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Elizabeth Brass: The Branded Feeling of Color


The Santa Clause we all know today with the bright red outfit and hat with the rosy cheeks was created by the Coca Cola company as part of an advertising campaign to sell more Cokes in the winter time. Before 1939, the big guy sported a much darker red outfit.

Color in advertising has to do with feeling. There are many different ways a graphic designer can portray the feeling of a company, but the strongest way is through the use of color, or lack of color. How a company uses color for that recognition can make a good company grow stronger and make a bad company fail faster.

Colors have both temperature and volume. Red, orange and yellow are all warm colors and also the louder colors with red being the hottest and loudest. Blue, green and purple are all considered cool, quieter colors. The temperature of the color can set the tone of the experience. For example, blue is a very cool color. When we think of blue as it relates to feelings the first things that usually come to mind are sad, cold, frozen. Blue is even used in place of the emotion itself. “I am feeling blue”. The color blue can also, however, be very soothing, calming, and inviting. For instance, people associate the color blue with a bright blue sky on a warm summer day, a day that they sat under that blue sky on a white sandy beach looking at crystal clear blue ocean waves.

Red on the other hand is the hottest color of them all. Red symbolizes power, strength, war, danger, and determination. Red also symbolizes passion and love. It can have physical effects on the human body, making your heart beat faster, breath faster and it can increase your appetite. Red is also the most highly visible color of all which is why stop signs, warning signs, and fire hydrants and trucks are usually red. Red being the loudest color, it is great to use as an accent color to bring attention to something. One side note on red, it’s great for certain logos. If your brand calls for red, then by all means go for it. For branding purposes, however, you should never use a red background for elements in your brand. It is incredibly hard to read text on a red background. Therefore, even though Coca Cola cans have a white logo on a red background, their e-newsletters and website have a white background with accents of red.

If a company decides to use more than one color in a logo, how those colors play together can determine the feeling of the brand as well. When the average person thinks of red and green we automatically think of Christmas. But what if instead of a Kelley green you used teal and instead of “coca cola Christmas” red we used a dark brick red? It changes the feeling altogether. Using multiple colors in your branding can serve your company well or not. One of the most common and easiest ways to use multiple colors effectively is to use complementary colors. Colors that are on the opposite side of the color spectrum make each other look good. Complementary colors are the combination of a cool color paired with a warm color. Blue and orange, red and green, or one of my favorite examples is purple and yellow. Maybe I am partial to those colors because those were the colors of my school mascot, but that might be another reason to use certain colors, to evoke nostalgia of times past. That color combination is also very rich, regal, and vintage. I would use purple and yellow in a Shakespeare logo and/or brand. Universities are notorious for using complementary colors. Using colors that are too close together in hue can hurt your brand as it makes it look like it was a mistake. Using a greenish yellow and a yellowish green is an example of this. There are many websites out there that pair colors together for you to use. I use to find unique combinations of colors.

So how does this translate to your brand? Your brand is usually the first interaction a customer has with you, therefore in a lot of ways it is their first impression of you. Use colors that represent your brand effectively. Think about the feeling you want consumers to have when they leave your business, after they have already had that first in person interaction with you. That is the feeling you should bring to your brand through the use of color. For example, a bakery wouldn’t want to use fire engine red because red evokes the feeling of fire, hence burning your baked goods. If they are a pastry bakery they might choose to use soft light colors to evoke the fluffy softness of their cupcakes; where as if the bakery made mainly hearty breads and bagels, they might choose a warm yellow or orange to show the color of wheat, to evoke the feeling of strength and heartiness.

Make your brand stand out with fantastic colors that reflect the feeling of your brand. Take the time to really think about how colors make you feel and how those feelings relate to your brand. It took Coca Cola a long time to come up with the perfect shade of warm, inviting “Santa” red.

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