As seen in INsights magazine…
A business logo has the potential to encapsulate messages a company hopes to portray. While there are many components of a logo to consider—shape, size, space, etc., color has an interesting impact on the consumer response. The logo color is an essential element that influences graphic design (Henderson et al., 2004). The perception of color is subjective to the viewer and has individualized associations that incites intrinsic emotions. Interestingly, trends have emerged from psychology and marketing to demonstrate how color is a tactful way to communicate the brand message through visual perception. Color develops the identity of the brand through a foundational company component: the logo. Using neuroscientific and psychological tools, the optimal color can be selected for a logo to communicate a brand story and influence consumers behavior.
Logos are used to identify a brand via symbols or text. The overall experience of the brand should be represented within the logo (Fajardo, Zhang, & Tsiros, 2016). Specifically, the theme color is the most predominately used color in the brand design. This element shapes consumer perception while trickling into other areas of management to make lasting impressions. Store, smartphone application, and website designs are intentionally consistent with the color chosen. Netflix, for example, has a red theme color. The dramatic red color on a black background of the Netflix logo works to induce a cinematic feel (“Brand Assets”, 2019). The red theme is intermingled within the platform design which parallels Netflix’s red logo.
Psychological tests with emotional batteries and scales can examine the emotional responses of consumers to ensure congruency between theme colors and company or brand persona, or as we at HCD Research like to say, Brand Harmony. Timed reactions to visuals, colors, shapes, sounds and/or concepts during an implicit association test allows companies to understand their consumers at a deeper level. The consumer’s emotional reaction to the logo indicates product perception and association strength. HCD uses psychological tests that provide information to keep the company both relevant and aware and ensure harmony between brand perceptions and actual experiences.
Colors consist of hues, lightness and saturation that influence human behavior (Su, Cui, & Walsh, 2019). The associative learning theory suggests that connections among brand elements are reinforced by frequent combinations via social learning. For example, eco-friendly colors chosen for a company logo are viewed as more ethical compared to a company that has a less eco-friendly color. The color assumption reigns true even when companies are not outwardly ethical (Sundar & Kellaris, 2017). If the company experiences a disconnect between the brand expectation compared to its reality, the result can lead to negative implications. The eco-friendly color associations can have unanticipated effects, such as inflated price perception. The positive and negative inferences associated with how the color impacts the brand is crucial, especially since color cues have strong implications for the brand perception.
Aesthetic components of a logo, such as color, are also a factor in trustworthiness. Gaining consumer trust is crucial for long-term brand loyalty and brand equity. Research about red or blue logos draws interesting findings, suggesting that blue promotes relaxation, tranquility, improved mental health and higher levels of trust. Contrastingly, red is associated with danger which leads to avoidance (Su, Cui, & Walsh, 2019). Physio-physiological responses are noted with colors as well, showing that exposure to red increases arousal (Sundar & Kellaris, 2017). The use of skin conductance, heart rate variability and facial electromyography are just some of the validated measures that can shed light into physiological responses to logo colors. The listed biometrics have versatility in their research application and can help differentiate small changes in visual stimuli to create valuable results.
The use of psychological tests or psychophysiological tools in market research creates an approach that when integrated with traditional tools, such as MaxDiff in HCD’s MaxImplicit, can identify innovation opportunities to stand out to consumers by identifying needs and perceptions. Factors, such as brand image, target audiences and overall goals for the emotions experience are part of how colors should be selected. If there is a company that has a product with toxic chemicals, a color that elicits a peacefulness is not ideal. Using the color red can help provoke a sense of urgency and caution. The cues of a color can facilitate the company’s communication strategy; however, the best color to use is subjective based on the type of message attempting to be conveyed.
Another factor to evaluate when considering logo colors is the target audience. What demographic is the company trying to reach? The way a logo color is interpreted by the consumer is affected by the culture in which they are socialized. Nationalities and cultures may discriminate certain colors differently (Huang, Lin, & Chiang, 2008). White, for example, can have two meanings depending on the country and context. Traditionally, white is worn in China as a symbolic gesture of sorrow at a funeral, while wedding dresses worn in America symbolize purity. Company logos can trigger associations in memory through color (Chung & Kinsey, 2019). The company must plan how to best use the color associations within the target demographic to help trigger brand-name memory, and thus reinforce nonverbal communication.
Visual retention is a key factor in recalling elements, such as shapes, words, and patterns, to associate a logo with a brand. HCD employs eye tracking in research to gain a quantitative understanding of consumers’ gaze behavior. The logo has a lot of potential to impact the consumer, so it is crucial that the visual catches the attention of the consumer and keeps the consumer engaged. Eye tracking reveals where visual attention is focused, sharing if this form of communication is even seen. Observable attributes are used to help consumers infer information, especially when there is no prior knowledge of the company. Consumers are more likely to remember naturalistic context colors (such as a yellow lemon as opposed to a blue lemon). By creating a color-context familiarity within the logo, there is an opportunity to communicate a message that is more likely to be retained by the consumer.
Creating a memorable logo helps to differentiate among competitors. Color helps consumers remember an image, making a longer impression when compared to black and white pictures (Brédart, Cornet, & Rakic, 2014). Bright colors elicit positive emotions, whereas dark colors provoke the opposite response. These associations carry over into logo research, where bright colors receive preference over dark colors by consumers (Chung & Kinsey, 2019). Color preference also affects logo recall and recognition through its ability to attract visual attention (Huang, Lin, & Chiang, 2008).
Color is a contributing component to how a brand logo will appear visually appropriate, attractive and effective. The selection process is a major part of the brand, since the logo is a key vehicle in expressing visual communication. Influential logos also provide consistency and continuity of a company, thus giving meaningful contributions to the company’s identity. Advanced tools, such as neuroscientific measures or psychological tools, could be employed to help make a more informed business decision about this cornerstone for a brand.
HCD is a marketing and consumer sciences company that provides expert recommendations by employing traditional and applied consumer neuroscience to optimize the design of products, experiences and communications. We are “methodologically agnostic” and approach each client inquiry as a unique market research challenge. Our customized solutions employ the most appropriate research tools based on the specific objectives. These tools can include traditional research, psychophysiological measures, psychological testing, or a synergistic combination of these methods.
Brand Assets. (2019). Retrieved November 6, 2019, from https://brand.netflix.com/en/assets/.
Brédart, S., Cornet, A., & Rakic, J. M. (2014). Recognition memory for colored and black-and-white scenes in normal and color deficient observers (dichromats). PloS one, 9(5), e98757.
Chung, A., & Kinsey, D. F. (2019). An Examination of Consumers’ Subjective Views that Affect the Favorability of Organizational Logos: An Exploratory Study Using Q Methodology. Corporate Reputation Review, 1-12.
Fajardo, T. M., Zhang, J., & Tsiros, M. (2016). The contingent nature of the symbolic associations of visual design elements: The cases of brand logo frames. Journal of Consumer Research, 43(4), 549–566. doi:10.1093/jcr/ucw048
Figure 1. Examples of logo colors of low (red) and high (green) eco-friendly colors. Adapted from “How Logo Colors Influence Shoppers’ Judgements of retailer Ethicality: The Mediating Role of Perceived Eco-Friendliness,” by A. Sundary & J.J. Kellaris, 2017, Journal of Business Ethics, 146 (3) 685-701.
Henderson, P. W., Giese, J. L., & Cote, J. A. (2004). Impression management using typeface design. Journal of marketing, 68(4), 60-72.
Huang, K. C., Lin, C. C., & Chiang, S. Y. (2008). Color preference and familiarity in performance on brand logo recall. Perceptual and motor skills, 107(2), 587-596.
Su, L., Cui, A. P., & Walsh, M. F. (2019). Trustworthy Blue or Untrustworthy Red: The Influence of Colors on Trust. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 27(3), 269-281.
Sundar, A., & Kellaris, J. J. (2017). How logo colors influence shoppers’ judgments of retailer ethicality: The mediating role of perceived eco-friendliness. Journal of Business Ethics, 146(3), 685-701.