Psychology of Colour in Branding: BLUE

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Everyone is fascinated by the colour blue. Honestly, it’s largely thought to be the number one favourite colour world-wide. But what is it about blue that draws us in? Is it the relation to nature and the calming sensation of looking up at the sky? Or is it the authoritative voice, steeped in royal history? There are many reasons why a successful, respected company uses blue in their branding. We discuss the logistics behind why this colour works and the pros and cons of blue’s messaging.

Out of the Blue

Historically, the colour blue has been associated with royalty, especially in Europe. There are even shades of blue that won a competition to make a dress for Queen Charlotte (consort of King George III) - earning the name, Royal Blue. This noble relation makes it feel loyal, trustworthy and authoritative. A lot of strong leadership traits come from blue due to its royal background; that’s also why people of noble birth are called, “blue-blooded.” More than half of the world’s flags feature blue, as it represents a sense of community and strength. There’s power in numbers, so the more countries considered great and powerful with the colour blue, the more that emulate them.

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Relating back to royalty, there is a term called the “blue laws” which referred to the moral standards of this class. They encouraged these laws to be passed on throughout society as an elite behaviour to have. There was a “bluebook,” which was a register of people of significant social standing, and this was used to track those who were truly of the blue class or a product of the blue laws. Eventually, the car industry adapted this classification system by organizing cars based on their listing values.

Blue gemstones are believed to create a sense of calm, similar to the calmness of looking up into the sky or the ocean. We’re reassured when we embrace blue in our environment. Maybe this is why the beach is so relaxing! Blue gemstones also thought to encourage open communication between close relationships. We have a tendency to repel emotion in a corporate setting. This allows brands to open up and create relationships by using a colour that makes people feel genuinely inspired to speak from the heart.

Best Blue Brands

Blue also has certain gendered stereotypes associated with it, which should be avoided. In Western culture, people have assigned blue with baby boys and pink with baby girls, even though in other parts of the world, such as Belgium, it’s the other way around. Assigning a particular gender to a specific colour is woefully outdated and ignores the recent progress being made in gender identity politics. Stepping away from these archaic applications, here a few different ways to interpret blue in modern-day brands. 

Tech companies, law firms, and social media platforms all sport the same cool blue hue. What is it about this colour that can stretch across industries that sometimes have nothing to do with one another? The trick is to either go light or dark with the tone. You’ll notice the lighter blues appear in brands like Twitter and Skype, which are seen as social, friendly, and trustworthy platforms; a place where you can start conversations and be yourself. 

LinkedIn, PayPal and Dasani are three completely different brands, but they all have a darker navy or royal blue as their main branding. A younger audience perceives darker hues of blue as more mature. Using a sophisticated palette and approach convinces younger audiences that their service is essential to growing up and being an adult. 

Referring back to looking up into the sky and feeling calm—blue is strongly correlated to spiritual healing and devotion. Many charities, mentors, teachers, and public speakers use blue as their main colours, like Me to We and the David Suzuki Foundation. Their brand purpose is to build loyalty and communicate with customers on a one to one basis. Insurance companies like Allstate and banks like BMO also have the same mission, where trust and reliability are essential.

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Companies relating to air and water, like airlines (Air Alaska), boats (Bayliner) and air conditioners (Carrier) all use local blue colours. It’s quite common for companies like this to use a literal interpretation of water and air for their branding. Since the services are very straightforward it makes sense to have a straightforward representation of what they’re about. This secures any questioning about the brand from the get-go and also secures the legitimacy of the service.  

Note that brands in the food industry like to stay away from the colour blue. There are very few ingredients that naturally contain this colour (even blueberries are technically purple) and could invoke imagery of mould or food going bad. One exception to this is for sugar brands combining it with baby pink to represent sweetness. The most common industry with blue in their palette is tech. When combined with grey it creates a sense of authority.

Singing The Blues

Since blue is the world’s favourite colour, you’d think that brands would jump to using blue in almost any scenario. This definitely is not the case. Since blue is sharply refracted by the human eye, it can appear as a fog if excessively used. Depression and sadness are often described as “feeling blue” and “singing the blues.” Brands should bear this in mind when using this hue. 

Change is difficult for blue. It’s inflexible. When you add black to the colour blue trying to create navy it turns into a muddy paste. In the olden-days of mixing paint, it was very hard to customize. Of course, today there are specific ways to make blue go up or down in tone, but many brands who still use blue give off a conservative, yet predictable tone. It shows that the brand company is not impulsive or spontaneous and makes use of strategy in change

Variations of Blue

Darker blue has a tendency to be overly conservative or old-fashioned and lighter blue may come off as too passive or unstable. If your audience is older and more traditional, darker blue is perfect. The saying “blue language” refers to using profanity, which you could say works well with vulgar packaging and products. The possibilities are endless—you just need to know which shade is right for you.

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