Is your logo the right color?

Color is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Color is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Not every logo color is chosen for scientific, brand or psychological reasons.

Case in point… the Macy’s “star.” The iconic store and brand has always featured a star, but why? To highlight superior products and service? Nope. To make you feel like a star for shopping there? Nah.

MacysFounder Rowland Hussey Macy wanted a star because he had a red star tattoo—one he got as a teenager while working on a Nantucket whaling ship. The dude just liked red stars.

Other brands, though, agonize over logo color. Not just blue, but WHICH blue?!? What does the color SAY about us and our brand?!?

There are rainbows worth of studies, consultants and reasons to choose cobalt over navy. And that subjectivity is not something I’m about to solve, but…

Here are some eye-popping stats on color you may not know.

  • More companies/brands use blue than any other color. Red comes in a close second, then black or gray.
  • An interesting tie to that first bulleted nugget… blue is most people’s favorite color. Recent evidence includes iPhone 5c purchases—blue was the number-one seller, followed closely by white, then green, pink and a distant yellow.
  • Studies show that 80% (some say more) of customers’ snap purchasing decisions are based on color.
  • 95% of brands use only one or two colors in their logos.
  • Ancient cultures practiced the art of chromotherapy—the use of colors to heal. They thought red stimulated circulation, blue soothed illness, and more.
  • One study found that patients saw warm-colored pills (yellow, orange and red) as being more effective than cool-colored pills (blues, purples and greens).

Let me put to rest one thing… art directors and psychologists do not meet in secret to hatch up color theory. There’s no color conspiracy. Instead, it is highly subjective—painted in people’s minds and opinions by culture, past experience, trends and countless other factors.

Still, I thought I’d share at least some of the current thinking on brands and color—particularly logos. Let’s take a little ride across the spectrum…

YELLOW says warmth, optimism and brightness. You see it in a wide range of industries, used as both a primary or secondary color in many contemporary logos:

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The sad side of yellow: Studies show that it can make babies cry, and people are more likely to lose their tempers in yellow rooms. Who does these studies anyway?!?

 

ORANGE communicates cheerfulness, confidence and energy. Lots of brands feature orange—particularly those that elicit strong client loyalty:

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Orange you glad to know… this color is used a lot in advertising to draw attention. It’s not quite as alarming as red, but it gets the job done.

 

RED is about passion, youth and boldness. It’s a favorite among many of the world’s biggest brands:

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Seeing red: Sometimes, red can be seen as aggressive. In clinical studies—no joke—it stimulated the pituitary gland. Others say it revs up appetite, which explains why so many restaurant brands use it.

GREEN is synonymous with health, growth and feeling calm. Not a lot of brands can pull off green, but these guys do it well:

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Going green: Many cultures see green as the color of fertility. In 15th century Europe, green was the color of choice for brides.

 

PURPLE is often associated with sophistication, elegance and even mystery. This halfway point between red and blue appears in more logos than you may realize…

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Purple eater of the people: This color, historically, has been most associated with royalty and wealth. Hence the historical nod with Hallmark’s crown.

 

BLACK is used by brands to denote expense, stature and being classic. Every logo has a black and white version, but these companies wear black quite nicely as their primary outfit…

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Yay, but what of death? Most cultures associate black with death and mourning. Just sayin’.

 

BLUE is the most popular logo color, maybe because it’s seen as trustworthy, responsible and soothing. Corporate America just loves this side of the spectrum:

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Got the blues: English is loaded with “blue” phrases like blue ribbon, blue blood, blue moon, blue collar, true blue, into the wild blue yonder, talking until you’re blue in the face, and out of the blue among many others.

What about consumers and color? It’s all about perception. A study called the Interactive Effects of Colors tells us that consumers think a brand’s color should be a fit with what it’s selling. In the study’s words, it should be appropriate. Couple that with the fact that color is the first thing a person notices when looking at your logo, and it can really get you thinking. Or more likely overthinking.

It comes down to this. As you just saw in our examples, colors do loosely align with certain traits and characteristics. But just as important is picking the color that matches your brand and its personality. Whether it’s yellow, green or blue… make sure it’s you.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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