Brand Color Theory and Practice - Part 4: Brand Color Examples to Learn From

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Posted Oct 31, 2011
Susan Gunelius

In Parts 1-3 of the Brand Color Theory and Practice series, you learned why color matters, how color can make or break a brand, and what colors mean. Follow the preceding links to read each part if you missed them, because this article puts all of those lessons into practice by introducing you to some great examples of companies that use brand color as a core component of their brand-building success strategy.

brand color theory

As you learned earlier in this series, color can evoke feelings in people and elicit physiological reactions. Therefore, choosing the right colors for your brand color palette should be a critical part of your brand development process.

While every brand uses color in its logo and identity guidelines, few use color so well that their brand and their brand color have become synonymous. In other words, the brand color has evolved to clearly communicate the brand promise without any words. For example, in Part 1 of this series you learned how Breast Cancer Awareness Pink has become a symbol of the nonprofit in a way that companies should study and learn from.

Following are some great examples of companies that have succeeded with color which you can benchmark as you develop your own brand color palette.


ups truck brown

In Part 3 of this series, you learned that brown represents reliability and stability. What better color to represent the secure and guaranteed delivery of consumers' important packages than brown?

It might seem at first that brown is a poor choice for a brand color, it's the same color as dirt after all, but the psychology of the color brown is in perfect alignment with the UPS brand promise. Today, people see a brown UPS truck in the distance, and they know exactly what it means -- a package is coming.

Whole Foods

whole foods market

Is it even remotely surprising that the primary brand color for Whole Foods is green, the color that represents freshness and nature? Nope. This is a brand that took the safe and obvious route to represent its brand promise through its color palette, and why not? If the color works, use it.

Whole Foods presents the perfect example of how important it is to consider consumer perceptions and expectations for your brand and your market when selecting your brand color palette. Consumers expect an organic and natural food company to be "green" so using the color green as the company's primary brand color is an easy choice. Whole Foods isn't a brand that tries to go against the organic and freshness craze -- that's what the brand is all about!

Victoria's Secret

victorias secret store

What better color for a feminine brand than pink, right? Pink seems like an obvious choice for a feminine brand like Victoria's Secret, but where Victoria's Secret took the pink association to the next level of brand development was through consistency.

Everything about Victoria's Secret is pink -- from the retail bags, the in-store decor, the pink tissue paper used to wrap purchases, the line of Pink branded apparel and everything in between. For women, that pink color represents a symbol of sensuality, success (Victoria's Secret garments are not cheap), and camaraderie as Victoria's Secret has become the it brand for women.

Tiffany & Co.

tiffany and co

Tiffany & Co. is a great example of a brand color that developed meaning over time. The robin's egg blue color that came to be known as Tiffany Blue (custom Pantone color 1837, representing the year Tiffany & Co. was founded, which is now a registered trademark) debuted in the 1878 Tiffany's Blue Book catalog.

It is speculated on the company's website that the color may have been chosen because of the popular turquoise gemstone used in 19th century jewelry and which played an important part in wedding ceremonies at the time when brides would gift their attendants with a dove-shaped brooch set with turquoise as a symbol of remembrance.

As far as color psychology is concerned, turquoise blue symbolizes communication and creativity. For Tiffany & Co., the color evolved to represent style and sophistication. As the company explains, "Tiffany Blue boxes and shopping bags epitomize the jeweler's great heritage of elegance, exclusivity, and flawless craftsmanship."

However, the meaning of Tiffany Blue didn't evolve overnight. It was through consistency and masterful brand guardianship by Charles Tiffany that Tiffany Blue became such an iconic symbol. Again, the Tiffany & Co. website explains the story from 1906 when Charles Tiffany insisted that no blue Tiffany box could leave one of his stores unless it contained a Tiffany product purchased in the store. Instantly, the blue box was given a sense of exclusivity that never disappeared.

Brand Color Lessons to Learn

The examples above teach us several important lessons:

  1. Brand color can be chosen based on its meaning and the physiological reactions the color elicits.
  3. Brand color can be chosen because it meets consumer perceptions and expectations for the market. Alternately, a color can be chosen because it goes against the grain of what consumers expect and it stands out from the crowd.
  5. Brand color can be taken to a new level of symbolism through its consistent use.
  7. Brand color can evolve to have meaning for consumers even if its psychological meaning isn't a perfect match for the brand promise. In other words, your brand can give a color meaning rather than color simply giving a brand meaning.

Apply the lessons listed above to your own brand color development and management processes. Your business' results will improve if you take the time to give brand color the attention it deserves.

If you missed previous parts in the Brand Color Theory and Practice series, follow the links to read them now:

Image: stock.xchng, Flickr, Flickr, Flickr, Flickr

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