The impact of color on a brand


Not long in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy leaves a world of black and white and discovers Oz for the very first time in color. Eighty-two years later, it’s still an iconic cinematic breakthrough that demonstrates the power of color.

Stories are exponentially richer in color, as is our emotional connection to them. In a colorless world, ruby ​​red slippers and yellow brick roads do not exist. The power of color also applies to brands. Their colors have the power to imprint on our minds and transport our imaginations from bland Kansas to the fantastic Oz.


Every brand in the world has a mood and an emotion that they are trying to express. The question becomes how to communicate them effectively. Often times, words can do the heavy lifting, but color should never be overlooked in this area. Brands are a sum of parts and color can be a precious common thread that connects them all. Color infuses depth and life. It can support the brand’s larger story, unite the visual identity, and set the mood per millisecond in a way that only color can sometimes do. The success of a brand is largely determined by its effectiveness in telling a cohesive and compelling story. Color plays a decisive role in this role. Georgia O’Keeffe put it well: “I discovered that I could say things with colors and shapes that I couldn’t say otherwise.


The colors of a brand must be chosen with precision. Never waste this powerful asset by choosing something that simply “feels good”. This common misstep leaves so much brand equity on the table, without capitalization.

Finding alignment with a brand’s attributes is an essential starting point in selecting brand colors. If your brand’s desire is to express trust and reliability, you may want to consider a shade of blue. IBM, Unilever, and Lowe’s likely adopted blue for this reason. If you’re looking to tap into the energy and enthusiasm of your brand’s DNA, you might consider bold reds. Red is said to engage the nervous system and increase the amount of adrenaline circulating in the blood; it is also associated with action and energy. This makes it easy to understand why organizations like Virgin Group, Target, Lego, and Coca-Cola would benefit so much from red.

Now imagine a can of green Coca-Cola or a purple Target logo. You will perceive a very different emotion from them. It’s the power of color.


A common misconception about color is its property and weight in the color selection process. Sometimes we hear, “We want to achieve Tiffany recognizable,” to which we respond, “It’s the 1%, and it took over a hundred years of consistency and marketing. “

Being able to “own” a color can be a great asset, but is it still possible? The short answer is that some brands have registered a color, but this does not necessarily equate to full ownership. Nickelodeon probably couldn’t stop Home Depot from using the orange. Each business operates in a different industry and using similar shades of the same color is very unlikely to confuse customers. Another reason is the exhaustion of colors; there are simply not enough colors available for every company to have a single shade. There are shades here, but with only around 1,867 solid Pantone colors available, that could never work.

So to be clear, picking a color that you can own isn’t the point. However, you absolutely want to do your best to capture something unique in your space, while also making sure that it matches your attributes and the story of your brand.


So what happens when you find the right color for your brand, only to realize it’s already caught in your competitive landscape? This is where iteration and color variation comes in. This is also where understanding that marks are larger than any item can help inform decision making. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are real-world examples. Their brand colors are blue and they are all social media based; yet they are all capable of growing their market share, telling different stories, delivering different unique selling propositions and resonating with different audiences. While blue is indeed right for them, none of them need to switch to pink just to look different. This would probably have more serious negative implications than running the “risk” of being alike when it comes to color.

Ask yourself, “Does this color support and enhance our brand story?” If your answer is yes and your nuance and execution are different from others in your competitive landscape, then you are on the right track. The ultimate uniqueness of your brand is captured throughout the brand’s ecosystem, not just color. I assure you there are many successful coffee brands out there that take advantage of a green version, not just Starbucks.

As your brand evolves, colors can also

Coming back to Tiffany & Co., brands should and do evolve. In a shocking gesture, the new owner of the Tiffany brand, LVMH, introduced what is called Tiffany Yellow. You would think that a big brand that is probably in the top 1% when it comes to color recognition would never consider giving up on this. But, proving many of the above points, this is not about property; it’s about telling the right story and harnessing color to propel the brand. LVMH acknowledged that the move would raise serious eyebrows while revealing a new Tiffany story, allowing the brand to “appeal to younger customers who see the brand as dusty and old-fashioned.”

It’s a powerful reminder that there is no magic formula when it comes to branded colors. Different organizations in different markets with different goals will benefit from color in different ways. But, indisputably, the best brands all use color as the brand’s central point of contact.

Bill Kenney is CEO / Co-Founder of Focus Lab, a brand agency that helps the world’s fastest growing B2B brands lead and inspire.


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