What the Color of Your Business Says About You

Author: Christopher Hosford Date: August 27, 2014

The right color can say a lot about your business and motivate a customer to buy

There’s a whole psychology to using color in marketing or branding a company. The choice of color—on stationery, business cards, location branding and ads—is often the first tier of communications a brand has with a customer or prospect. 

“It’s your opening shot with people, and you better get it right,” says Nader Ashway, principal and creative director at Moddern Marketing, a New York integrated marketing agency. “So if you don’t have a lot of time, but want to make a quick impression, color can help.”

Ashway’s assessment of color’s importance in marketing is backed by a recent study by the University of Missouri. Researchers surveyed 184 adults on their feelings about different logo colors (fake logos and companies were used). The respondents then identified key characteristics that each logo invoked, based on which colors were used.

Blue logos gave people feelings of confidence, success and reliability, which may be why so many financial institutions use blue in their branding. Green logos invoked perceptions of environmental friendliness, durability and sustainability. Purple logos invoked femininity, glamour and charm; pink logos gave the perception of youth and imagination; yellow conveyed fun and modernity; and red logos prompted feelings of expertise and self-assurance.

Sometimes colors are combined in various ways for added impact. For example, Bank of America has combined blue with red in its logo to multiply feelings of confidence and expertise. It’s also a nod to the company’s name, Ashway says, as Bank of America uses the country’s colors to evoke the perception of the “nation’s bank.” The color choices further distinguish the company from so many other blue-themed banks.

This approach can be a key means of differentiating a business from the competition within a category. Take the petroleum category, for example. Shell uses orange, BP and Hess employ green, and ExxonMobil displays red prominently.

“BP and Hess want to stress their environmental concern, while Shell is warmth and comfort,” Ashway says. “The real science and strategy of color isn’t wielded so much across categories, but within categories.”

Ashway counsels smaller businesses to consider their competition and go with a different color. And don’t stick just with a primary color—consider the multicolor approach that has served Google, NBC and Microsoft so well, indicating their expertise across multiple disciplines.

So what does Ashway consider a poor use of color?

“I think UPS’s use of brown is a terrible choice,” he says. “It does have a certain sense of utility and ruggedness, but it’s not attractive. At the very least, UPS can say they own brown, and no one else will want it.”

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