Branding with Color Theory

Does your brand’s color palette send the wrong message? Based on the theory behind color psychology, the answer could be yes.

Different colors can evoke different feelings and emotions. That’s why choosing your brand’s color palette is so important. Choosing the right colors for your marketing can be the difference between labeling your brand stylish and sophisticated or cheerful and playful.

While choosing the right colors can enhance your brand perception, poor color selection can do damage to your brand image. For example, if you choose the wrong colors for your logo, it can be hard to read, stand out from the crowd, or send the wrong message.

Marketers use color to influence how people think and behave towards a brand, and how they interpret information. By using colors strategically, you can get your audience to perceive your brand a certain way and behave with it accordingly.

The choice of colors goes beyond basic aesthetics. Content marketers need to understand what different colors mean and the emotion they provoke.

Color Meanings


The color red is associated with passion and aggression. This primary color evokes a sense of urgency. This is why promotions and clearance sales often use red in their designs. Red also stimulates your appetite, which makes it perfect for fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Chick-fil-a. The color red is also proven to increase viewers heart rate and blood pressure which is why it is associated with movement and excitement.


Did you know blue is the favorite color of 35% of women and 57% of men? This supports the theory that blue is one of the most powerful colors. Most people associate this color with the sky and water, creating a sense of peace and security. It also promotes reliability and tranquility, which is why many companies choose blue among all other colors in marketing to promote trust in their products.


When you think of eye-catching and cheerful colors, yellow is certainly a top contender. The color yellow is associated with the sun and evokes positive, radiant emotions like happiness, creativity, and over-all optimism. Because of its show-stopping quality, yellow is also used on warning signs. This also creates a sense of anxiety, which lends to companies using yellow to draw in impulsive buyers.


When you think of green, do you think of grass and vegetables? Most people do. Green is the color of nature is associated with health and tranquility. Companies often use green to relate to bio-production or to promote their eco-friendly products. Popular brands that use this color are BP (the oil company) and Subway (the sandwich shop).


Purple is one of the rarest colors to appear in nature. That is why is it associated with uniqueness and royalty. Purple is also related to respect, wisdom, and luxury which is why many cosmetic brands use this color to promote beauty products. Brands such as Cadbury (as in the chocolate egg) and Hallmark (the sad Christmas movie channel) also use purple as it evokes an air of sophistication.


The color pink is often correlated with softness, comfort, and nurturing. It is often used in the cosmetic or beauty industry. Since the 1940’s, pink has been a signifier for girls. Recently, however, that has changed. Brands like Taco Bell and Dunkin’ are using pink also. The reason is that pink represents far more than feminism. Pink is commonly made to look as bright and eye-catching as possible, but it also represents sweet, playful, and childhood.  


As a combination of red and yellow, orange mixes the meanings of both colors. In marketing, orange is used to stimulate optimism, amusement, and rejuvenation. This color is also used the most for call-to-action buttons and is great for attracting impulse buyers. Orange has a wide range of emotional appeal from warmth and happiness, to desire and passion. Popular brands that use this color are Fanta (as in the soda) and Nick (the children’s TV channel).


Companies often use the color brown in their logos when their products are made of wood or leather. This is because brown is associated with quality, durability, and reliability. Although most people consider brown a dark or dull color, it could also convey comfort, class, and security. I often think of a solid wooden paneled wall in a sophisticated library. Popular brands that use brown are UPS (the package delivery service) and M&M’s (the chocolate candy).


Many consider gray to be a depressing color, however studies show that this color has a powerful symbolism. It can be associated with wisdom, intelligence, stability, and dignity. Think: wise old people have gray hair. That’s why grays or silvers also symbolizes experience. This color is often used in finance and medical industries. The most popular brand using gray is Apple, the tech giant. Not only are many of their products this color, they use gray to maintain its clean, neutral look.


It is relatively common knowledge that white is associated with purity, think wedding dress or clean linen. This color is also related to simplicity, intelligence, and cleanliness. That is why doctors and scientist wear white suits. White is often used to contrast other colors in logos and the most common color used on websites. A white background with black font is the best color combo for readability. Many brands who have white as a main color tend to pair it with black or gray for a neutral, color palette.


Black is often connected to death, mourning, or evil. However, in marketing it can represent power, tradition, elegance, and sophistication. Companies often use black for high-end products in fashion and retail. Popular brands that use this color are Chanel and Nike. Black is often used to contrast other colors like white and gray for a neutral color scheme and makes for an easy read on websites and marketing products.

Misconceptions & Variations

Color psychology has been studied and analyzed for many years, however, there’s still much debate about the impact that color has on human psychology. So, why is there so many misconceptions about the psychology of colors and their meanings?

One of the reasons is because when it comes to theory, there are many variables in place. There’s the change that different people perceive colors differently due to personal preferences, experiences, and cultural differences.

While the color black in Europe and Western traditions is associated with death and mourning, for example, in China, death is represented with the color white. We may think of yellow as bright and cheerful, but in some Indian cultures it is associated with the underworld.

Color can mean different things to different people and cultures. This is why it is absolutely essential to research the meaning behind and emotions correlated to your brand’s colors.

1 thought on “Branding with Color Theory”

  1. I have a friend who is very adamant about not eating anything blue colored. She says that blue does not occur naturally in food. Before anyone says, “But what about….?” – blueberries have an inner tint of purple. Really, I haven’t come up with any options to persuade her. So the blue M&M’s get thrown out.

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