How Color Impacts Your Retail Brand
Few industries are as impacted by the choice of colors in their branding as retail. The right colors have the power to attract customers to your store and drive sales once they're in the door. The same can be said of your e-commerce site. Sadly, most small businesses don’t spend nearly enough time considering the research behind the emotional effects colors can have on people and how these correlate with desired outcomes and customer behavior. In fact, in a recent poll of small business owners, 65 percent admitted “personal taste and preference” was the single biggest factor in choosing colors for their logo.
As part of a just-released Psychology of Color special report, 99designs analyzed 14,000 logos and specifically 600-plus retail logos and branding projects created on the platform, looking at both the most popular colors selected compared to the most popularly desired brand attributes, as well as how these compared to colors of the retail industry leaders. Below are a few of the highlights.
Most Popular Retail Hues: Blue and Red, Accented by Black and White
Blue and red are the most popular colors among 99designs’ retail customers. Black and white were the most used secondary accent colors, showing up in 40 percent of the logos analyzed. Across retail industry leaders specifically (not just 99designs’ customers), however, red is a clear favorite, used by 59 percent of the largest retail brands, including Target, Macy’s, Ace Hardware, and more.
Least Favored Colors: Brown, Purple and Pink
Brown, purple and pink were the least common retail color choices, not surprising as they're each considered to be niche, as in certain demographics love them but other groups hate them. That makes them strategic if they suit your niche, but a poor choice for general retail. For example, pink is perfect for a candy store, but ill-advised for a department store catering to everyone.
Retailers Indicate Preference for ‘Youthful’ Colors
Retail businesses on 99designs consistently indicate in their creative briefs a preference for colors reflecting a youthful appearance. However, aside from red, typically “youthful” colors are less flexible. For example, purple and pink, as mentioned above, are niche colors that appeal to some demographic groups and repel others, and orange tends to subvert more sophisticated brands.
What to make of all this color psychology and analysis? Here are some tips to heed if you’re a retailer choosing colors for your logo or branding:
Tip 1: Don't just pick a color you like.
Instead, determine your brand values and your target audience. Marketing to a rugged, no-nonsense crowd? Earthy browns and vigorous reds may be the ticket. A luxury brand might lean toward royal purple and glossy black. Start by asking yourself these six questions:
- Gender: Is my brand traditionally masculine or feminine?
- Tone: Is my brand playful or serious?
- Value: Is my brand luxurious or affordable?
- Time: Is my brand modern or classic?
- Age: Is my brand youthful or mature?
- Energy: Is my brand loud or subdued?
Tip 2: Think outside the box.
Red, blue, black and white are the most popular choices, but that doesn’t mean they’re best for your brand. In fact, for smaller niche brands, standing out is critical. Niche brands also have more leeway to “break the rules.” Even the unpopular colors like brown — the weakest association to the “youthful” retailer trait — can still have their moment, depending on what you’re selling and to whom.
Tip 3: Remember that each color represents specific emotions and personality attributes.
A company that wants to appear fun and cheap benefits from a different color scheme than one that wants to appear professional and high-end. Below is a graphic of these kinds of color associations:
Pam Webber is the chief operations officer at 99designs, a creative platform for custom graphic design.