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Influencing Brand Perception with Color

Use of color in branding has the ability to drive emotional experiences

Defining a brand’s persona—its personality and personified traits like character illustrations, typeface, and logo—lays the foundation to make effective decisions with, say, color. Because brands have personas like people, once that persona is well established, we can align colors which represent aspects of the persona to make the brand relatable, and later, even trigger positive associations with the audience itself.

As consumers we are often distinctly attracted to one brand over another despite offerings of identical products or services. Mostly we aren’t even aware of how impactful brand visuals are in placing our brand loyalties, and even in altering our brand experiences. For instance, what makes you hail a Lyft over an Uber? The fleet? Their drivers? The app UI? The mustache perhaps? Every day, millions on-the-go pick Hex: ff00bf pink over Hex: 09091a black. Same customer. Same offering. Same market. Two dramatically different color pallets. Could our brand decisions be so simple? To find out we need to dive into the world of chromatics and color theory to understand the effect color has on the human psyche, and its power in branding.

Lyft complementary color scheme


Color Theory

To choose colors that align with your persona, it is first important to understand the basic symbolism of the color, then apply the relevant influencers which modify or have an impact on how that color is perceived by the desired target audience.

Color theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and visual effects of specific color combinations, hues, shades, and light effects used in art and design. The three elements of color theory—the color wheel, harmony, and context—inform chosen color schemes, and together aim to aesthetically communicate a message visually and psychologically.


UBER secondary complementary color scheme


The color wheel is a scientific organization of the primary, secondary, and tertiary color hues as well as their associated shades, also known as darks, and tints, also known as lights.

A given color will work well paired with the colors on either of its sides (analogous) or on the directly opposite side of the wheel (complimentary). Such combinations work to achieve harmony in design.

Harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye, creates an inner sense of order, and balance in the visual experience. This is typically achieved by working with analogous or complementary color pairings. The importance of achieving color harmony is to develop visual interest with the human brain and avoid anything under-stimulating, or conversely, over-stimulating. Any color system too boring or too chaotic is destined to be rejected by the human brain and become a challenge for the viewer to even look at.

Observing the effects colors have on each other, or the relationship of value, saturation, and temperature of the combined color hues in context with each other, can alter their appearance in terms of hue, vibrance, and even their appearance of size. Once a color pallet is chosen it should be tested in context with each color to assure a consistent perception can be maintained, and the viewer retains a consistent or predictable emotive response.

Response to Color

Humans are hardwired to respond to color. Colors derive meaning from several sources, the combination of which influence the viewer’s emotive reaction, beyond the instinctual or symbolic reaction to the color itself. Meaning is perceived based on our natural associations of how color occurs in the natural world, and psychological associations of what we’ve been taught through culture. According to our associations, each and every hue, shade and lighting effect, together in the right combination, gives the viewer an emotional experience and influences his or her behavior. A brand experience.

Just like the brands they represent, colors have personalities. Consumers are attracted to brands that match their own personalities. By properly matching color to your brand’s personality, which also reflects your target audience’s personality traits, your brand can help customers make purchasing decisions. In other words, color gets your target audience to see your brand the way you want them to see it and make decisions you want them to make.

Every color speaks to a different aspect of the consumer. For example, blue denotes trust, loyalty, and peace. Orange elicits confidence, success, and bravery. Green evokes healing, nature, and quality.

Color is a purchase motivator: From the consumer’s perspective, color can be the sole reason for purchasing a product. 84% of consumers claim color is the primary factor attracting them to the product. 52% of customers won’t use a brand if they dislike the aesthetic. 80% of customers believe color is responsible for brand recognition.

The effective use of color ensures that experiences across digital touchpoints are aligned with the overarching brand and that all target audiences feel supported and valued by the brand.

In the rideshare race, Uber and Lyft have donned polarizing flags. Uber’s persona strives to be professional, aspirational, visionary and reliable, opting for the sophistication, power, and elegance of black. Conversely, Lyft’s traits look to denote informality, openness, kindness, and community, with friendship, harmony, inner peace, and approachability being the hallmark aspects of pink.

What do you look for when you put your commute experience (and life) in the driver’s hands? Do you choose the reliability of the black car or the approachability of the carpool? Aspirational or relatable? At the end of the day, don’t forget, it is almost always the exact same physical experience. Your driver has both stickers afterall.

We experience color.

When properly executed, branding imbues the customer with a felt sensory experience. Color possesses the magic to overshadow logic and tap into the emotional centers of the brain. Stay tuned as we continue to expand upon the visual elements of branding.

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