Color Psychology: What Neutral Brand Colors Say About Your Business

Color plays a major role in how the world perceives your company. Colors have an effect on our emotions. While the effect can differ depending on an individual’s experience and the context, there are generalizations that the majority of people and color psychology studies recognize.

According to Marketo, 28% of the world’s brands are using colors on the black or grayscale. This is why we’ve decided to highlight the more neutral tones. If you want to find out what the meanings of the more vibrant colors are, head to our other color psychology blog here.

What is Color Psychology?

Before we get into the colors’ meanings, let’s start with a definition. Color psychology is the study of color in relation to human behaviors, feelings, emotions, and even moods. This concept is relevant in areas such as art, design and marketing. People respond to and perceive colors in various ways depending on their experiences, personal preferences and what they’ve been exposed to in the past.

Why is Color Important in Marketing?

Color is involved in every situation and environment that we encounter. Our color preferences affect how we style our homes, how we choose our outfits, the cars we drive, and the products we buy.  

However, in marketing, color plays an essential role in how your brand comes across to consumers. Whether they know it or not, 60-80% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by color. So, as a brand you want to choose the colors that lead the consumer to buy your product over a competitor.

In branding, design elements like color, logo, font, and packaging seem to be small details. However, not only are consumers impacted by color when buying a product in a store or online, it’s the element that is key to them recalling your brand later on. 

 

Colors and Interpretations

We included the interpretations of neutral colors that are featured in logos as both accents and main colors. We listed the positive and negative meanings associated with each color. 

White

White is associated with goodness and purity, this is seen in weddings, baptisms, and doves. There is a soft, comforting aspect to white as seen in cotton, faux fur, and all linens like pillows, comforters, and sheets.

In the healthcare field, white signifies cleanliness and sterility. Additionally, bleach is white and has been communicated as the extreme, all germ and bacteria cleaner for decades. 

In interior design, white is connected to the modern and minimalistic styles. Thus, this can mean that white comes across as cold, empty, and unwelcoming. Nature supports this negative side of the color with snow. 

From a design perspective, white is the best background for text and as backdrops in photos. In branding, white is used as an accent or text color since it’s best for contrasting with rich, dark colors.

Positive Meanings:

  • Cleanliness
  • Sophistication
  • Simplicity

Negative Meanings:

  • Cold
  • Emptiness
  • Elitism

White Brands:

North Face, Cotton Inc, Clorox

 

Gray

As a bridge between white and black, gray also indicates clean, modern, and sophisticated characteristics. This is why it has been successful for luxury brands in technology and the automotive industries. It doesn’t strike consumers to be as dominant, which can mean that it’s appealing to all but also be less impactful potentially. 

Similar to white, gray is connected to the modern and minimalist interior design styles. Stainless steel, granite and slate flooring add to the simple yet chic characteristics of those design styles. Lighter shades of this hue can be used in negative space instead of white. Gray is a great neutral that can balance out designs and make packaging attractive to all consumers. Apple is an example of a brand that uses this, not only in their logo but in all their sleek laptops and phones.

Positive Meanings

  • Neutrality
  • Timelessness
  • Intelligence

Negative Meanings:

  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of confidence
  • Blandness

Gray Brands:

Apple, Lexus, Nestlé

 

Black

This hue portrays characteristics such as sophistication and seriousness, think of the little black dress and Black-Tie events. Besides sophistication, black can represent sadness and is associated with funerals. Standing as the true opposite of white that, as we mentioned, is connected to weddings.

In graphic design, black contrasts well with the lighter colors and is used as headlines, borders, or backgrounds. In language, it has darker, serious meanings such as blacklist, blackout, black cat, black-tie, and black belt.

Since it’s such a strong and powerful color, it can communicate prestige and value but also security and authority. This is seen in companies like Nike, Adidas, Prada, Sony, Walt Disney, Calvin Klein, and The New York Times.

Positive Meanings:

  • Power 
  • Elegance
  • Security

Negative Meanings:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Oppression

Black Brands:

Chanel, Nike, Jeep

 

Brown

Similar to green, brown is an earthy color. It’s widely seen in nature as soil, wood, and stone. This means it relates to comfort and authenticity. With its tones of red and yellow it comes off warmer that it’s neutral companions, white, gray, and black. 

Due to its natural roots, it is seen in a utilitarian way, think UPS. Additionally, it’s seen as solid, durable, and resilient. This can bode well for product-based companies. However, it can also be interpreted as lonely, isolated, vast, and empty similar to nature’s forests and deserts.

Wood materials and variations of the color brown, like tan or beige, are used as neutrals in interior design to warm up a space by breaking up more modern colors such as black and white.

Positive Meanings

  • Durable 
  • Natural
  • Authenticity

Negative Meanings:

  • Dirtiness
  • Heaviness
  • Conservativeness

Brown Brands:

UPS, M&Ms, Louis Vuitton

Conclusion

Color is a key element in branding. Not only is it the first part consumers notice about a logo, it’s also the feature that is carried throughout all branding. This includes your website, social media, advertisements, and print marketing materials. 

Thus, it’s important to understand what the colors of your brand is communicating to the world. Once you know the positive and negative implications, you can be better prepared and use the positives to your advantage.

If you didn’t see your brand’s color in this post, check out this one

 

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