Jump to Main Content
USA flagAn Official Website of the United States Government

Color Me Successful

What color says about your brand.

Although not part of a typical business plan, your brand is a key ingredient to your small business success. Branding is so important to your image that it needs to be done right the first time. After all, your brand tells your client who you are, what you do and what their experience will be in dealing with you. And color makes a difference.

Your brand differentiates you from your competition. It will be included on all your advertising, marketing material, stationary and websites plus many more locations. So love your brand and spend the time to create a great one for your company. It is what most people remember even if they don’t remember your name.

Make it easy. Building a brand can be costly so pick one that is straightforward and simple. Your brand must be quickly recognizable and easily understood. Mega-companies with mega-bucks can pump millions of dollars into building their name and brand from scratch. You, as a small business, cannot. Your limited funds must be targeted effectively.   

Your brand should deliver your message of who you are and what you produce/sell/service, as clearly as possible. It should include a name, logo and tagline and color all working together to project an image of your small business.

Color your brand. It’s more than a logo and color counts. Most companies choose a name and logo, but often neglect to consider the impact of color when creating their brand. Consider what colors you’ve chosen and the reasons you had for picking them. Your colors could be delivering a message that you don’t want, so you should choose carefully and know what message your color is sending. It’s entirely possible for the color you choose to neutralize or cancel your brand message.

Color evokes an emotional and often unconscious reaction and can be used to increase brand recognition. Our reaction to color affects all that we do including buying habits, excitement, action and attention. Color can definitely encourage sales.

Customer response? You choose. What reaction do you want for your name, logo and tagline? For instance, have you noticed that most environmental firms use green, while reds plus black shows up on adult websites? Where would you think yellow would go? Actually, yellow plays a part in fun places. Look at McDonalds. Moreover, red evokes warning through stop signs or excitement.

Any color can represent any industry but some colors have been associated more with certain business types than others. Green is a great example, usually associated with environmental firms. Also, consider your target market because some colors in one country may not evoke the same emotions in another. A brand must stand out in the crowd so try not to pick the same colors that represent your competitor. Be different and take your time because your brand will be splashed across all of your signs, articles, press releases, marketing, business cards, and much more.

Know your target. Building a brand becomes one of the most important elements to grow your small business. Start by thinking of your target market. Suppose your product is wine label design and you’re selling to wineries. You may want to consider green: nature, fresh, and growth. Include a splash of gold: prestige. On the other hand, perhaps yellow for warmth, sunshine, happiness. Include a splash of red: excitement, and passion.

Testing. Testing. The choices are endless but test them out before you settle on one. Print a card using the chosen colors and ask your perspective clients what they feel when they look at the card. And remember, a color may look one way printed while a different hue on the computer screen. Test out your combinations on all the sources, to make sure the colors you pick are the colors that best serve you.

Color messages. Let’s take a look at some common colors and companies that send ‘color messages.’ You decide whether their colors support and enhance their brand and mesh with their tagline.

BLUE. Progress, stability, trustworthiness and imagination. (GE). Imagination at work.

RED: Warning. Passion, hot, energy, exciting. Red drives people to buy. Stimulates appetite. (Coke) Life tastes good.

RED with BLACK BORDERS: authority, supremacy. (McDonalds) I’m lovin’ it.

YELLOW: happy, fun, summer.  (also McDonalds)

BROWN: Warm, down-to-earth, and earthy. Down-home goodness. Organic, wholesome and warm, eternal and durable. (UPS) What can Brown do for you? (Hershey’s chocolate) Pure Happiness.

ORANGE:  Orange represents the sun, friendly, and fun. (Amazon) Earth’s biggest bookstore.

BLACK: Sophisticated. Cutting edge, new and exciting. Classy, powerful. (HP) Invent.

SILVER: Prestige, elegance. (Jaguar) Don’t dream it. Drive it.

GREEN: Nature, the land, fresh and natural. (BP Oil’s heavy use of green) Beyond Petroleum.

YELLOW ON GREEN: creativity and growth. (John Deere)

PURPLE, HOT PINK and YELLOW. Unusual color combinations. Unique, energy and fun. (Taco Bell) Think outside the bun.

Be a brand snob. Become a brand snob when branding your name, logo and tagline. Collect business cards and marketing material, go to the internet and spend time looking at other peoples brands, logo’s and taglines. List what you like and do not. Do you know what the service is? Do you like the colors and do they appropriately reflect the product mood? Does the brand pull you into the page? Is the font respectful or comedic? What do you want your brand to emulate and start there? Put in the time and effort, it is well worth it.

Judy Haar is a SCORE Counselor and author, advising start-ups and existing small businesses. She can be reached at www.score-reno.org.