Hacking the Brain?

For years, catchy headlines and infographics have claimed that if you just use the right colors, you can get customers to do exactly what you want. They propose that specific colors equal specific emotions. But is that really true, and can you use it when you design signs or menu boards?

hackingIt turns out that people’s feelings about colors have a lot to do with their personal experience, so there’s no surefire way to make a customer feel melancholy or rejuvenated with a color scheme. However, there are some important ways to use color—particularly in branding.

The first big color issue comes when designing a logo. You may be well past this point, but let’s go over the basics just in case. One of the first things that people judge a company on—usually not even consciously—is whether their brand colors seem appropriate for their product. With a red and yellow combination associated with fast-food burger joints like McDonald’s and In-N-Out, red and yellow might not be the best choices for a processor manufacturing company. A good rule of thumb might be to look at the existing logos in your field and go just off-center: different enough to stand out, but not so different that you seem like you might be selling furniture instead of burritos.

Once you’ve chosen a logo and colors, you come to the next important point: consistency. Once you have your colors, stick to them. Put them on signs, menu boards, brochures, coupons—with color, you get an immediate association. If you keep your color branding consistent, people should be able to identify your materials without ever even seeing the logo.

So it turns out there’s no way to hack the brain—neuroscientists have been trying for a long time. But if you can create associations between your colors and your brand, you’re on your way to having a truly recognizable brand.

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