Humans are wired to respond differently to different colors. Blue strikes us as pleasant and calming, for example, while red signals intensity and appetite. It's a fact that should no doubt inform which shade you choose to represent your brand, but the decision is far more complicated than just picking a color that matches a particular mood, according to a fascinating recent Medium post.

Not only do you need to find a color with the right vibe, writes Bill Kenney, a partner at Focus Lab, you also need to find one that matches your particular audience and also sets you apart from the competition.

The detailed post offers a ton of great advice if you're considering how to brand a new venture, including tips like these:

1. Consider your audience.

"If you are targeting senior citizens, then '80s neon is likely not the color for you. On the flip side, your color options explode when you are targeting a younger demographic. There are also companies that reach just about everyone (Facebook) so the color decisions can become a bit more neutral and safe. The point is you should be aware of this and let it begin to inform your decisions," Kenney says.

2. Consider the cultural context.

"Don't forget cultural differences as well. We recently worked with a Tokyo-based company and quickly found out that the color we pitched (bold pink) was the national color for pornography. Not good," says Kenney.

3. Don't be different just to be different.

Nearly every big tech company under the sun has a blue logo, but you still don't go confusing Twitter with Skype, do you? Don't let your desire to stand out drive you to choose a color that's wrong for your brand, cautions Kenney.

"While it makes sense to want to feel different from your competition, color is not the only interaction they have with you," he writes. "If all the colors in your space are taken, it doesn't mean you need to pick a random color. You still need to do what's best for your brand, product, and audience before choosing to be different."

4. Don't be afraid to be bold.

Go ahead and think about breaking convention, advises Kenney. It won't always be the right choice, but "change is good, and you may be surprised about what your audience will accept," he says. "There is a time to be safe and a time to be daring. You will have to find your own comfort level with that. During our projects, we take liberty to go bold in the beginning of the process. Then we pull it back as the brand requires before making our final decision."

5. Think about a palette, not just a single color.

Often, even after you've settled on the primary color for your brand, you're not quite done yet. What other colors will you use when you present yourself? The next step is defining a supporting palette. "These will be the widest set of actual colors (if needed) and will be used on things such as secondary CTAs [calls to action], call-outs, graphs, etc. Not every brand needs an expanded system but some brands rely on them," notes Kenney.

Published on: Jul 11, 2016