September 15th, 2023

The Psychological Value of Colours as a Sign System and Their Role in Building Brand Identity

Vladislava Genova

By Vladislava Genova

Dear readers,

in the vast canvas of branding and marketing, colours are the paintbrushes that convey emotions, messages, and identities. They are not just a visual feast but a powerful language, and in this article, we’ll explore how they wield their influence.

Colours are one of the sign systems in the field of research of semiotics, a discipline that studies all forms of visual and verbal communication including the art of crafting messages in marketing, advertising, and branding.

Throughout history, people have attributed specific meanings to different colours, and these associations can be found in myths and legends across various cultures. While certain colours hold universal symbolism, such as white representing divinity and purity, others can have contrasting interpretations. For instance, in Japan, blue symbolises evil, while in the Middle East, it signifies the calmness of the night.

In our daily lives, colours have an important function in communication, influencing our mood, conveying symbolic meanings, aiding composition, emphasising relevant details, and even creating spatial effects. By understanding the deeper essence of colours, we can harness their power to enhance communication and evoke certain desired emotions.

You can take a deep dive into the hidden meaning of colours in our previous article. Now, as promised, we’re back with part two, taking you even deeper down the rabbit hole of colour’s profound impact on our perception and how businesses skillfully use them to shape their brand identity.

Using Colour as an Advertising Constant
Advertising constants (the use of stable and unchangeable characteristics) like slogans, logos, and colours play a significant role in building a brand’s identity. For instance, we associate purple with Milka chocolate and red with Coca-Cola.

The power of colour is evident in how people recognize and identify brands. Colours contribute to shaping a brand’s personality, making it appealing to consumers and influencing their decisions. In some cases, consumers decide what product to purchase solely based on the colour and design of the package.

Take, for instance, the association of pink with products targeted at women and blue with those for men. When it comes to cleaning products, green and blue are preferred due to their association with a fresh and clean environment. On the other hand, black is favoured by brands known for their aggressiveness, such as Harley Davidson and Metal Shop, while white is used to convey innocence.

Additionally, in general, our brains are wired to prefer familiar things. When consumers encounter a well-known brand, making a buying decision becomes almost instinctive, as recognition triggers a sense of trust and reliability.

This is why it is very important for a brand to skillfully design its logo, using the appropriate design, colour, and appeal to its target consumer groups. This makes the brand notable, recognizable, and memorable, setting it apart from its competitors.

Building Brand Identity: How Colours Shape Consumer Perceptions
As mentioned earlier, colours have universally known meanings. For instance, red signifies danger, which is why stop signs and red traffic lights signal vehicles to halt. However, red can also evoke feelings of passion and love, making it a powerful choice for some brands.

Take Coca-Cola, for example, a well-known brand that uses red in its logo, emphasising the delight of its product. Their commercials are filled with energy, enthusiasm and celebration.

Orange is a dynamic colour, exuding energy and positive feelings without the nuances of danger associated with red. Its lively appeal makes it a great choice for brands targeting young people, such as “Fanta,” which cleverly incorporates an orange bubble in its logo, emphasising its carbonated drinks.

Another well-known product that utilises orange is “Dunkin Donuts,” which combines it with pink. This colour combination resonates with teenagers and parents who enjoy spoiling their children with delicious treats.

The FedEx logo also employs orange to imply energy and speed, aligning with its transportation services, and assuring customers of fast and secure package deliveries.

Yellow brings the light and warmth of the sun. It is also very energetic and conveys playfulness, happiness, and a surge of curiosity.

The logo of the “Shell” gas station is yellow surrounded by red. Imagine the desperate need for fuel of a driver in the middle of the highway. Then he sees the shining, yellow sign for a gas station nearby. It is easily noticeable and catches the attention of the long and homogeneous road. It is just like the sun for the driver in need.

Half of the “Burger King” logo is yellow and the other half is red, surrounded by blue. Here the red colour is much less than Coca-Cola’s logo, it is much less aggressive but still very suitable and noticeable.

Green is linked to nature, the environment, and life. It can be associated also with safety, stability, and honesty. Most companies that are concerned with the environment use it to show their attitude towards protecting nature and keeping it clean.

Another very famous fast food chain “Subway” wants to put emphasis on the fact that it makes healthy sandwiches using the green colour in addition to the motto “Eat fresh”.

The green colour and the hops leaves are the trademarks of “Heineken”. The brand offers a beer with a really good taste. It has a high brewing quality, using only the best sorts of hops.

Blue is the colour of trust. It is not as energetic and attention-grabbing, but it evokes feelings of success, loyalty, and calmness. It is a colour for corporate brands like banks, big business companies, and medical centres. Brands use this colour to express trustworthiness.

Facebook is one of the most popular social networks. It started as an experiment to help its creators improve their dating lives but it turned out to be their greatest creation. Facebook is known for its policies and strict rules that everyone has to follow, so there is no discrimination against members.

Ford is renowned for producing dependable family cars that prioritise stability and practicality. Their approach avoids unnecessary extravagance, ensuring that individuals who opt for their vehicles feel confident in their choice, knowing they have selected a reliable and sensible option.

American Express is one of the most famous American financial companies. It assures that its clients get their money quickly and securely.

The timeless combination of black and white embodies a classical branding approach. These colours exude tradition, neutrality, and conservatism, making them highly effective in advertising. Renowned brands associated with luxury and style, like “Prada,” “Gucci,” “Chanel,” “Mercedes-Benz,” and “Apple,” utilise black, white, metallic, and silver to convey sophistication and grandeur. Their exclusivity is evident, appealing primarily to those with elevated social status who recognize the prestige associated with these iconic names.

“colourín colourado este cuento se ha acabado”
(Spanish for end of story like “And they all lived happily ever after”)

With this final touch of Spanish storytelling art, we mark the end of our tale dedicated to the exploration of colours, their deeper psychological and mythological meaning, and their present-day application in building a strong brand identity. We hope you have enjoyed both chapters and that they have provided you with insights and inspiration.

Until next time!