The Meaning of Color in Business

By Zoë-Lynn Cohen

You’re 7 and have a new box of 64 crayons. There is nothing you cannot create. You have your favorite colors and create masterpiece after masterpiece. Now jump ahead a few years. You’re in business and your marketing demands that you project confidence and loyalty. Now what color do you pick? You might start to think about blue. You think, “Sure blue will work,” but why? It all goes back to using color, setting the mood and capturing attention.

Time and space prohibit breaking down the full spectrum but I will take a minute or two to cover the basics to get us on our way.

As you think about your image, why was it that blue came to mind? Could it be that blue seems peaceful, reminding you of beautiful waters by the beach? Blue projects a calm image. It also shows you are loyal and trustworthy. Companies such as Sears and Ford know this. Using a light blue will project a softer but still corporate image such as JC Penny.

What if you looked at green instead? The message then becomes one of health and growth. It goes back to trees and lawns coming alive in the spring. It too has a calming effect, but one more steeped in nature. Often financial institutions, such as The Columbia Bank and BUC$ Federal Bank, will use green to represent growth of investments and money.

If you selected red, your image would project both passion and power. Red is confident and calls people to action. It is the strongest of the warm colors. Companies that use red, such as Target, look to be bold. When red and blue are combined it is patriotic; combining red with green is festive. Do not look to red if are looking for calm and patience; it will not project well on your image. If you still are thinking about red consider its cousin, burgundy. It will still give you the “look at me” qualities of red while maintaining a corporate image.

Orange portrays an image that is both playful and energetic. Orange reminds us of summer and being outdoors. It is warm, cheerful and stimulates emotions and enthusiasm. Companies such as Cingular and Home Depot know orange is a motivating color. You can use orange as an accent color to achieve some whimsy, while keeping your image more subdued.

If you want to present a wholesome, natural and dependable image consider earthy tones that include brown, tan and taupe. They represent trees and strength. UPS is a prime example of using brown to convey a solid business. Browns are easily paired with any color for a more meaningful image.

Pink is the color of love and beauty. It is a feminine and calming color. Victoria’s Secret is recognized by its signature pink logo and décor. Pink is also viewed as a healthy color, hence the saying “in the pink.” Be sure to consider your audience when using pink since it is harder to read. If you decide to use pink consider pairing it with a darker color. It then will become more sophisticated.

Most people will agree that yellow is sunny and about warm summer days. It is a happy and peaceful color. Disney uses yellow for just that reason. Darker yellows like gold will exude prosperity and financial security. Yellow, as with pink, will need a darker color to offset it to make it more readable.

Black is elegant, secretive and powerful. It represents authority, too. A benefit of using black is that it keeps your printing and advertising costs down since it is easily reproduced. Black can be paired with any color to achieve a more complex image.

If black seems too forceful, there is a full array of grays to select from. Gray is formal, sophisticated, and its steely appearance is strong. It works well in the background giving a corporate appearance. Just like black it is economical to reproduce.

On the other end of the spectrum is white which brings up thoughts of clouds, snow and doves. White is clean, safe and pure but cannot stand-alone. White will need an accent color to be readable. Use the color behind white and the reverse will be fresh and inviting.

It is no accident that companies choose the colors they do. Color can convey authority, loyalty, passion and so much more. Remember that just because you like a color does not mean it should become your company’s image. Consider consulting with a designer who can assist you in matching a color or colors to your business. Finally, do not forget to be consistent with your color from business cards to web site and everything in between.

 

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