What’s your style? #2 – Colour

At its heart, Marketing is about communication and joined-up marketing is about making sure all the elements of your communication work together in harmony.  

The way your marketing message is presented has a big impact on the effectiveness of your communication. Let’s take very simple example…


…than this

In a previous article here, I talked about the power of fonts to define a style for your brand, now let’s look at how colour adds to the picture.

Why colours matter in marketing

What do you think of when you hear the word “love?” Whether positive or negative, it probably conjures a stronger emotional response than when you hear a phrase like “house brick.”

Emotions are powerful and (whether we like it or not) drive our decision making. As a brand, you want to cultivate a strong emotional connection with your customers. The problem is you can’t tell your company’s entire story in a logo or website header—but branding colours provide a shortcut straight to your customer’s hearts.

Colour theorist, June Mcleod, has written extensively on the link between colours and our emotional state, particularly in her book Colour Psychology Today. Just like the words “love” and “house brick” elicit different emotions, colours like red and blue both create different human responses as well. Even more interesting, the same colours tend to provoke similar responses in different people; in other words, yellow evokes similar feelings in people from Manchester to Mombassa. This extends even to shades of individual colours, so deep dark blue and light sky blue will also have different effects.

Of course, colour theory goes a lot deeper than “pink is a pretty colour.” Psychologists link it to the very evolution of humans; connections with certain colours developed after years of associating them with particular objects. A blood red, for example, puts people on alert for danger nearby; the browns of dirt and rotten food tend to be unappetizing.

This isn’t always accurate—after all, farmers (and chocolate lovers) might love the colour brown, and let’s not forget humans evolved to see the colour blue only in recent millennia—but when considering millions of years of biological conditioning, it’s easy to see how affiliations to colours goes beyond mere preference… something humanity has known for quite some time now.

Even the most cold-hearted business-person can’t ignore the science between the psychological effects of branding colours. With mountains of evidence, it’s not a question of do brand colors work?, but how do I make brand colors work for me?

What are your style colours?

How potential customers feel about your brand has more pull than what they think about your brand. Join this with the fact that we know certain colours evoke certain emotions and bingo: your style colours have the ability to impact your sales or performance even more than the products or services you offer!

Furthermore, repetition of the same colour can strengthen brand awareness. When was the last time you saw a Coke can that wasn’t red or a Twitter bird that wasn’t sky blue? (Certainly the marketing world learned its lesson from Heinz’s tragic foray into purple ketchup.) Given enough exposure, colours become part of a brand, so you want to encourage this association by using your brand colours consistently.

By being consistent with your style colours your brand’s association with those colours, and by extension strengthen brand awareness as a whole.

What this all amounts to, at least for branding and style, is that you must choose your branding colours carefully as they’ll have a direct influence on your brand identity. Yellow may be your personal favourite colour, but it might be the worst for your business goals. But before you even get into which colours you want to represent you, first you must decide your ideal brand personality.

Choosing your branding colours is easy if you know what you’re trying to communicate. One of the earliest steps in building a brand is determining your brand personality. Essentially, you want to think of your company like a person: who are they? What’s important to them?

Once you established what your brand personality goals are, how do you determine which colours will work best? It starts with first learning the emotional associations of each colour.

A quick guide to colour associations

I’ve talked quite a lot about the theory for branding colours — let’s get specific. Here are some guidelines to work with…

  • Red — passion, importance, attention
  • Orange — playfulness, friendly, vitality
  • Yellow — happiness, optimism, warning
  • Green — nature, stability, prosperity (growth)
  • Light Blue — tranquillity, trust, openness
  • Dark Blue — professionalism, security, formality
  • Purple — royalty, creativity, luxury
  • Pink — femininity, youth, innocence
  • Brown — rugged, earthy, old-fashioned
  • White — clean, virtuous, healthy
  • Grey — neutrality, gloom, subdued
  • Black — powerful, sophisticated, edgy

Don’t forget this list is simplistic. You can easily find a lot more detail through a quick web search.

Style colours – How many?

If you’re going for a single-colour brand, the hard part is already over. But for most businesses, you’ll want a more involved colour style. The key with multiple colours is to make sure they combine in the way you want.

Of course, there’s no one right way to pick your branding colour style. This said, the process can be daunting and confusing, so a little guidance is helpful. Here are 4 steps you can use as a framework.

1. Work to 3 colours

Your base, accent and a neutral. Brand colour schemes can have up to 4 colours depending on the type (see below), but even monochrome schemes will require some variation in hues for different purposes.

2. Choose your base

Of all your brand’s personality traits, your base colour is the most important. It should reflect not only your brand personality’s most dominant trait but also appeal to the target market you’re trying to reach. You’ll choose the remaining colors based on how well they match with this one.

3. Choose your accent

Your accent will be the colour you use the most after your base colour. This is a bit trickier than choosing your base colour because your accent colour must also pair visually with your base colour.

4. Choosing your neutral

Your neutral colour will most likely be a background colour, something chosen to avoid attention. Typically these are white or different hues of grey, but beige and off-whites work too. Some people use black or other very dark colours, but be careful; these can be too dominant and overpower any colour scheme they are part of.

Connected Colours

Throughout the process of choosing your style colours, you have to ensure your colours work together? A colour wheel is a great tool for helping to pick the right colours. This article tells you more.

Using a colour wheel in different ways can help to bring your style colours together. Here are 4 options:

  1. Monochromatic — When you have one personality trait that you want to focus in on, a monochrome scheme will emphasis the meaning of that one brand colour. While great for minimalist brands, the challenge here is differentiating the hues enough that your marketing doesn’t become visually stunted.
  2. Analogous — Colours next to each other on the colour wheel have harmonious relationships since adjacent colours usually have similar emotional connotations. Analogous schemes are safe bets, but as such not the best for standing out or drawing attention.
  3. Complementary — Colour complements — or opposites — are colours directly across from one another on the colour wheels. Because they’re opposites, they bring out the best in each other when paired; you see complementary colours a lot in sports teams. Complementary colours are great for dynamic, stimulating visuals, but be careful of copycatting another brand since they’re so popular.
  4. Triadic — A stable branding colour scheme, triadic colours draw in equal parts for three different sections of the colour wheel. Triadic schemes are stable like analogous themes, but offer a more stimulating variety like complementary schemes. The hardest part is getting the three colours to coincide with the traits of your brand identity.

How your branding colours combine will come up again and again in many different aspects of your business. Your brand colour style determines the look of your website, logo, social media, adverts, brochures etc. Choose them all carefully.

And finally…

If you want some help to get you going on defining your base colour as a starting point to your style colours, check out this quiz I found. It may be a little basic but it is based on solid theory.

If you’d like to talk further about your style colours as part of a joined-up marketing approach, please get in touch.

Filed under: Brand marketing, Joined-up marketing, Marketing Resources, Marketing Tips, Technical tips, Web Design Best Practice

About David Wright

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Every business has a brand. Building yours can be the best way of adding sustained value to your business. A strong brand also builds market confidence and creates a great platform from which to develop sustainable business opportunities.

I combine professional marketing qualifications and experience with a solid understanding of real business to discuss and advise on building your business brand using effective marketing communication in a down-to-earth, no jargon way.

As well as discussing plans and strategies I am keen to 'get my hands dirty' and work with clients to make sure things happen!

  • Understanding you, your business, and what you want to achieve
  • Helping you choose the right tools for a practical marketing communications plan
  • Working with you to make sure things happen - and keep happening

My business goals are to achieve effective, long term relationships with clients, to deliver real benefit and to help clients drive their business forward.


  • Practical, joined-up marketing communication.
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I work on clarifying your goals then developing and implementing practical marketing to help you achieve them.

Extensive understanding on the internet and web marketing enables me to tap into highly cost-effective tools to achieve effective, sustainable marketing at realistic budgets.

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