The Power of colour in Branding: Red, Orange and Yellow
Scientifically, colour depends on how an object reflects and absorbs light within a wavelength, and how it is perceived by the human eye. Psychologically, our response to colour is harder to define. Colours have unique meanings in different cultures, and even our emotional and social interpretation determines how we respond to colours. Think of how it is “inappropriate” for boys to wear pink. Or how a bank manager or a lawyer in court doesn’t wear a bright, lime-green suit. In South Africa, brides wear white, while white is a funeral colour in India. Indian brides wear yellow, or gold. This is why we must carefully think about the power of colour in branding.
We all have our favourite colours, and perhaps a colour we don’t like at all. It is most often because of a certain emotional connotation we attach to a colour, plus our culture, experiences and beliefs. For as long as I can remember, my dad refused to wear shirts of a certain blue shade. He hated school as a teenager, and that colour blue reminds him of his school uniform. For years, I didn’t like orange. The colour reminded me of the home decoration trends of the 70’s, with the brown and orange curtains and bottle green and mustard couches. It was old fashioned; especially when the 80’s came along with black, fuchsia and turquoise. We were young and hip-and-happening in those colours. Now we hang our heads – with much smaller hair – in shame about the fashion disasters of the 80’s, and I own an orange sweater that I love. I have also learned about the power of colour in branding.
As with clothing and home decoration, colour is also important in branding. We attach emotional meaning to colour whether we are aware of it or not, and this plays a part in how we see a business. Sometimes we have to put our own feelings and preferences of colour aside, and go with what works. It is this power of colour in branding and logos that we have to use to our advantage. Importantly, it is vital to decide what your business wants to communicate with its colour spectrum.
Red creates feelings of action, strength and warmth. The positive connotations are determination, speed, enthusiasm, and courage. Red’s “negative” side is danger, anger and aggression, so make sure you use it wisely in a logo. How you incorporate the colour in other design elements will determine how it is perceived. It is fine if a red lion for a sports team’s logo inspires feelings of danger and aggression. For a restaurant, rather go with red for warmth and cosiness. A red chilli lets everyone know it is about spiciness. On the other hand, red also reminds you of quenching your thirst with a cold coke on a hot day. Coca-Cola’s red and white logo is one of the most famous logos on the planet.
Orange is now the colour of modernisation and improvement. It is joyful and happy and speaks of growth because it has a connection with the sun and sunlight. Because of the fruit that shares its name, it is a colour you can almost taste. Orange denotes confidence, originality and creativity. On the flip side, it relates to fear and shock. For that reason, orange flames and bold, strong fonts and images are perfect for security companies and motorbike shops. However, for a cold drink, you would rather go with softer, more rounded text. Focus on happy feelings and the flavour of orange fruits.
This is a tricky colour in logos, mainly because it can be hard to see on paper or on a white digital background. Having said that, yellow really stands out against the right colours. In a light box, it works very well to grab attention and ultimately stand out more than any other colour. Everyone knows the yellow arches of the McDonalds M. Other well-known brands like Ikea, DHL, Subway and Post-It use yellow very effectively in their logos. Yellow is often paired with contrasting colours like red, blue and black.
Yellow is also a sunny, optimistic and happy colour. The keywords for yellow are inspiration, intelligence, laid-back, spring, fresh, knowledge, playful, and excitement. Comparatively, the dark side of yellow is that it symbolises overly critical thought, the unusual and even eccentric. In some cases, it reminds of illness. With yellow in your branding, it is better to go for the positive aspects, and luckily there are enough of them!
Keep an eye out for our next posts on the power of colour in branding. We also look at green, blue and purple, and, of course, everything in-between, as well as black and white.
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