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Brand Colors – Not A Science Nor An Art, But A Strategy

Life is full of give and take, and so at times one finds himself partaking in experiences that one would usually not seek out on their own. My lovely wife convinced me to partake in one such experience last week. We visited the guru of aura photography’ as she made a rare L.A. stop – in form of a popup inside a hip retail shop – and had our pictures taken. Yes, there is such a thing, and it’s apparently currently not just a thing, but the thing. Gwyneth Paltrow does it, need I say more? And now, so have I.

Please, go ahead, meet my aura:

FabianGeyrhalter_Aura

As it goes more often than not when opening yourself up to new experiences, this actually was quite enriching. It was fun to partake in a mythical-visual experiment of sorts, and my aura seems to be in good shape too; can’t you tell? Well, perhaps you can, at least a little bit. As for me, without the detailed info (or shall I say ‘reading’) I received after the picture was taken, I only knew that blue/purple was about trust and loyalty, and comparing it to the many other aura portraits I looked at online, prior to receiving the professional insights, I realized that it had quite a personality of its own. Everything else that I learned about the meaning of these particular colors and their locations surrounding my image directly from the photographer, I would have never guessed by just looking at the colors without a full de-briefing.

That experience also quite nicely summed up my rule of thumb when it comes to the art and science of using colors in branding:

FINIEN_brandcolors

Many books have been written about how to use colors in logos, the meaning of colors and how colors make consumers feel. I even dedicated 3 pages of my book on branding to the significance of color. Color makes an impression and it matters, absolutely, but just how much should the deeper meaning of color, that us ‘branders’ know about, really influence you and your creative team when crafting your brand’s identity?

My advice to you: Don’t read too much into the meaning of colors. It’s less a science and an art than it is a strategy.

Just because blue stands for trust, your FinTech startup should not choose blue for its logo. Your restaurant franchise should not immediately pick yellow or orange as the key color ingredient because it evokes appetite. If you go by the book of colors, you will never stand out from your direct competitors as they read that very same book. As far as my book of branding is concerned, it’s all about you not blending in, and that includes the color choices you make.

To celebrate Virgin America in light of the recent sad news, here is how they used color to stand out, via a case study from “How to Launch a Brand:”

VirginAmerica_CaseStudy_HowToLaunchABrand_Book

Yes, colors matter, especially when you use them to stand out.

As you start researching the meaning of colors, stop. Instead spend ample time researching your competitor’s colors, then go the complete opposite route and pick colors that truly stand out within your vertical.

But, as most things in life go, this too is a give and take, so ensure the colors you and your creative team pick, as different as they may be from your competitors, will still support your brand’s personality and positioning. That may have been obvious, then again, so was my aura.


4 COMMENTS

  • Larry Garman

    I think distinct color choices can be a great asset for branding and marketing. One bit of advice i can give is that when filing a trademark for a logo or word mark, don’t specify color in your trademark application, and submit your logo and or work mark simply in black and white. This will allow you to use any color combination down the road without having any impact on your trademark filing and or protection. This was a former attorney’s advice to me when i filed my trademark, that i didn’t give much value to at the time, even though i followed his advice,.. but looking back, it was a very valuable piece of knowledge.. Also, there’s a great book on this exact subject called color smart, that’s a definite must read for anyone in the process of branding a company or product..

    • Fabian Geyrhalter

      Great advice, Larry! Thank you for sharing.

  • Sheila

    Hi Fabian! I super super love your work and I am truly inspired. I wish to be a brand strategist like you someday. I dont think there are any brand strategist in the Philippines which I live now and I would want to be the the pioneer or maybe one of the few. I wish to buy your books from amazon but it might take 3 months before it arrives in the Philippines, I was hoping to start my business in a month But I dont feel that confident yet. I have no background in creative design or arts or any of that nature, I have a bachelors degree in nursing but I dont feel like nursing is for me. I feel like marketing/ brand strategezing sounds more appealing for me to do as I have seen most businesses in our place have really failed to sustain their net income and eventually have closed. I just wanted to ask, how much should I charge to start my brand consultancy business if I have no experience or do u think offering free consultation for the first 3 clients might be a better way to start.? Hoping to hear back from you. PS , man you are a drop-dead gorgeous . Stay cool!

    • Fabian Geyrhalter

      Hi Sheila! Thank you for your kind words. You may want to give Book Depository a try to get my books. First, gain the knowledge (through my books, but also read all Marty Neumeier books) and create a process you feel confident with (you can use mine). Then offer your services at a crazy discount, just shy of for free to ensure you are gaining experience. By having a dollar amount that you discount, your clients will take you seriously and value your work. Hope that helped and good luck! – Fabian

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