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True Colors


Color blindness affects about 8% of men and .5% of women. Those afflicted by the condition can see as few as 10,000 variations of colors while the rest of us can see up to 1,000,000. EnChroma, an innovative company that makes glasses that can correct most types of color blindness, has a free two-minute color blindness test if you're curious about your own vision. Try it here.

For the rest of us, color is the first thing we notice and — as marketers — we know that first impressions are powerful. In fact, according to Entrepreneur magazine, 93% of purchases are based on visual perception.

Color speaks directly to our emotions. And contrasting colors improve recall. If you're old enough (ahem), just think of Howard Johnson's. There's a reason why their distinct orange and turquoise palette was ... well ... so distinct. And why we remember it, thirty years later.

When choosing a color for a company logo or for a particular marketing effort, you can tap into the power of color to convey your brand or product's personality. How do you want people to feel? Color can help you achieve the mix of promotional and emotional resonance that makes your target audience stop, take notice, and — most importantly — take action.

Here's a quick overview of color theory:

RED communicates passion and boldness. It creates excitement and gets attention. (In fact, direct marketing veterans often say. "When you can't make it big, make it red.") In tests, red actually raises the pulse and increases the appetite. Some familiar brands that use the one-two-punch of red include: Coca-Cola, Budweiser, CVS, and Lego.

ORANGE is interpreted as a friendly, confident color. It's youthful and cheerful, and it has innate energy and action. Brands like Home Depot, Nickelodeon, Harley-Davidson, Gulf, The Hard Rock Cafe, and MasterCard use orange to stand out and communicate their brand experience.

YELLOW is considered a cheerful and warm tone. It stimulates the brain and makes people feel happy and optimistic. You'll find shades of yellow in logos for TikTok, Goodyear, Post-It, Hertz, and Best Buy. For many years, it was ubiquitous in homes and businesses before the Internet replaced the Yellow Pages.

GREEN connotes good health, vitality, growth, and tranquility. Today, it can convey the added meaning of a brand or product being environmentally friendly, or quite literally "green." Brands that rely on green include Starbucks, John Deere, Lacoste (and their famous alligator), Holiday Inn, and — ironically enough — BP.

BLUE is often used to communicate authority, strength, trust, and reliability. People tend to trust the color blue. Interestingly enough, blue has been shown to decrease the appetite. That didn't stop IBM from being referred to as "Big Blue." Other brands with the blues include Intel, AT&T, Walmart, VISA, and Facebook.

PURPLE is the traditional color of (western) royalty. It conveys luxury, creativity, and even magic. The value of the purple can mean different things from softness (pastel) to richness (bright) to sorrow (dark). Purple brands include Yahoo, Monster, FedEx, and a whole handful of chocolate companies: Cadbury, Milka, and Wonka.

BLACK and GREY are sober, neutral colors. They can be seen as serious, authoritarian, honest, or associated with understated luxury. Brands that use black, grey, or white as their base color include Disney, The New York Times, Apple, Chanel, Calvin Klein, and BMW.

Choosing the right colors for your brand identity or marketing project can be both fun and challenging. Think about what you're selling and to whom. Does your choice need to stand the test of time? Or just the time between the mailbox and the kitchen trash?

And, if you're designing or revamping an entire identity system and color palette, build in flexibility. Trust us, your creative team will thank you later.

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