Some brands are instantly recognizable by a single color. For example, the Tiffany blue box is universal (test your knowledge of trademarked colors by taking this pop quiz).
The color a company uses to brand itself conveys how trustworthy they are to consumers, the quality of their products, and much more.
We’ve put together a fun color guide based on findings by Karen Haller, a UK-based business color and branding expert who has consulted with a number of well-known brands including Dulux, Orange Mobile, and Logitech.
Brands use red when they want to be seen as powerful, passionate companies.
What it means: Red is the color of power and passion. Haller says it can also be linked to excitement, energy, and physical courage.
Which brands use it: The Virgin Group is one of the biggest, most powerful brands in the world. Even when they were just starting out, Richard Branson was smart to use red to convey confidence and energy. Coca-Cola is another big brand that uses red in its lettering. Recently, French shoemaker Christian Louboutin SA won the right to trademark the brand’s distinctive red soles after suing Yves Saint Laurent.
Brands use green to show their youthfulness and love of Mother Earth.
What it means: Green is the color of money and envy, but it also signifies the environment, Mother Earth, and universal love, Haller says. Green is attractive to youth and to those who enjoy life.
Which brands use it: The green mermaid on the center of every Starbucks cup is intended to brand the coffee company as one that is young and Earth-friendly. Starbucks is proud of its responsibility to the environment and its fair trade coffee products. Garnier Fructis is another green-colored brand, whose shampoos and other hair and body products jump off the shelves.
Brands use blue to seem calm and logical.
What it means: Bluerepresents “trust, integrity, and communication,” Haller says. However, the use of the wrong tone of blue “can make a brand appear cold, aloof and unapproachable.” Blue relates to the mind, so consumers associate it with logic and communication. It’s also serene, like the ocean, and calming to look at.
Which brands use it: The major social media companies—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—use blue as their primary brand colors. Haller points out that the lighter blue of Twitter also “expresses the fun side of social media, given the high amount of yellow undertone.” Tiffany & Co. is also immediately recognized by its trademark teal blue.
Brands use purple to seem luxurious and whimsical.
What it means: “Quality, luxury, and decadence” are all associated with purple, says Haller, as is royalty. However, it can sometimes come off as tacky, too whimsical, or not in touch with reality, and depending on the company, this can be detrimental to the message the brand wants to send.
Which brands use it: Cadbury’s trademark purple pairs well with its rich chocolate products. Pop singer Prince is also known for being decked out in purple.
Brands use black to signify exclusivity and glamor.
What it means: Like purple,black can also be seen as a luxurious color. “Black, when used correctly can communicate glamour, sophistication, exclusivity,” Haller says. Black is a color you take seriously.
Which brands use it: The gold and black logo of invitation-only sample sale site Gilt Groupe says nothing if not ‘exclusivity.’ Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent are also black-sporting brands.
Brands use yellow to show that they’re fun and friendly.
What it means: Brands that use yellow are “expressing a personality of happiness, optimism and friendliness.” Yellow is also the most visible color in daylight, says Haller, making it difficult to overlook brands that use the color.
Which brands use it:McDonald’s uses yellow in the big yellow ‘M’ raised high above the streets. Contrasted against a blue sky, it pops out at people driving by. IKEA also uses yellow in order to tell consumers that shopping at IKEA is a fun, happy experience.
Brands use orange to signify playfulness and physical comfort.
What it means: Orange is powerfully bright. Haller says that companies using orange are seen as “fun, playful and enjoying social interaction.” Orange can also represent physical comfort, like food and warmth. But be cautious when using orange, she says, because some brands that do “come across as frivolous” and unable to take things seriously.
Which brands use it: The kids’ TV network Nickelodeon is branded with a bright orange splat. It’s a good choice for the brand because it stands out to kids, and the programming they present is all about having fun. Financial institution ING also uses orange in their branding, but they contrast the playfulness of the orange with the more logical blue.
Brands use pink to show that they’re sweet or sexy, depending on the pink.
What it means: Pik may be an obvious color to associate with certain qualities. Pink stands for femininity, as well as “love, nurturing, and caring.” A lighter pink is sweet, usually marketed towards little girls, whereas a brighter pink holds sex appeal.
Which brands use it: Victoria’s secret is a prime example of a pink-branded company. They even have a line of products called PINK. Many charities related to breast cancer, such as Susan G. Komen, color themselves pink, along with the recognizable awareness ribbons worn during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Brands use brown to show warmth and dependability.
What it means: Chocolate is something that first comes to mind when you think of brown, but the deeper meaning behind the color is warmth, safety, reliability, and dependability, says Haller.
Which brands use it: UPS is a brand consumers want to trust to get their mail and packages from point A to point B on time. Brown is a great color choice for them. On the chocolate side of things, original M&Ms come in the easily identifiable brown packaging, and all the warm feelings of the sweet chocolate are there in the brand.