Color affects the world around us. In good times and periods of uncertainty, various shades and hues can evoke emotions, influence moods, bring back memories and inspire new ways of thinking. That’s why, from logo treatments to websites to advertising, small business owners should be mindful of the colors they select to represent their brands.
“Color is more than a design element, it’s an important part of the communications process,” says Steve Slais, chief creative officer of a marketing firm in St. Louis, Missouri. “Every day, we’re bombarded by sensory stimulus – sensory overload – and colors are a way of breaking through the clutter and inspiring your target audience to engage in a relationship with your brand.”
Consider this: 90 percent of snap judgments about products can be based on color alone. “Take packaging for example,” Slais says. “One can of soup might taste better than the others, but the one with the best label design is the brand that people tend to gravitate towards – the same applies to websites, too.”
If you’re like most small business owners, you’re not an art expert, but you don’t have to be to make good color choices for your business. With your deep knowledge of your business, industry and target audience and a little colorful advice and guidance, you’ll be well on your way to establishing strong color combinations that represent your brand for years to come.
Like virtually every aspect of your business, when choosing colors, the customer comes first. While you may have particular preferences, remember that you are looking to appeal to your target audience. “Warm” colors like red, yellow and orange are vivid and bold and typically provoke feelings of strength or caution. “Cool” colors like blue, green and violet are often perceived as positive and calming.
Start by considering your type of business – studies show there are “perceived appropriate” colors for your industry, products and services. “Be mindful and aware of what you are trying to say about your brand and that will guide your color choices.” While you want a color that complements your industry, that doesn’t mean you need to mimic your competition. “Think of your main brand color as a couch. The way you distinguish yourself is with accent pillows,” says Slais.
These “pillows” are complementary shades to your main color choice that allow you to be different but still appeal to your audience. For example, a neutral shade like gray or beige may not be instantly apparent but can offer a subconscious and soothing feeling of calmness to balance out a bolder primary color like blue or red. “Effective color choices instantly communicate with your customers without saying a word,” says Slais. “People naturally have intuitive connections with these things.”
When choosing colors, think about how they will be used as an element in your logo treatment, signage, advertising and communications – all of these parts need to work together to create a positive impression for your audience. “Color is a major aspect of creating a visual hierarchy and determines what your audience looks at first – it has major influence,” says Slais. “Keep in mind that the colors, graphics, photos, typeface and border treatments all should complement each other for maximum effect.”
For example, if you are a cosmetics company and creating a website, consider warm shades of color (think lavender and light green for instance) that are traditionally perceived as feminine and natural, photos with soft tones and borders with rounded edges – nothing harsh or abrupt. Conversely, a manufacturing company’s website may feature bolder colors like black and shades of blue, a strong typeface and high-contrast photos. Everything you create that represents your company should appeal to your audience and reflect the values of your brand.
Slais says it helps to take a step back and look at things from a new perspective to gain visual clarity about your brand. “It’s about seeing things in a different light,” he says. “I was the kid that could always draw in school. One day, my fourth-grade teacher looked over my shoulder at my sketch and said, ‘Think about it. The boat doesn’t float on the water, it floats in the water.’ It was a simple observation that changed my perspective and inspires me to take a fresh look at every visual opportunity I work on today.”
“Color validates your brand and makes your audience feel a connection with who you are and what you do,” says Slais. “When you do it right, it makes people feel like they’ve landed in the right place when they click on your website or stop into your store.”
The key, Slais says, is consistency. Once you choose colors for your business, use them with everything you do and, unless it is for a very specific purpose, never haphazardly throw a new shade or hue into your brand color palette. “I think back to the powder blue tuxedos that drove the fashion industry years ago, but where are they now?” he says. “Styles change and colors change, but except for periodic updates and refreshes, yours should stay as consistent as possible to maintain strong relationships with your customers.”
In parting advice, Slais suggests that no matter what variations you choose, you should never be timid with your color selections. “People are drawn to drama and effective color combinations have a dramatic, positive impact on your customers. Trust your instincts or someone’s opinion you trust to get started.”
When it comes to creating a colorful website or enhancing your existing one, Web.com can help with website builder options that feature many templates with color, photo and type options. We can also help you with website design from start to finish. Let us know how we can help.
Your brand identity is an important part of your business and color is a big part of the equation. By following these tips and applying your industry expertise, you’ll be well on your way to creating colorful, lasting impressions. Be sure to check out our guide to color with our coordinating infographic.