbell’s to Wilson, every brand wants to show it’s part of the movement to support breast cancer. If a brand isn’t pink, it might suffer the same fate as Kramer did in that Seinfeld episode.

Why Color Matters to Brands

Color matters to brands for a few specific reasons. First, color can subconsciously communicate a consistent message of your brand’s promise to consumers. Second, it can help to support brand expectations and mold consumer perceptions of your brand. Third, color can make a brand stand out or blend in depending on the business’ strategy and audience’s wants and needs. Fourth, color can evoke emotions that, as the breast cancer pink example above shows, can be very powerful.

Think of your favorite brand. What is that brand’s primary color? What colors are included in its color palette? Even if you don’t have access to the brand’s identity guidelines, you can get an idea of what its color palette is by looking at its advertising and packaging. A well-defined brand will use a consistent primary color and color palette in all of its marketing communications and consumer touch points. You need to do the same thing with your brand, but first, you have to choose your brand color (or confirm that you’re using the right brand color).

Stay tuned for future posts in the Brand Color Theory and Practice series to learn more about using colors in branding, how color psychology affects brands, and how to choose your brand color palette.

Image: stock.xchng

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.