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the power of colour in design and how it can improve brand recognition

Without delving into colour psychology, we will look at colour and it's importance in brand perception.

Instant Recognition

Can a brand own colours? 

How many brands can you recognise by colour alone? Global brands, whether on purpose or by accident, have taken ownership of their colours in a way that makes them instantly recognisable, even when all other branding items are absent. Take away a logo, typography, imagery, livery, decoration... how many of the following brands can you name by colour alone?

So... how did you get on? Hopefully some were obvious... but the point is, even out of context, some brands have successfully managed to become associated with the pairing of just a couple of colours, and in some cases, even a single colour.

It’s undeniable... All I have to do is mention Coca-Cola and your mind is probably flooded with a sea of red... the iconic image of Santa in his red cloak perhaps? Or those impressive red trucks?

There is a downside of course. Some brands have become so associated with their colours that when you see, for example, the pairing of the red and “gold” of McDonalds, you associate it with, not just the brand, but an image of unhealthy, low quality fast-food.

In an era of growing concern over childhood obesity and a move towards healthy eating, brands like Coca-Cola and McDonalds have had no choice but to change... but how does a brand change and adapt when they have such a persistent and present image?


Why some brands change and shape opinions by moving away from established brand colours

The fact is, many brands have already done this, and arguably, very successfully too. Let’s stick with the big one for now... McDonalds.

The red and yellow are not supposed to be calm and settling colours. They are intended to be fun, fast and bright. The perfect pairing for a “fast-food” outlet.

However, over the past couple of decades, as well as a move towards healthier eating, there is also a growing interest in café culture. Adding a few salads to your menu is not going to win over everyone. There needs to be a change in the brand culture.

What could be seen as a form of “greenwashing”, McDonalds disassociated themselves (in part) with the brash red and adopted green as a new corporate colour. And did it work? You tell me! They are ever-present and there appears to be no slow-down in their marketing spend. If anything, it could be argued that they have expanded their market by successfully appealing to the “café culture”.

They are not the only brand to make such a move and green seems to be the favoured colour of those looking to appear more “fresh”, “healthy”, “relaxed” or “earth-friendly”. No prizes for guessing who followed suit below...

what colours say about your brand 

Which colours to choose and why?

OK, so the cynical among us may not agree with the way big brands can wash away their negative image by simply draping a new colour over themselves, but it does tell us something: colour is very important to the way in which brands and companies are perceived.

Try to keep this in mind when choosing a colour for a brand. How do you wish to be perceived? Are you an energetic, young start-up? Or an established and mature law firm? Maybe you are a big tech-company who wants a more friendly and approachable appearance? Whichever you are, colour may be key to how you are viewed...

Finally, if you now hanker for a Big Mac, I do apologise!

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