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Whether you’re starting a new company or considering a rebrand of your current one, your logos and colors play a starring role in your corporate identity. Your logo design and colors are often the very first thing people see of your company, and first impressions count for a lot! One study reveals that we make first assessments of people, products and things in the first 90 seconds and from 62% to 90% of our assessment is based on color alone. So, we thought it would interesting to start a discussion about this by looking at how the big guys do it, what colors are most popular, and just what those colors mean.

Colors in your branding

What the big guys are doing.

While fancy, intricate, multi-colored logos can be aesthetically pleasing and distinctive, you’ll notice that the vast majority of the logos represented in Interbrand’s most recent Top 100 brands (2011 edition) are very simple, with few colors and often just type ( view them here » ).

The Logo Factory did an analysis of the logos of these top 100 brands and discovered:

  • 29% use red
  • 33% use blue
  • 13% use yellow or gold
  • 28% use black or gray
  • 95% use only one or two colors
  • Only 5% use more than two colors
  • 41% use text only
  • 93% are designed to be recognizable at very small sizes
  • 67% are horizontal

Logos are best kept simple for a variety of reasons:

  • They’re easier to identify at small sizes and varying print quality
  • It’s quicker and easier to retain and remember them
  • They make a more memorable first impression
  • They’re more versatile and can be used in a wider variety of applications
  • They can work well in a single color and are not reliant on color to have their intended impact
  • They lend themselves to becoming iconic – the symbol alone speaks volumes. Think VW, BMW, Shell, Nike, Apple, McDonald’s, 3M, and GE.

What the colors mean.

First off, non-primary colors are more calming than primary colors. Keep that in mind when specifying your corporate color palette. Make sure your colors connote what your company stands for. (Children love primary colors by the way.)


BlueBLUE is very common because it is the safest color to use around the world. It is calming (sky, ocean), trustworthy and dependable, and can contribute to a sense of security. It also conveys trust and professionalism. And believe it or not, it has been shown that test takers score higher and weight lifters lift more in blue rooms. Blue is perceived as masculine, and is preferred more by men than by women. It is commonly used to promote tech products because it connotes strength and precision. On the other hand, blue has been shown to reduce appetite, so don’t use it if you are a food or cooking brand.


RedRED is one of the most eye-catching and arresting colors (that’s why stop signs and fire trucks are red). Red is a power color. It connotes passion, romance and strength. According to Color Matters, red is one of the top two favorite colors of all people, and also one of the most popular colors for national flags, found on 77% of them. Red signifies good luck in Asia and is also the most popular color in China. Red is also the most sensual of the colors, as we all know. And here’s a fun finding: red (and orange) ambience makes food more appealing, makes people eat more and eat faster and makes them leave more quickly. Fast-food joints use red (and orange) a lot. Red is also used in casinos because it can cause people to lose track of time.


GreenGREEN symbolizes nature, calm, adventure, growth, outdoors, vegetation, health, fertility, safety and harmony. Darker greens see a lot of use in the financial world (affluence). Lighter hues are associated with wellness and serenity. Green is easy to look at and non-invasive. Forest green appeals to the wealthy and can raise the perceived price of an item.


GoldGOLD evokes quality, prestige, power, riches and wisdom.



PurplePURPLE is rich, regal and sophisticated, and fills the gap between the more powerful red and more calming blue. It is the color of royalty, because in the age of kings and queens, only the aristocracy could afford the very expensive purple fabrics. It does not occur in nature often. At the same time, it is preferred by 75% of pre-adolescent children. Purple is also the color of mystery and spirituality.


YellowYELLOW is a happy, sunny color. It inspires joy, energy, hope and optimism. It’s cheerful —  houses with yellow accents can actually get bought more rapidly. It also stimulates creativity. Apparently though, people can lose their tempers more easily in a yellow room. It is a bright color that is especially eye catching (it is the most visible color) and should be used in the right proportion so as not to overpower. Yellow contrasts particularly well with black and with blue to provide the most legible color combinations.


OrangeORANGE blends the energy of red with the joyfulness of yellow. Among other things, it suggests vitality, strength, youth, the fall, harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving and citrus. It suggests heat but is not as aggressive as red. Children like it. It is exuberant and playful. Orange is also used to make an expensive item appear less costly.


BrownBROWN is the color of earth, dirt, nature, solidity, reliability and adventure. It is favored more by men than women. Because it can remind people of dirt, be careful to use it in the right contexts.



BlackBLACK can be associated with negative things (death, the unknown, mystery, night, fear), but it also has many strongly positive connotations including timelessness, elegance, authority, prestige, power, intrigue, sophistication and being elite. It is a neutral color so it can be combined with any other color to pleasing effect.


WhiteWHITE is the color of innocence, purity (wedding dress), cleanliness (doctor’s coat), softness, perfection and safety. It works well for charities, hospitals and child-related business (not to mention, Apple). Like black, it is a neutral color that works well with any other color.

For a really fun look at color, visit this interactive multimedia presentation from Maria Claudia Cortes that you are sure to enjoy. GO »


There is much more that we could say about this subject. This blog post is simply meant to whet your appetite. If you are considering creating or evolving your own brand identity, you should take a very serious look at your color choices, making sure that:

  • The colors appeal to your target market.
  • The colors evoke feelings and thoughts that are congruent with what your company stands for and its personality.
  • The colors help you stand out from your competition. Don’t be afraid to be boldly different as long as your colors are appealing and congruent with your message.

A wealth of information resides on the Internet to help you become educated about color. There are also countless books on the subject, and savvy graphic designers have a good grasp on color. These are the resources you should turn to next in your quest for the right colors for your brand.

Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.

Sources used for this blog post:




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