Behavioral Science

You’re Doing Color Branding Wrong. Here’s Why.

by . August 28th, 2012

You probably have a favorite color, or color combinations. We can’t help it – humans are pretty visual creatures and many of develop some kind of relationship with color. Businesses are no different.


Whatever color you choose for your business or for specific campaigns will have an impact on how people perceive your brand. It’s probably not news to you, but it can bear repeating.

I currently work in the printing business. To be more accurate, we’re in the business of printing stuff for other businesses. We see so many egregious mistakes when it comes to the use of color for business, and we also see plenty of ways people get it right.

There’s no “correct” way to use colors, but there are a few things to think about to help your business develop its brand.

3.) You don’t know WHY colors (and color combinations) are important.

Neuroscience and psychology have firmly established that color can influence mood and purchase decisions a lot more than many of us would realize. It’s no coincidence most restaurants and major fast food chains use the color red, something reflected in the orders we get for menus.


The color red has been shown to stimulate appetite — a speculated evolutionary legacy of our species from a time where as hunter-gatherers, we needed to find a way to find out if fruit was ripe without having to be close enough to smell or taste it.

Blue and green are often seen as calming, likely because clear skies appear blue and fertile plains, and lush, abundant forests tend to have a lot of green.

The really important meanings we derive from colors however, are dependent on cultural context. The significance of gold and green for “wealth” for example, come from gold’s value as a precious metal, and because dollar bills have green in them.

It’s not necessarily the case in other cultures. Far Eastern cultures for instance, associate white with funerals, while black fills a similar function in Western culture.

But enough of that. The important thing is you choose a color that represents what your brand stands for.

2.) You’re inconsistent.

Consistency ingrains the idea that certain colors and combinations “belong” to your brand. “What Can Brown Do For You?”, “The Golden Arches”, “Big Blue” – we don’t even have to name the companies these phrases represent.

See if you can identify the following brands based on the colors they regularly employ. Hover your mouse over the image for the answer (as if you even need help with these):




The only reason we’ve come to associate certain colors with brands is through sheer repetition. Consistency is absolutely essential here. Once you’ve decided on a color palette to use with your brand – you’d better go all the way with it.

Speaking of color palettes:

1.) You FAIL to develop and match your brand’s colors for both print and web.

This is a problem we tackle for our customers every single working day. To grossly oversimplify things, printing involves applying minuscule amounts of pigments (normally Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) close together in the right proportions on a blank sheet so that your brain gets fooled into seeing any of hundreds of thousands of other colors.

Your computer or TV screen reproduces color in a totally different way, by blending different-colored light (normally Red, Green, and Blue) in different proportions.

Long, overly technical, boring story short: You can’t reproduce colors on print and screen in exactly the same way – which is why pictures on your computer rarely look exactly like they did when you print them.

But with some technical know-how, you can produce a very good approximation of a given color on both print and screen. If you own a restaurant for example, this may keep menus, posters, and flyers that you lovingly designed on Adobe Illustrator with mouth-watering red hues from turning out an unappetizing shade of gray-pink when printed.

Here are other articles about branding that might interest you:


What other marketing and print ideas can you share? Comment below! 


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.