The world’s most famous brands are generally known by their corporate colors too: just remember Hermes’ orange, Tiffany’s blue, McDonald’s yellow, or Starbucks’ green. These brands incorporate colors into their strategy, enhancing brand’s uniqueness and identity, which can help to communicate the brand’s message and core values more clearly.
How can a brand choose its own color? Here’s a crash course on brand colors from PLTFRM’s senior designers.

A brand color can help you stand out
Why is choosing a color and claiming it yours so important? Just look at the picture below for an answer: if a company doesn’t have enough recognizable elements, it is very hard to stand out among the fierce competition.
In recent years, the number of Chinese trademark registrations has increased by 20% yearly, reaching 5.7 million applications last year. How many of these newly registered brands looked indistinctly similar?

Brands that look too similar are a challenge for customers, who are puzzled by the abundance of choice. As an integral part of a brand, a distinctive color helps create intangible value, increasing competitiveness at the same time. Value can be explained by this formula: (visible function + intangible value )÷price.

Product value=(visible function+intangible value)÷price. Intangible value encompasses brand, emotion, expectation, and other aspects.

Help your customers understand your brand
Corporate Identity System is the most common and comprehensive visual tool that makes a brand highly recognizable and helps customers recall the brand and shape preferences.

Brand concept, visual and brand behavior identities form the identity system. When establishing a brand image, we often start with visual identity, because visual and brand behavior identities are the basic demonstration of the brand concept. Standard VI system includes applications, brand colors, fonts, supporting graphics, layout matrix, pictures style and tonal composition of the text. Nowadays, visual identity also encapsulates “look and feel”, including sound, touch, and even aroma elements.

Generally speaking, all the elements in the visual identity system aim to hook the audience, and raise the brand’s recognition level.

A color can increase brand’s recognition by 80%
Among the visual elements of a brand, people pay the most attention to color, followed by shape and text. According to a study by Loyola University-Maryland, a color can increase brand recognition 80%.
We know, every color conveys a different meaning, and that’s why every industry has its own most commonly used color. For instance, blue represents loyalty and trustworthiness, so most of the appliance companies, insurance, and banks use it as a primary color. Choosing an industry standard color, helps your customers quickly understand/associate your brand with the industry qualities, yet it also makes it hard to distinguish your brand from others.
To avoid this, and still leverage the benefits of the industry’s common color, a brand usually has three options:
1. Choose a bordering/alternative color, like German company Vaillant did. The brand of thermal equipment focuses on providing smart solutions to ensure their customers’ home comfort. So Vaillant took blue to represent trustworthiness as a base, and added green to represent environmental aspect. By doing so, the company has a distinctively own shade of color, and stays within the industry’s common used colors.

2. Choose a color different from the one accepted in your industry. This will, of course, make your brand stand out more, but it’s a bolder choice, which comes with a lot of risks to consider, since traditionally accepted industry colors formed certain associations and expectations in the minds of customers. A brand that chooses this direction must select the color that strongly represents the brand’s identity. Every color brings value beyond just expressing emotion or personality. It conveys symbolism too. Airline companies often use blue not only because it represents trustworthiness, but also because it symbolizes sky. British airline company EasyJet didn’t go with traditional industry color, showing how to use direct contrast to appeal to their target audience. The company occupies a niche segment of the market, providing low-cost flights, mostly on short distances for young travelers. EasyJet aims to provide cheap, fast flights without the expense of lower quality service. For these reasons, the company chose orange as the company color, representing youth, creativity, and the feeling of speed—all these features resonate well with EasyJet’s audience, and drive desirability.

3. Expand the color palette, adding supplementary colors to the industry’s accepted one. For example, Citibank National Association took the industry’s common blue as a base color, and added red as the supplementary color. Human eye first notices the warm spectrum, that is why Citi’s choice of a red element is so eye-catching. In addition, banking industry standard blue on its own only refers to the ‘trustworthiness’ of the bank. Though, Citi is aiming to convey more, as a bank of the future. Adding red not only improves brand recognition, but also reflects the vitality and evokes the association with the U.S. red, white, and blue flag.Compared to symbols and text, color is the most cross-cultural element. Although in most cases we a have a similar understanding of it, symbolism of colors can still differ, influenced by culture. This is a factor to consider carefully, especially in our globalization era.

PLTFRM’s brand color choice model
We know better than anyone how important it is to find ‘the right’ color for your brand. It is not an easy task though. To simplify the process, we’ve prepared a basic checklist to help you determine color preference faster.
1. Choose 3 words representing your brand character or its benefits;
2. Choose the the 3 words corresponding to the color;
3. Choose the standard color of your industryLet’s see how this model works, through the example of coffee delivery service “Coffee Box”. The company chose brown and orange to represent brand’s happy/dynamic value proposition and paired it with an alternative common used color. For coffee industry brown is a hit, helping customers make a direct association with the drink itself.

The result is an effective/memorable identity that conveys brand’s values well and resonates with the audience.

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