The importance of colour within branding

Sitting with clients discussing what they would like their new brand identity to look and feel like, we often ask ‘are there any colours we should steer clear of?’ While many clients are open and wait to see final design concepts before forming opinions, a lot dislike pink, and others don’t want anything too ‘garish and loud’ like neon orange or green.

But what if pink is the right colour for your brand, and more importantly your audience? What if a loud, bright, and youthful lime green is the perfect shade to reflect the energy and vibrancy of your buzzing new business? McDonalds and Ikea use bright yellow to denote a happy and fun customer experience1 so maybe it’s time to reconsider those seemingly unfavourable colours.


The science behind colour
Many studies have been carried out proving that colour is a powerful and influential element, provoking different reactions and emotions from us. An experiment found that by changing the colour of a button on a website, from green to red, conversion rates improved by 21%2. Other studies have proven that red can trigger impulsiveness and portrays power, excitement, energy and passion, which is why Ferrari and Coca-Cola3 uses it. Father Christmas is even rumoured to have adopted the famous Coca-Cola red after their seasonal advertising campaign.

Although this in fact is a myth, according to Coca-Cola4, it is true that their advertising campaigns have changed our perception of Father Christmas. In 1931, Coca Cola commissioned an artist to paint the character, making sure to give him their brand values – and so with warm rosy cheeks, twinkling eyes and fluffy white beard, a jolly warm character was created. Before this he had been perceived various ways: tall, gaunt, and in some cases even frightening.

However the fact that some people believe he is red because of Coca-Cola, and still associate him with the brand colour and values, goes towards proving how colour can improve recognition, and indeed ones reputation. A study carried out by the University of Loyola goes further - it has proven the use of colour increases brand recognition by as much as 80%5. While another study showed colour improved readership by as much as 40%6and can be attributed to 85%7 of the reason people decide to buy.


Identity through colour
Whilst using colour intelligently in branding can increase sales, readership and recognition, it can also be used to tell the audience more about your company or organisation. When Limewash re-designed the branding for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT), it was important the colour palette conveyed a range of messages, from historical importance and British heritage to the uniquely breath-taking surroundings.

We researched the environment at the Antarctic base, the historical huts they manage and the fragile artefacts they bring back to life. During this process it was discovered that the window frames of the Port Lockroy base are red. The idea of creating a logo, which put the audience within the hut, looking out from one of the red window frames was born and developed into the new logo and identity they have today.

This sense of perspective gives the audience an importance and inclusivity into an otherwise far away, and for many, unreachable place. It’s important that the audience gain an interest and engagement with UKAHT and their work. As a charity UKAHT relies on membership and the generosity of donations to carry on their important conservation, preservation and educational work, so putting their audience almost within the logo seemed very appropriate.

Importantly the colour of the red frames is personal, historical and unique to the Antarctic Port Lockroy base, and also to the UK. Red has a long history of being the UK’s national colour, going back further than Coca Cola and Ferrari’s branding. During the 16th – early 20th century red was chosen as the colour of British Military uniforms. At the time red dye was cheap, and from across a battle field the colour seemed to blur together adding an element of safety from a distance8. The British Army soon became famously known as the ‘Red Coats’. Around the same time, during the 19th – 20th century, the territories of the British Empire were usually marked red or pink on maps9. Consequently the fact that the main British Antarctic base at Port Lockroy has red-framed windows, doors and roof is a subtle nod to the bases British roots. Following this through to the logo along with the royal, union jack blue is key to capturing the heritage of UKAHT. 

As the red frames are personal to them, their new identity also gives them the ability to be easily recognised. This also adds the potential for the red-framed window symbol to appear on its own in future, without the name, as the charity’s reputation grows.

Colour is one of the most important elements when creating a brand identity, and building out a colour palette that extends from the logo is just as important. While it is likely that personal preferences, experiences, upbringing, culture, and context can all impact on your own feelings, the colours that are chosen for your brand need to reflect the personality of your company. They need to evoke the right reaction from your audience, convey what makes you different and fit your marketing strategy.

1 http://nextshark.com/why-coca-cola-and-virgin-only-use-the-color-red/
2 https://www.bespokeinternet.com/blog/web-design/why-is-coca-colas-brand-logo-red-and-starbucks-is-green
3 http://graphictango.com/blog/2015/06/11/the-psychology-of-color-how-coca-cola-captured-hearts-around-the-world/
4 http://www.coca-cola.co.uk/faq/is-it-true-santa-is-red-because-of-coca-cola
5, 6, 7 http://pamorama.net/2013/04/21/the-role-of-color-in-marketing-infographics/
8 http://history.stackexchange.com/questions/11845/why-did-england-consistently-adopt-red-as-their-primary-colour-for-insignia-and
9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_colours_of_the_United_Kingdom



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