As I was sitting through kindergarten orientation with my wife and first-born son a couple of weeks ago, the teacher shared the classroom rules. She held up a big stoplight and shared with the kids that a green light indicates that you were good all day, a yellow light means that you didn’t have the best day and when you get to the red light, you visited the dreaded principal’s office.

This week as I drove him to school, we were discussing the colored lights and I asked him how the other kids in his class were doing.  He told me of a child that almost got a red light and I asked him what he did.  Ethan’s simple response: “It’s none of my business”.  This of course made me laugh but also made me think…colors are my business.

As a marketing expert whose job it is to help clients brand their business, I have to be able to share with them thoughts on colors and how those colors will affect their consumers and their interactions with said business. Colors can evoke emotions and feelings that could benefit or equally harm you if not well thought out.

Sally Augustin, PhD, a practicing environmental business psychologist states, “Colors of our world have powerful psychological effects on us as human beings”.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, most businesses don’t spend enough time thinking about colors when they are making decisions about their branding.  You would be shocked how many times I have asked a client why is your logo blue only to hear, “It’s my favorite color.”  Wrong answer!  Let’s think about what emotions we want our consumers to feel about our brand and go from there.  Here’s a cheat sheet that might help:

Color Emotions Brand Example
Yellow Optimism, Clarity, Warmth UPS, Subway, BestBuy
Orange Friendly, Cheerful, Confidence Amazon, Harley Davidson
Red Excitement, Youthful, Bold Target, Coco-Cola, CNN
Purple Creative, Imaginative, Wise Monster, Yahoo, Hallmark
Blue Trust, Dependable, Strength Dell, Lowes, Pfizer
Green Peaceful, Growth, Health John Deer, Whole Foods, BP
Gray Balance, Neutral, Calm Apple, Honda, Nike


Just like the cute little kindergarteners all know that green means go and red means stop, often these colors will mean similar things to most of us.  As a disclaimer, if we pick gray as noted above, not everyone will feel neutral or calm, but the majority will.

Each day I wonder about Ethan’s behavior as he adjusts to school.  As a proud parent, I hope for the green light but know that not everyone is perfect so there will be yellow lights as well.  Do I have you thinking more about your brand and it’s coloring?  Maybe not perfect?  That’s okay. At High Road Digital, we can help. We don’t always stay in the lines but we love to color.