Choosing a colour for a branded product or service should proceed from two things. It should be appropriate to the promise, market category, brand values and style, and it should be distinctive from the key competitors in the market. Once the key colour has been chosen, a palette of harmonious colours should be developed with an eye to being useful in packaging, decor and print. Some colours reproduce poorly in particular media, and this needs to be factored into colour choice.

 

The most attractive colour is red. The most popular colour is blue. Blue and red are the most commonly used colours in logos, and therefore the least distinctive.

Numerous studies have shown the direct impact of colour on viewers. However, in relation to branding, the issues are far more complex.

Essentially, although colour is affected by cultural considerations and personal taste, red at the long wavelength end of the visible spectrum has the highest energy, whereas blues and violets have the least. In terms of our natural associations, we see blue most often in the sky, red most often in blood, and green most often in grass and foliage. The sun is yellow, sunset is orange, pink or golden, snow is white, night is black, and metal is silvery.

However, our colour associations are also affected by the artificial world around us, by a millennium of fashion, a century of branding, fifty years of colour print and photography, and fifteen years of the world wide web.

The result is that the more universally popular a colour is, in terms of people expressing preferences in surveys and studies, the more used it is in branding and therefore the less distinctive. To make matters worse, people are notoriously bad at discussing colours. Women are generally able to name more colours than men, a proportion of whom are significantly colour blind and cannot distinguish common colours.