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Colour in branding and graphic design

Branding is a term used by marketers and advertisers to indicate the name, symbols and colours used to identify a company’s products or services. It communicates the ‘idea’ of a product and forms a connection with consumers.

Most branding incorporates an image rather than just text, as an image is processed more quickly by the brain and taken in all at once. Colour is similarly very important with branding, as it is the visual component that people most remember about a product. Many of the most recognisable brands in the world rely on colour – and up to 90% of snap judgements about products are made on colour alone.

Colour and brand personality

Many shoppers seek out brands they recognise, so “owning” a colour is important for top brands. The association of the colour purple with Cadbury’s chocolate has existed since 1914, and Cadbury’s have the rights to the exclusive use of Pantone2685C Cadbury Purple for chocolate bar and drink packaging.

Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has a particular trademarked shade of yellow for its vehicles – yellow is also used by British heavy machinery manufacturer JCB, being a good eye-catching colour for dangerous machines.

Probably the world’s most instantly recognisable brand, Coca-Cola, uses red with a splash of white. Apple have managed to make their trademark white iconic, in spite of the fact that white was previously more associated with healthcare and baby products, and it doesn’t have the stand-out quality of other colours.

There’s more in this article from Creative Bloq on how top brands have staked a claim to particular colours, including how the unlikely colour brown became the perfect identity for logistics company UPS.

Although colour can’t be translated into specific universal feelings, studies show that colours influence how customers see the ‘personality’ of a particular brand, and whether the colour seems appropriate for the product – for example the British National Health Service logo is a simple clean white on a sober mid-blue background. However this hasn’t prevented some brands from choosing slightly unpredictable colours in order to make them stand out against the competitors – such as T-Mobile’s bright magenta pink. In 2000 Heinz produced a green ketchup bottle, which was such a contrast with the familiar dark-red bottle and hence drew such consumer attention, that product sales were boosted by $23 million.

Colour and web presence

Brand colour is also a vital part of any company’s website, and the colours chosen for text and titles need to be consistent, while still keeping the site content readable and user-friendly, and not just on the home page. This is often harder to achieve than with conventional print advertising and packaging. Sweets and chocolate manufacturer Hershey’s website uses lots of rich chocolate brown, perfectly reflecting their product, but remains attractive and readable. Coca-Cola use a great deal of their striking trademark red as you might expect, but mix it with a lot of other brights in contrasting hues, for a youthful, informal feel – this is not a website that would necessarily appeal to the older reader.

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This article is from the free online course:

The Power of Colour

KLC School of Design