Billionaire Jeff Bezos described it best. “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room“.
If people know you as “the guy who helps IT engineers succeed at English job interviews“, “the woman who helps kids with learning disabilities to read English” or “the teacher who introduces English conversation to teenagers through live streaming games“, THAT is your brand.
Brand is the relationship between the customers and the business. Brand identity is what we can see. It’s the design of a brand. It is the name, logo, tag line (slogan) and other features that distinguish at a glance one seller from others. The key to building a successful brand identity is to create something which creates an emotional resonance with the customer.
In this article we are going to look at how to properly choose the right colors for your ESL coaching brand.
TL;DR If you prefer, you can jump to watch my short video below where I walk through a simple, yet logical workflow for selecting your own five color branding palette.
Table of Contents
Why are brand colors important?
Color is a powerful design tool that can change the meaning and feelings of a brand message. What tone do you want to convey? What color elicits the mood you want to create? These are all questions you should ask yourself before choosing colors for your brand.
Keep in mind that choosing your brand colors is a conversion optimization decision, not a statement of personal preference for the business owner. Colors which appeal to our target audience increase the possibility of converting potential clients into paying clients.
Consider such factors as the business industry, and target audience. Colors that appeal to conservative business people may be different from colors that appeal to creative industry types. Colors which appeal to teenagers may not be the colors which appeal to a mature audience.
How to apply color psychology
Obviously, not everyone will have the same reaction to a given color palette. Our relationship with color is a highly subjective experience.
Nevertheless, there is a whole field of design research dedicated to the “general” emotions generated by certain colors. Companies try to leverage color psychology by choosing brand colors which match their values and mission.
Examples of brands which leverage color psychology in their brand identity
– Blue (trust, security, stability) – Dell, General Electric, American Express
– Yellow (youthfulness, optimism, cheerfulness) – McDonalds, SnapChat, Lays
– Red (passion, energy, urgency, excitement) – CocaCola, CNN, YouTube
– Green (wealth, health, nature, growth) – Whole Foods, Starbucks, Spotify, Sesame Street, Landrover
– Orange (friendliness, enthusiasm, creativity) – Nickelodeon, Fanta, Blogger
– Purple (success, wisdom) – Cadbury, Fedex, Hallmark
– Pink (femininity, innocence, romance) – Cosmopolitan, Victoria’s Secret, Baskin Robbins
– Gray (simplicity, calm, logic) – Mercedes, Microsoft
– Black (elegance, sophistication) Sony, Louis Vuitton, Gillette
– White (purity, modernity) – Dove, Apple
How to represent colors
Designers use two code systems to represent colors on digital screen devices.
RBG code (or RBGA)
RGB means Red Green Blue, i.e.; the primary colors in additive color synthesis. An RGB file consists in composite layers of Red, Green and Blue, each coded on 256 levels from 0 to 255. For example, black corresponds to the levels R=0, G=0, B=0, and white corresponds to the levels R=255, G=255, B=255. It can optionally include an “alpha” (A) channel to define the opacity, between 0.0 (fully transparent) and 1.0 (fully opaque).
Example: “Amazon Orange” is represented as:
rgba(255, 153, 0)
rgba(255, 153, 0, 1.0)
The alternative, more common way of expressing web colors is to use the hexadecimal color code system. A HEX color is expressed as a “#” sign plus a six-character combination of numbers and letters defined by its mix of red, green and blue (RGB).
Example: “Amazon Orange” is represented as:
CMYK and Pantone
These are color systems which are used to define colors for printed objects like business cards, brochures and merchandise swag.
I won’t go into detail about those here, but if you ever hire a graphic designer, be sure to ask for the CMYK version of whatever they create so that you don’t run into printing problems later.
If you are doing business purely online, you can basically ignore CMYK and Pantone color systems for the most part.
NOTE: As you are planning your brand colors it would be a good idea to install a “ColorPick Eyedropper” Chrome browser extension so that you can easily click on a color and get the corresponding Hex code.
How many colors do you need to choose?
You should choose at least three and no more than five colors for your brand palette.
A simple formula for choosing a color palette that will be useful on your website is as follows:
Your “primary color” is the most difficult and important choice. It will dictate the emotion of your brand and inform your choice of “accent color”.
In order to highlight and draw attention, you should choose an accent color which “pops” when utilized alongside your primary color. A good example would be on your website, where you want to create a “call to action” (CTA) that stands out from everything else on the page.
The important thing here is to choose a color that will offer high contrast to your typeface to make it easy to read. White or slightly off-white are by far the most popular choices. Pale backgrounds provide a clean and uncluttered user experience.
The obvious contrast to white is black. However most websites choose a more muted version rather than pure black because it is easier for reading. Printed text in a book or magazine is almost never pure black.
A popular approach is to use subtle variations of the typeface for contrast, e.g.; a stronger dark color for headings versus a more muted dark for paragraph text.
How to choose your color palette
If you have no idea what colors might work best for your brand, a simple approach is to look at other brands in your niche or look at brands which your target audience would already be familiar with. Use those brands as a starting point. There is even a “Site Palette” Chrome browser extension which can generate a color palette based on the dominant colors of any given web page.
It is safe to assume that established brands will already have done the work of figuring out which color combinations work best for their message and their target audience. So you can save some time by piggybacking on that.
An alternative is to use the interesting color psychology tool provided by 99 Designs. Simply plug in the characteristics which you believe represent your brand personality and see what the tool generates.
Answer these six questions and the tool will generate your optimal primary brand color.
- 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?
Use a color wheel to choose accent color/s
Once you know your primary color, you can take a scientific approach to finding accent colors. You should use a color wheel chart such as the one offered by Canva.com
Simply input the Hex Code of your primary color and see what the color wheel generates. If you choose the “complementary” color option, the color wheel will find the hex code which is the polar opposite of your primary color. It’s a sure guarantee that your accent color will “pop” on the web page. You can also experiment with “monochromatic”, “analogous”, “triadic” and “tetradic” color picker variations if you feel adventurous. To keep things simple we won’t cover those in this article.
Use desaturation for a more neutral palette
If you look closely at the color palette of many popular brands, you’ll notice that they rarely use highly saturated colors. They opt instead for muted colors that are less jarring to the eyes.
The basic neutral color palette comprises black, white, brown, and gray, with varying shades in between. Mixing different pure neutral colors with primary colors creates either warm neutrals or cool neutrals. Warm neutrals have yellow, orange, or pink undertones, such as beige, tan, and gold, while cool neutrals have blue, purple, or green undertones, such as gray, taupe, and ivory.
Muted colors are those colors that are opposite of bright and possess a low saturation. The muted tones have a duller and more subdued or gray appearance. Think of a bright and sunny day and the appearance of colors versus a cloudy day. The brightness and intensity of the color have been muted. Muted colors are classified as desaturated.
A good technique which professionals use, is to desaturate all of your palette colors by consistent amounts. Coloors.co has a tool which allows you to easily do this.
Listen to the video below where I walk through a simple, yet logical workflow for selecting your own five color branding palette.
Your brand color palette should be chosen in order to resonate with your target audience. Creating a color palette will provide a consistent way of using various colors in your website design, or any other design for that matter, in order to make it more visually appealing.
The colors you choose for your color palette should be cohesive and complementary, meaning they should work well together and not clash with one another.
I highly recommend to select your brand colors BEFORE you create your logo, so that your brand identity remains consistent.
The author of this post lives in Japan with his wife and family. He has taught English part-time (online and off) for more than a decade. He is passionate about WordPress consulting, online marketing and using the power of the internet to help people achieve their dreams.
He thinks that until you’ve tried sashimi tuna with wasabi, soy sauce, hot sake and a cold beer chaser, you just haven’t lived.