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What Does Your Logo Color Say About Your Company?

Different shades are associated with different emotions and industries. Is your logo conveying what you want it to?
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Logos might seem small and inconsequential, but research says otherwise. One recent study, for instance, found that the best logos have a significant impact on the bottom line with powerful visual symbols--rather than text--having the greatest effect (think of Arm & Hammer's flexed muscle as a good example of a logo done right).

Logo design then is probably more important than it might first appear, but there's more to a logo than just it's style and what it depicts. There's also the matter of color choice. Whether you opt for stylish black or exuberant orange, many small business owners choose the color of their logo based on personal preference or gut instinct, but according to experts, the shade you choose conveys subtle messages about your company to customers.

"Humans might ... be hardwired for certain hues," neuroscientist Bevil Conway told Fast Company earlier this year in a fascinating piece on how people seem to have inborn reactions to particular colors. So what do colors convey to us at this very basic, pre-verbal level? And is your logo and branding saying what you want it to about your business? Several marketing experts have weighed in with color breakdowns recently to help owners answer these questions.

Blue

If you're branding is blue, you're in good company. More of the world's top 100 brands use this shade than any other (one in three, actually, according to Column Five Media).. Why? People seem find the color immediately pleasant and calming, perhaps because it reminds them of the sea and sky. No wonder it's so popular among energy, finance, airline and tech companies--all of which we want to think of as working steadily and safely away in the background--and so much less popular with clothing companies and restaurants that need to grab consumers' attention.

Red

Unlike pacific blue, red is stimulating, signaling intensity and appetite. "Maybe that's why food purveyors McDonald's and Kellogg's use red in their logos," Dave Clarke suggested on the Intuit Small Business Blog. "Red... can create urgency for clearance-sale items or prompt impulse buys," he adds. Column Five claims the color even makes us breathe more rapidly and increases heart rate.

Yellow

Cheerful yellow makes people think of sunshine and communicates hope and optimism. It can be "especially useful to catch a customer's eye," according to Column Five. The link between yellow and energy makes it popular with, you guessed it, energy companies.

Orange

Given the stimulating powers of red and yellow, it's no surprise that closely related orange has similar properties, combining the boldness and optimism of its two neighbors on the color wheel. "Orange is used to stimulate excitement and enthusiasm," Clarke notes, adding "it is featured in the logos of Harley-Davidson, Nickelodeon, and Discover."

Green

It'll come as a shock to no one that green reminds people of nature and is popular among environmentally-conscious brands. The color "can bring feelings of peace, hope, trust and calmness," according to the Myron blog, which notes that "other industries that tend to use green in their logos are food, household goods, technology and finance."

Purple

"Purple is generally considered a low-arousal color. It may stimulate feelings of mystery, royalty, or arrogance," according to web design and marketing company WebPageFX. These calming effects make it a popular choice for finance, tech and healthcare companies, as well as for use on beauty and anti-aging products. Interestingly, it's also often associated with new-age practices like astrology and tarot, so if you're looking to gesture towards spirituality, purple might be a good choice.

Black

What's true of clothing is true of branding--black makes you look sophisticated, timeless, formal and a little mysterious. It's an obvious choice for those selling luxury products, and a pretty lousy one for, say, agriculture businesses.

Is your logo conveying what you want it to? 

Last updated: Jul 18, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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