Ever run across a brand and wonder: “Why in the world did they pick those colors? What are they trying to say with them?”
There’s a good chance you saw an example of a brand that fails the color psychology test. This happens most often when there’s a disconnect between the colors and what the brand is about.
The more pressing question for you is whether or not your own brand can pass the color psychology test. If you aren’t sure, that’s okay. We’ll go over the essentials.
Before we jump get too deep into those essentials, it’ll be helpful to look at the basics of branding and color psychology.
No single definition of branding covers all bases. Branding applies to too many elements of a business. What you can do is boil it down to a few critical questions, such as:
- What makes you different from your competitors?
- What’s your promise or mission?
- What attitude or emotional tone do you want to convey to customers?
Let’s say you run a wedding photography business. Do you want customers to see you as a no-hassle solution, fun loving, or serious? Any of these can work, but you’ll get different kinds of customers.
What do you offer wedding parties that other photographers don’t? This won’t necessarily translate into some off the wall service, but you need to convey it clearly.
It might prove as simple as experience. Saying you’ve been shooting weddings for 20 years makes you look professional and reliable.
The point is that you need to know these things so they get reflected in everything from your business name to color choices.
Color Psychology Basics
The first thing to understand about color psychology is that color meanings vary across cultures. Yellow is a cheerful color in the US, but it represents jealousy in France and Germany. If you expect to market across international borders, make sure to research color meanings for those cultures.
We’ll limit the discussion to the UK and North America to simplify things. Color meanings are fairly consistent in those cultures. Since a modest review of even major colors needs a lot of space, we’ll just hit a few common colors.
Blue gets a lot of use in business. It’s a calm color that encourages customers to trust the brand.
Red is a passion color. It often gets used to convey excitement or a feeling of urgency.
Green is a relaxing color that gets roped into a lot of different associations. You see it used in marketing for everything from health, money, and nature.
Brown is another warm color. It helps convey a sense of stability or ruggedness.
This only scratches the surface of color psychology, but it does give you somewhere to start.
Does My Company Pass the Color Psychology Test?
So let’s go back to your hypothetical wedding photography business. Let’s say you answered the main branding questions as follows.
My company is the fun-loving wedding photography firm. We’re different from our competitors in that we offer kid-centric photo activities. Our promise is that we’ll help make your wedding more enjoyable.
Now, look at your existing brand colors. If it’s overwhelmed with cool blues, blacks, and browns, you just failed the color test. All of those colors speak to stability, reliability and even power.
None of them speak to your brand. Your brand message is all about fun, kids, and spontaneity. That means you need to choose bright, cheerful colors that convey a visual spirit of fun.
If you’ve branded yourself an experienced, serious pro, how does that change the dynamic? Colors like red, yellow and orange don’t serve your needs. You need to rely on colors that express calm and stability.
For those still in the brand development phase, you can still change course regarding brand color schemes.
Don’t fret too much if you failed the color psychology test. Rebranding is a workable situation when you only need to change your color scheme.
Rebranding with New Colors
The trickiest part of any rebranding effort is avoiding confusion on the part of customers. To some extent, you can’t avoid it.
Say someone bookmarked your website a year ago. When she gets serious about booking a photographer and comes back, she’ll probably wonder if she’s on the right website. You can’t prepare this kind of visitor for the changes.
You can prepare everyone else by making announcements on your website, blog, and social media accounts. You can keep it simple by saying something like, “Changes Are Coming!” Then you offer an explanation that only the colors are changing, not the service.
You help things along even more by detailing parts of the process. To maintain a consistent style and color palette across your website and social media accounts, you’ll want to hire a graphic designer. Make sure to tell them why you’re changing the colors and the impression you want to achieve.
When you pick someone, make an announcement.
At some point, your graphic designer will deliver some early sketches. Write a blog post or tweet about how exciting it is to review them.
You can up your rebranding game when the final versions roll in. You can turn the unveiling into an event and run a contest for someone to get discounted or free services. That’ll make the rebranding festive, public and can draw in potential customers for your services.
Pro tip: Make sure your graphic designer delivers everything in a scalable file format. You want that logo to look just as sharp on your business cards as it does on the computer.
Passing the color psychology test doesn’t start with colors, but with your brand.
You need a clear picture of your brand promise, how you differ from competitors, and the emotional tone of your brand. Until you figure those out, you can’t pick colors to support your brand.
Even if you did go with colors that don’t support your brand, it’s not a complete disaster. You can rebrand your company with a steady stream of communication about the process. You can even turn it into a marketing event by giving away a prize as part of the unveiling.
Want to weigh in? Leave a comment below. If you want more advice about branding, check out our brand building walk-through post.