Source: XKCD

Starting a new business is a lot of work. No matter the type or size of your business, spending time on establishing your brand identity is crucial. Your brand identity includes, but is not limited to, the colours and logo that you use to represent your business. It may seem simple, but your logo is usually the first way consumers will recognize your brand. If you want to have a strong corporate image, you need to have a solid brand identity behind it.

Consistency is key when establishing a brand identity – everything you produce: your services, products, reports, publications, etc. will be reflective of your brand identity. This is what will make you recognizable to potential customers. So how do you get started on building your brand’s identity? There are a few rules you can follow to help you establish a unique brand that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Rule 1: Colour does matter

According to “Impact of Colour in Marketing” (2006), up to 90% of snap judgements made about products can be based on colour alone.  This doesn’t mean you should find the most commonly liked colour (it’s blue) and create your brand identity using that colour. It means that it’s important to take the time to research your colour options and ensure you select one that best represents your business.

In the past, we have assumed that colours are associated with certain objects and feelings. Yellow is commonly associated with happiness, or the sun. Red is often associated with love, anger, and fire. However, recent studies have found that these associations are not really based in fact. This is because people form their own associations with colour based on personal experiences, so the generalizations we usually assume about colour are not applicable to everyone.

This does not mean that colour isn’t important to your brand! “The Interactive Effects of Colours” (2006) showed that the relationship between brands and colour doesn’t depend on how the colour makes the consumer feel, but rather on the perceived appropriateness of the colour being used by the particular brand.

If the consumer feels that the colours you choose doesn’t match the brand or product you are trying to sell, they are more likely to make a snap judgment and choose not to buy your product.

Rule 2 : Pay attention to your audience

When you’re thinking about which colour(s) best represent your brand, it is important to pay attention to your environment. This includes cultural perceptions and differences in gender.

For example, studies have shown that blue is the most-liked colour across males and females, and purple is the least popular colour among men.  However, the results may differ in countries on the other side of the world. If you are planning on having an international brand, your research must include cultural differences in colour perception to avoid negatively influencing a consumer’s choice in another country.

There are also differences in colour preferences between males and females. Men tend to prefer bold colours and shades, which is colour with black added to it. Women tend to move towards softer colours and tints, which is colour with white added.

Full infographic at Kissmetrics

If you are an international business or selling a product geared primarily to one gender, I recommend reading the cited research studies in more detail:

Rule 3: Find a colour that represents your brand personality

Once you’ve established who you are targeting, you can start thinking about what colour would best represent your brand’s personality.

Start by really thinking about your brand. How do you want people to see you? What do you want people to associate your brand with? For a brand like Apple, they want you to think of sleek, well-designed technology. Their brand consists of a clean, silver logo in the shape of an apple. The colour of the apple complements the colour of their products: silver, white, and black. Despite not having the name of the business in their logo, they have been successful in creating a brand recognizable around the world.

You may have a completely different brand personality than Apple, and that’s okay. Unlike Apple, Ebay’s logo relies only on the name of the business instead of an image. They selected four primary colours used on all of their branding materials to make their name memorable. While Apple’s brand reflects sleek technology, Ebay’s colour choices are more fun and diverse, representing the wide range of products you can buy from their online store.

If you are just starting your business, you should already be focused on how you want consumers to perceive you. Narrow this down to a few words, and then do some research about colours that people commonly associate with these words. One way to conduct a survey with a sample of potential consumers. Ask them if they associate these words with any particular colour, and see if you come up with any commonalities.

Once you have established your brand personality, it will be easier to think of colours that will match that personality.

And finally…

Rule 4 : Stand out from your competitors

Studies have found that our brains prefer recognizable brands over new brands, and as a new business it is important that your brand is instantly recognizable.  To do this, you must stand out from your competitors. If your competitor uses blue in their brand, don’t use blue in your brand at all. In the XKCD comic posted above, the business’s completely bland and colourless packaging actually makes it stand out from the sea of colours that their competitor’s use. This is an extreme and comical example of a very real rule — choosing an opposite or at least different colour from your competitor will instantly set you apart, which is crucial when you are entering a market that already has established competitors.

Following these rules, you should be able to establish a strong and recognizable brand identity, and you’ll have a stronger overall business strategy as a result.

For more information, have a look at the following articles: