According to research, color greatly boosts brand recognition and plays a huge role in a consumer's choice of product. It also triggers memory and evokes emotion. So if color is good, then the more the better, right? Not when it comes to branding.
Take your logo, for example. As your brand's visual core, it sends a key message about your product or service--in particular, what makes it special and differentiates it from competing brands. Every color sends a distinct message. This means that if your logo uses four colors, you're sending four different messages at once. Even if the messages are complementary, few consumers can remember and associate that many ideas with your brand.
Other examples include your business card, letterhead and other stationery products. When evaluated apart from a cohesive branding effort, a multi-colored business card may seem a good choice, but the more colors you use, the less distinction you gain. Are you using color to reinforce your brand's attributes, or are you sending conflicting messages?
Consider color usage by successful companies. In the mind of the consumer, UPS is brown. In the soda market, Coke is red. Furthermore, IBM's blue is different than Tiffany's blue. Each of these leading companies chose one specific color as the predominant color for their logo and subsequent branding materials. Some companies choose a two-color combination--like FedEx's orange and purple--but rarely do you find an established brand that employs more than two predominant brand colors. The exception might be a company whose product or service positions itself on variety, like Skittles' "rainbow of fruit flavors" or printing companies.
It's best to use color discriminately in your marketing materials. I recommend establishing a two-tiered brand color palette consisting of predominant colors for your logo and stationery products and complementary colors and lighter shades for your website and more comprehensive print materials.
Before choosing your palette, ask yourself these five questions:
- Do the colors appeal to my target audience? Account for age, gender, culture and other demographic variables.
- Is my primary color distinctive? Does it stand out from competing brands? If you're a smaller brand, sharing the same color as a market leader may seem a good thing at first. But it usually strengthens the leader's position in the market due to consumer confusion and their association of that color with the leading brand.
- What meaning or message does my palette convey? Is this in line with your brand?
- Is my primary color trendy or does it offer longevity? Trendy works for younger audiences, but can be a hard sell to more mature audiences.
- What are its online color equivalents?
After you determine your color palette, your next challenge will be ensuring the optimum reproduction of your brand colors across a variety of media. Remain committed to quality reproduction of your colors and keep in mind that consistency is vital to gaining traction with consumers.
Simply put, more color does not always make something more appealing. Color should set brands apart, stimulating brand association. The company that chooses its color palette strategically and uses it consistently has a bright future.
John Williams is the founder and president of LogoYes.com, the world's first do-it-yourself logo design website. During John's 25 years in advertising, he's created brand standards for Fortune 100 companies like Mitsubishi and won numerous awards for his design work.