Starting your own business is thrilling and daunting all at the same time. You want to execute perfectly and you are forced to make countless important decisions. What’s your business model? Which payment methods will you accept? Will you contract staff or employ them in house?
With crucial decision points like these it’s no wonder that questions around branding and color choice often don’t get the attention they deserve. Choosing the wrong brand color scheme and strategy can have a negative long-term impact on your business however. This article will cover some helpful tips on how to choose the right brand colors for your startup brand.
Analyze Your Competitive Landscape
A good business plan covers competitive research thoroughly. You are most likely already familiar with your competitors and what they do. Part of your competitive analysis should also include their branding strategy and design choices such as color patterns.
This is not to suggest that you should simply copy what they are doing but having a clear understanding of the competitive landscape when it comes to branding is beneficial. Certain industries lean heavily on certain core brand colors, like the financial sector illustrated below. Once you know what works and what doesn’t work for competitors you can position your brand accordingly.
What Message Do You Want Your Business to Convey?
Once you know how your competitors are branding their website, social media channels, merchandise, etc. you should focus on finding your angle. What does your business stand for? What message do you want your brand to convey to potential customers and other business stakeholders? The most efficient way to answer this question is to write a mission and vision statement. You should also have those two statements ready for your business plan, pitch decks, etc.
Not only will they drive the color choice for your branding but your overall direction as a business. Once you have a clear sense of what your business stands for you can move on to the creative part of this exercise, choosing a core color as well as secondary colors for your logo and other branding assets.
The FedEx logo makes clever use of negative space to include an arrow. The arrow is consistent with their corporate message and subtly promises to deliver on time.
What Are My Color Options?
Each color conveys a different message. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of simply choosing a pretty color scheme instead of letting the message drive that decision. A pretty logo might look nice but if it doesn’t connect with your core demographic then it isn’t a useful branding and sales tool. Here are some of the most popular branding colors and associated meanings:
- Red: Red is a popular color choice and famously used by brands like Coca Cola and Netflix. This color conveys passion, excitement, leadership and strength.
- Blue: Blue conveys wisdom, confidence, loyalty and trust. It’s no wonder this is one of the most common color choice for brands, especially in the financial sector.
- Green: Green is a very restful color visually and conveys harmony, freshness and growth. Of course this is a preferred color choice for organic and natural products and services.
- Orange: Orange is a warm color but not as bold as red. This color represents creativity, happiness, success and enthusiasm. Brands like Fanta, Crush and Gatorade capture that fun factor with their logos.
- Yellow: Yellow of course is the warmest branding color and stands for intellect, energy, joy and happiness. This color is often used as a complementary instead of being the core branding color.
- Black: Although black isn’t technically a color it needs to be listed here due to it’s popularity when it comes to branding. Black conveys formality, mystery, elegance and power.
- White: White, just like black isn’t a color, but also needs to be considered as a design choice. It stands for innocence, purity, simplicity and cleanliness. White of course needs a second color to play off as the negative space or vice versa.
Fanta’s choice to go with orange helps them to easily portray a cheerful and fun image. Their branding wouldn’t have the same impact if they went with a color like green for example.
Visualize Your Startup Branding in Different Colors
Once you have identified a color that matches your company message you are half way there. Branding is still a visual exercise so now it’s time to make sure the chosen color also looks good. To see what your logo looks like in different colors or in various shades of the chosen core color try a free tool like the GraphicSprings Logo Maker. You can quickly design your logo and then play around with different color patterns. Adobe’s Spark is another option and SquareSpace offers a logo maker solution as well.
If you don’t have a background in graphic design or aren’t comfortable using a color wheel you can also use a free color scheme generator like the one by Paletton.
Gather Unbiased Feedback
The whole point of this branding exercise is to find a color that speaks to your core demographic. In practice you may have found the perfect color and then narrowed it down to a shade that you personally like. Sounds like a win-win. Not so fast, now it’s time to put it to the test. Before finalizing your logo and all of your other corresponding branding assets gather feedback from potential customers and business stakeholders. The more people you can include in your direct surveying the better. If you are looking for feedback from the general public at scale you can use a tool like Google Surveys.
Once you decided on your color scheme it’s time to finalize your logo and create other important brand assets. Canva and Crello are popular branding design tools ideal for non-designers. If you are comfortable using more sophisticated design software like Illustrator you’ll have even more freedom. To create a professional brand be sure to be consistent in your use of images, fonts and icons. The image, font and icons resources listed here all offer free sets that you can easily integrate into your design.
The image below illustrates a nice set of brand assets. Of course, you don’t have to take it to this extreme but it’s better to be too consistent than not at all.
Many entrepreneurs rush the branding process early on and then try to fix it as their business grows. If you spend some extra time to find the right brand colors and branding direction in the beginning you can avoid having to rebrand down the line. Rebranding is costly and time consuming. Keep the tips above in mind when you are ready to design your logo and brand assets and you’ll already have a leg up on your competition.