Do Color Combinations Affect Brand Success?

August 25, 2020

Do you ever get that feeling of being really “mellow-yellow” (it’s a sixty’s thing) when laying in a lush green field underneath a beautiful blue sky? Have you ever wondered why stop signs, many emergency response vehicles, and sirens are literally painted “fire-engine” red? It’s all part of the science of color psychology as different hues lead some people to completely freak out and others to relax. Smart and savvy marketers are taking advantage of certain colors and different combinations to successfully connect with today’s consumers. 

For example, red is said to attract more attention than any other color. It has been linked to a rise in blood pressure, an increase in respiration rates, and enhances human metabolism. It has been associated with danger, power, passion, love, and war. Due to these powerful and often emotional responses, you’d think everyone would use red as a part of a brand color combination. While that’s true in a number of cases, it’s a little more complicated. 

Red Rover, Red Rover Bring Better Branding Right Over

Combining the color red with other softer shades like yellow and white is actually a common practice. Think of McDonald’s, the world’s leading provider of family-friendly fast food using this popular color combination for its brand and inside its logo. You may have noticed big-time rivals and fierce competitors including Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and In-and-Out Burger using the same combination of colors.

A Convenient Culinary Connection

You’ll also see similar combinations in the logos and brands of other convenient fast-food franchises including Arby’s, Dairy Queen, Jack-in-the-Box, KFC, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, and Wienerschnitzel. But why these three colors? From a psychological standpoint especially with a successful branding strategy,

Red — creates a sense of urgency, encourages appetite, and heightens metabolism. 

Yellow & Orange — are both considered high-energy, cheerful, positive, and optimistic colors that are popular with children.

White — is associated with feelings of cleanliness, purity, and safety. 

But back to Mickey D’s for just a moment. It’s been suggested their mascot, Ronald McDonald may trigger angst in some adults who suffer from Coulrophobia (a fear of clowns). It’s bigger and weirder than you might think. Sly marketers might have instituted this creepy, comedic choice to annoy parents leading to higher turnover rates and therefore increased products. Clever, very clever.

FAIL! Marketing Mistake or Economic Demise?

And don’t even get me started on Chuck E. Cheese. Seriously, what marketing genius decided an oversized, cigar-chewing rat would make a good mascot for a children’s restaurant? Gross! You may have heard the family-friendly pizzeria recently filed for bankruptcy but it wasn’t because of Chuck “Entertainment” Cheese. Like many other small businesses, it didn’t brave the global pandemic and resulting economic struggles for their restaurants. 

The Full Spectrum

Okay, so we’ve seen the powerful connection these hues and shades have within the food industry. But what about other colors with businesses and their all-important brands? Once again, from a psychological standpoint, here’s how other colors connect with consumers inside these well-known and popular brands and their logos:

Red: Along with the attributes mentioned previously, red is associated with excitement, passion, a sense of youth, and rebellious nature. The Rolling Stones logo is said to be the most iconic T-Shirt design of all time. The red base along with a black-and-white outline captures a caricature of Mick Jagger’s signature lips and tongue that’s recognized globally. You’ll also see this same color combination on the Target Bullseye, Circle K convenience store signs, Netflix logo, and many other successful brands.

Blue: The clear cut winner of people’s choice award for color, blue is associated with a sense of peace, trust, reliability, and stability. You’ll often see it used in corporate and professional environments. This is a primary reason you’ll also find it combined with red in the breakdown of highly-recognized bank logos like Bank of America and Capital One.

Yellow: The last of the primary colors, yellow is often associated with sunshine, happiness, and again is popular with children. Pokemon’s yellow letters are framed in blue along with Warner Bros. having a similar color combination. Post-It Notes and National Geographic use yellow squares as a part of their popular logos and brand identification. 

Orange: Seen on construction sites and other cautionary signage, it’s common to see this color used with its fruity counterpart on juice containers and other citrus-flavored beverages. Still, many brands use orange as a part of their famous logos, from Harley-Davidson to Hooters, Fanta, and Crush sodas along with the Nickelodeon channel’s splotch design.

Green: Commonly associated with nature and the environment, we’re seeing this color used in logos that relate to the great outdoors like the Animal Planet network, John Deere’s farm equipment, and the Land Rover off road vehicle. It’s common to see green paired with yellow adding a splash of sunshine to the BP energy brand’s flowery logo.

Purple: Seen as a symbol of royalty, wisdom, and respect, purple has also been associated with brands that are considered creative and imaginative. Along with being used with beauty and anti-aging products, you’ll also see it as a backdrop for the Taco Bell logo and as a standalone color for the Barbie doll brand, Yahoo, the SyFy, and Hallmark channels.

Brown: While the color brown doesn’t get a lot of love on the favorability scale, it’s still associated with an earthy feel, being stable, and well-grounded. Think of those big, brown UPS trucks you see almost everywhere and the Hershey’s chocolate company as examples. 

Cool and Colorful Tools

When you think about it, using color psychology is like a backdoor approach to reading customer’s minds or connecting with them on a subliminal level. There are still more tools, tips, and tricks we’re able to utilize from the color spectrum available online. For example, Adobe (note they also have a red-and-white logo) has a very in-depth Color Wheel

This complex (but easy to use) color palette generator is a free online tool. It allows users to create different combinations according to various artistic options available when pairing them together including:

  • Analogous — a group of colors that are close together on the color wheel that graduate in tone like red, orange, and yellow
  • Monochromatic — these color schemes are derived from a single base hue that increases or decreases in depth using shades, tones, and tints
  • Triad — As its name suggests, three colors coming from an equilateral triangle with two points resting in primary and secondary colors
  • Complementary — Often called opposite colors, they highly contrast each other when used together
  • Compound — A color scheme accomplished by choosing one color and added two more that are adjacent on the wheel
  • Shades — finding those that are similar
  • Custom — options are also available

Another awesome online tool is available from Coolers that generates color schemes from pre-made pallets uncovered on their website or through the use of an app. Yep, there’s an app for that. Click on a color to get started and the tool will offer suggestions with the user making adjustments throughout the process. When you see a color combination you like, it can be saved and exported to popular formats like PNG, PDF, SVG, SCSS or the link can be copied, pasted, and shared.When it comes to successfully marketing and building branding, we’ve got more than a few cool, clever, tools, tricks, and tips up our sleeve. Contact us today to discover the biggest and best bang for your branding buck. We’re always looking forward to hearing from you, we’ll always work alongside you and not just as a convenient quick fix. We’re in it to win it. Your success is our success!