Sunday, October 3, 2010

Branding and Blogging - Are you Blue about Red?

January 1, 1954 was a special day. No, I wasn't born, but broadcasting color on TV was. This marked the day the world changed from a dull black and white and everything became color. Wait, what? You say that's not how it worked? Hmm.

While the world was in plenty of color before 1954, the advent of color television changed the world in a dramatic way. Color adds whole new dimensions to the stories told through the news, sitcoms and sporting events. Color makes us feel more attached and close to events around us. While we often take color for granted, on a deeper, subconscious level, color affects our thoughts and behaviors, which can affect our decisions.

Color plays an incredibly important role in branding. The right color can define a brand. The wrong color can make a potential brand drab and forgettable. This is especially true of a blog brand, which we're trying to build.

To see color and branding in action, let's look at Pepsi. This soft-drink giant changes its logo every few years, yet its identity is never shaken. Why? Its colors never change. The red, white and blue are easily identified as Pepsi. But what do those colors do for the company? Those three colors are our national colors, which sends a subliminal message that Pepsi is an all-American company and that drinking Pepsi makes you a true-blooded American. Whether or not you believe that's true, that's the message that's subtly being broadcast.

Another example of color and branding is McDonalds. You gotta love those Golden Arches. They are easy to see even at a distance. But, even without the arches, you could spot a McDonalds simply by the colors: red and yellow. My daughter knows a McDonalds as soon as she sees one; not because of the arches, but because of the bright colors. Those colors were no accident. Studies have shown that the color red invokes feelings of power, motion and action. Yellow invokes feelings of warmth and happiness, probably stemming from the yellow color of the sun. Warm colors, like red and yellow, also have a tendency to make people feel hungry. It's no surprise then that so many restaurants use these colors: McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, Pizza Hut, and the list goes on.

Color is incredibly tied up with branding. People come to expect those colors and they do send a powerful, though subtle message about your brand. Choosing the right color for your blog brand should be a careful decision.

Below is a list of colors and the messages they convey.
Red. This is easily the most overused color. So many businesses use this color because it's powerful, stunning and the eye naturally gravitates toward it. While it may be a wonderful color, by using it, you become one of many. If you feel the rest of your brand is strong enough to compensate for that, then red may be the color for you.

Blue. Another overused color. Blue is a natural color, a color of serenity. Again, the eye is drawn to it, but it's not as in-your-face as red. If your brand is tied up in nature, water, or relaxation, this is a good choice.

Green. Ten years ago, green was rarely used. Today, it's all the rage. The so-called Green movement has hijacked this color for their political and environmental purposes. It has always been associated with nature, which is great for any brand connected to the outdoors. However, it's important to be careful with the color green these days because if you use it, people will expect you to be environmentally focused.

Yellow. This color is bright and happy, invoking feelings of joy. Unfortunately, it's a soft color and difficult to read, making it a difficult color to brand. Yellow is rarely used as a stand-alone color, but it works well combined with blue, red, green or purple.

Purple. This color has the potential to be one of the most powerfully branded colors, but it is rarely used. It is a combination of red and blue, so it naturally pulls in the qualities of both those power colors. Sometimes, purple can be perceived as a more feminine color, but when the darker shade is used, it becomes more gender neutral. Unfortunately, purple has so many different hues and it can be difficult to replicate the exact color you desire. But, if you want your brand to stand out, purple is a great pick.

Orange. This power color is rarely used, but it combines the power of red and the warmth of yellow. Its bright color is eye-catching and people are drawn to it. It does take courage to rally your brand behind such an in-your-face color, but the payoff can be great.

Pink. Its hard to gain respect from a traditionally feminine color. While pink is moving more toward gender neutral, it's still considered a soft, weak color, which is not what most brands want to be perceived as. When it comes to blogging, a female-dominated activity, pink is a good fit. However, many women use pink as a fall back rather than having a purposeful reason for selecting the color.

Black. This shade is powerful, but can be perceived as dull. Law firms often use black or shades of gray for their brand because it's very official. It's rather boring though. Black is better used as a secondary color to a brand than as a primary color.

In-between colors. You know these types: the mauves, chartreuses and salmons. These colors are fun and playful, but they are considered weak in branding because they aren't definitively one color or another. What message does that send about your brand?

Light and dark shades of colors. Anytime you use a lighter hue of a color, it is automatically perceived as weaker. Some brands thrive on that though, even though they're not weak. Consider the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels' color is a baby blue, not a traditionally powerful color, yet their fans rally around the soft color. Darker hues are more powerful, but make them too dark and you border on being too official.

When selecting a color for your blog brand, refer back to your core values and the purpose of your blog. Who is your audience? What are you trying to accomplish? How do you want people to perceive you and your blog? The answers to these questions should guide your color choice.

Take a look at our brand here at Housewife Eclectic. You'll likely notice a consistent theme of colors: orange and brown. These colors were not a random selection. Great thought went into selecting the colors for the brand. Orange and brown are two heavily underused colors when it comes to branding, and we didn't want Housewife Eclectic to be one of many. These colors are also earthy and natural, which fits in well with the housewife theme. Plus, in a world of mommy bloggers, orange is far from the feminine colors that so many other bloggers use. There's nothing wrong with those colors, but orange definitely cuts through the crowd and is memorable.

Once you select your colors, stick to them. Don't randomly choose other color schemes. If you're red, stay red. If you're blue, be loyal to it. Many bloggers feel the need to change their color schemes any time they're bored, but this can confuse readers because they come to expect consistency and familiarity, or in short, your brand. We'll talk about backgrounds in another post, but to be quick, let your backgrounds match your brand.

It may not be rocket science and it may seem a little thing, but color selection can make a powerful difference between a good brand and a non-brand.

To get caught up on other Branding and Blogging posts, follow the links below:
PR and Blogging
Creating a Quality Product
Core Values
SWOT Analysis


Vodka Logic said...

My kids actually thought the world was black and white when I was a kid sheesh

Great points, great post

Lu said...

Mark says you should add Vanderbilt's "weak gold" to your list of sports colors. :)

Also, I never knew that you could get purple by combining red and yellow. ;)

Great list of colors and their "feelings" -- I can never remember these things.

Stray Stitches said...

Great info. I like the definition of my two colors relaxation and nature - blue and green!

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