06/03/20

Using colour to drive brand awareness

By Grace Overell

Logos often dominate discussion surrounding branding and visual identity; whether they are typographic or graphic marks, logos are the primary focus of designers and brands alike. 

However, it’s an almost subliminal feature of a brand’s visual identity that is one of the most important: colour. 

All aspects of our lives as consumers are influenced by colour; from wayfinding to quality, to price and even flavour, colour dominates our decision making in an inescapable and universal sense. Our brains begin attaching meaning to colour as soon as we begin developing memories, forming deeply rooted associations. Creating and presenting convincing contradictions to rules that have been established both culturally and socially through long-held traditions and advertising/marketing norms can be very difficult – and it’s something we in the central brand team undertake on a regular basis. If you think of Google, IKEA, X-Box, even Coca Cola, what comes to mind? It is impossible to separate any of these major brands from the colours rooted in their foundations; colour is inextricably linked with brand recognition and recall, and should always be top of mind for brands and their designers.

When aiming to establish and grow brand awareness, choosing the right brand colour can be an amazing vehicle to help set your identity apart from competitors. Here are some important considerations when choosing the right colour for your brand.

1. Be different

Although drawing inspiration from successful competitors may be tempting, it won’t fool anybody and will immediately give your brand a feeling of imitation and, therefore, inferiority. While there are colours commonly associated with specific industries (e.g. green for health-focused brands, red for fast food), choosing something that deviates from the norm and your competitors can be a great way to catch people’s attention and showcase your brand as an innovator rather than an imitator. A great way to figure this out is to map your category and find colours with opportunity.

foodora and foodpanda are perfect examples of this. Pink typically has strong associations with femininity and is rarely used in food-related branding. Because of that link, our brands choosing a bright, confident pink dominating all touchpoints was a bold and clever decision. No competitors use this colour, resulting in very successful brand recognition while also communicating to the consumer that the brands are modern, fresh, and offers something new.

foodpanda and foodora assets

2. Be meaningful

It is important to consider the historical and cultural associations with colour for brands within different countries. Think about your brand’s context within the market and how each colour will come across to the consumer. Green may mean one thing to an EU citizen and something entirely different to a person from the MENA region. Taking these into account and using them cleverly can create more positive brand associations and a more meaningful identity overall.

talabat brand colours

3. Be single-minded

Multi-coloured brands are attractive and exciting on first impression; they offer flexibility and variety, and when used in some of the world’s biggest brands (e.g. Google), can be very successful.

However, for new brands starting out, having strong colour association is vital – and the simplest way to do this is to keep your colour palette single-minded and consistent. One main brand colour should dominate all touchpoints, with strict guidelines associated with secondary colours. Whether a secondary colour is used only within product, as an addition to print/outdoor advertising, or to break up a digital layout, these colours should serve to compliment your primary colour in a way that always allows it to stand out with unavoidable brand association.

An example of how we’ve implemented clear guidelines surrounding the use of secondary colours is the PedidosYa rebrand. ‘Rojo’ red stands out as the primary colour across all touchpoints, while our bright secondary tones work to support rather than challenge it. 

PedidosYa colours and designs

4. Be functional

A well-designed brand identity is not only beautiful and functional, it is consistent. When choosing colours, you must consider how they will be used, by whom, for what purposes and in what scenarios. Achieving consistency is one of the most difficult accomplishments when managing a brand, but when developed mindfully can be very successful. 

Ensure the colours you are working with can be similarly represented in both RGB (digital) and CMYK (printed) modes. Sometimes a very beautiful vibrant digital colour is impossible to replicate in print, or a colour that looks beautiful in print appears dull on-screen or in-app. It’s crucial to carry out tests of these, considering what your priorities are. For example if a brand won’t exist beyond the digital sphere, this opens up opportunities for more vibrant digital (RGB) colours to be featured. 

Don’t forget to also prioritise accessibility. For instance, choosing a bright yellow will run into contrast issues with white; problems such as this need to be taken into account when developing a brand identity. Additionally, the most common forms of colour blindness affect distinguishing between browns, reds and greens, so using these together could cause confusion with your customers. 

Pantone colours

5. Don’t leave colours ’til last minute

Colour choice is far too important to be left until the last minute. Your decisions should be strategic, rationalised and carefully developed. Aesthetic preference is important but it should always come secondary to meaningful, purposeful design. Always make sure to incorporate colour into the first stages of any brand identity conception and development to make your overall design a success.

We hope sharing our knowledge and recommendations on colours and their usage has made you view your brand’s palette in a new, informed light – thanks for reading!