The Branded Spectrum

08 Jan

The Branded Spectrum: Blue

By Jason Allen

Of all the colours in the spectrum, when it comes to logos, the most formidable player is blue. One third of the world's top 100 brands have blue logos. That's a lot of blue in the marketplace and it shows the colour's wide appeal throughout all parts of the world. This isn't surprising when you know that globally, more people identify blue as their favourite colour than any other. Why the blue appeal, you may wonder?

You know I like a 'think test'. Let's try one here. Think about blue for a second – any shade. What blue came to mind? Was it a darker, navy blue? Or maybe a mid-range royal? Was it a clear and open cerulean? I'd suggest that if it was a dark blue that first came to mind, it did so because of flags and logos or maybe your lover's jeans. If it was a light blue, I might suggest it's because of the sky or the blue water at the beach you're visiting in a few weeks. My point is that most of us no longer live in places where we see dark blues in nature – only in the media or on items of human making. Therefore, if you first think of blue as a dark one, it's because you're thinking of how we, as humans use and manufacture blue, rather than how nature does. Both blues have attributes that are related to each other, though.

Dark blue's meanings are so entrenched in what we see that we almost don't need to identify them here. I will though – and you likely know them already. Dark blue means authority. It can convey trust, loyalty and honesty. Confident. Dignified. Secure. We inherently know – or at least at first believe – that a dark blue logo is speaking for a company that wants to portray itself as serious. It's not a fun or crazy logo colour by any stretch and as a result, blue is the most popular choice for financial companies looking to portray themselves as safe, trustworthy players when it comes to your money. Some big financial players that have blue logos are: Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Chase Bank, VISA and American Express. (UK and US banks tend to go for blue logos because of their national colours too – something which I've written about on Color Objects before here.)


Blue logo's

Let's look at light blue now, which at first feels very different from its older, darker sibling. In recent years, light blue has emerged as a symbol of environmental responsibility – invoking a clear sky and clean water. As we grew fatigued by green and its overuse as a word, light blue – open, transparent, cool and calming – stepped in to make us feel safe. Like green's atavistic signal to our ancestors that food was nearby, light blue tells us that; today we'll be safe from stormy weather. This safe, calming effect is played out in logos across many categories: non-profit, pharmaceutical, healthcare, (not to mention an entire slew of huge multinational corporations). What all of these have in common is the need to make the consumer or donor feel that this company is a safe choice for your money or your business.


Blue brand logos


Another huge category for blues of kinds is social media. Look at your phone – nearly all of the major players in social media have blue or partially blue logos: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare. I believe the attraction to blue in this group comes from it simply being the world's favourite colour. It appeals to both sexes and all age groups in all parts of the world. It is – forgive me – a safe choice for such a wide audience.


Blue social media logos


Blue has some serious shelf life; it's likely here to stay in the marketplace. So whether you gravitate to a darker, authoritative, manmade blue, or a more natural, lighter blue, there's a good chance an ancient part of you appreciates its calming sense of security. And that's ok.

Other blue logos include: AIG, Akzo Nobel, AmEx, AT&T, Chubb, Dell, Ford, GE, GM, HBO, HP, IBM, Intel, JP Morgan, Lowe's Morgan Stanley, NASA, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sears, Walmart and WordPress.


Read more about colors in marketing by Jason Allen in 'The Branded Spectrum'


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