3 minute read

How can a brand “own” a color?

When you think of blue, you might think of IBM. When you think brown, UPS. When you think red, which brand do you think of? What about green?

Owning a color can be tricky. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience, consistency, an understanding of color psychology, and a well considered brand strategy. In this article, we’ll offer a few of the best ways to put color to work for you.

1. Create color standards

The fastest way to own a particular color within your market is to stake out a unique color, and then use it consistently. The best way to stay consistent is to create a brand standards manual cataloging your unique colors, and to share those standards with everyone who creates materials for your company. It’s important to get very specific. You can’t just own “red”. You’ll need to create Pantone® and CMYK standards for print, as well as RGB and hex (or hexidecimal) color standards for digital and web design. Established brands keep this type of information in a comprehensive brand identity standards manual.

Do you know your brand colors? Are you able to quickly find and share them?

2. Create meaning through color

How is each color perceived, and what do colors mean?

If you work in marketing, chances are you’ve seen a dozen studies on what different colors mean. For example, red implies warning and power. Blue means steady and conservative. Green means money and sustainability. And if you’re looking for more of that type of information, Marketo has actually put together a pretty solid guide in the infographic below.

True Colors: What Your Brand Colors Say About Your Business by Marketo

What do you think your brand colors mean?

3. Guide user behavior

Color can also guide behavior. Our brains are hard-wired to see what’s different. So if you’re trying to draw attention to a particular design element or button on a page, be sure it stands out from the rest of the elements on the page. What’s the most important thing on your homepage right now?

Does color help create hierarchy on your website, or is it getting in the way?

4. Color can impact your mood

Have you ever noticed that color can impact your mood? For example if you want your brand to excite, consider warm or bright color palettes. If you want someone to feel nostalgic, consider a more retro color palette. If you want someone to feel confident in your investment bank, neon colors are probably not the best way to go.

What mood does your brand imply?

5. Use color responsibly

As you use color, think about what each design element says about your brand. Just because you can make something bold, red, and large, doesn’t mean you have to. Give your audience a little credit. Use contrast, whitespace, and a responsible use of color to guide the reader throughout your brand experience. Remember, sometimes less is more.

Can you think of an instance where you’ve over- or under-utilized the power of color?

What are your biggest color challenges? Share them below.