When it comes to choosing which colour to feature in your business’s logo, aesthetics are not the only factor to consider.  Your business’s logo becomes part of your company’s identity therefore it’s important to make the right impression.

Research indicates that consumers make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds of viewing it and that up to 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone.¹ That’s the power of colour.

The way we perceive colour is never entirely objective, the use of colour in culture means we are guaranteed to make conscious associations with different colours and we will always make personal colour associations depending on our individual experiences. However, there are subconscious ways that colours can make us think, feel and behave- this is colour psychology. 

Many brand logos have become iconic because of their colours like Cadbury purple, Royal Mail red and even the yellow and blue of IKEA. However, when this integral design component is changed, what effect does this have on the consumer?

We teamed up with Karen Haller, the leading international authority in the field of Applied Colour Psychology to reveal just how important colour is to some of the UK’s leading brand logos.We took 9 of the UK’s leading brands ranked by BrandIndex Index score and switched the logos to the opposite colours on the colour wheel. Karen has then revealed what effect this might have on the consumer to affirm just how powerful colour can be in branding.

Cadbury- affordable luxury to an optimistic treat

Karen said: “When we think of Cadbury, the colour that springs to mind is none other than the iconic purple. Dark purple conveys the message of quality and luxury, and what Cadbury is saying is they are an affordable, everyday luxury. Not just for special occasions.

“If Cadbury changed its branding to bright yellow it would instantly lose brand recognition. Its entire marketing message would no longer be about affordable luxury, instead, the message would focus on yellow’s positive psychological traits which are uplifting and happy.”

Royal Mail- eye-catching icon to indistinguishable

Karen said: “Although red is not the most visible colour in daylight, having the longest wavelength, red appears to be nearer than it is. It grabs our attention first, making red the ideal choice to spot from a distance. Like most iconic brands, Royal Mail use a specific red to ensure its brand is instantly recognisable.

“If Royal Mail went back to green, even with a bright, vivid green, whilst better than the dark green of the 1800s, it would still be difficult to spot and lose its iconic presence and status.”

IKEA- everyday function to childish playfulness

Karen said: “The positive psychological traits of blue conveys reliability and dependability: IKEA is knowledgeable in what it does and can be trusted to deliver. If IKEA was just blue, it could come across as a very corporate brand, focusing on the functional side of the business, likely coming across as cold, impersonal, and unfriendly. The addition of yellow adds happiness, warmth, and cheerfulness.

“Change the brand yellow to orange and the focus would shift more to one of fun and play. There would be a sense the brand was more child-focused, making it appealing to families with young children, but it might alienate its core age group.”

John Lewis- sophisticated elegance and exceptional quality

Karen said: “From a colour psychology perspective, brands who use black convey sophistication, elegance and class. They are innovative and see themselves as an industry leader.  Think Black American Express, Chanel and Cartier- aspirational with an air of exclusivity.

“There are brands which use black because they aspire to appear this way. However, it’s not just a matter of changing a brand’s colour. Fail to deliver on the promise, and a brand can very quickly come across as cold, unfriendly, unapproachable, and uncaring.”

Netflix- serial excitement to natural zen

Karen said: “There’s a reason why red is used in cinemas and theatres. When we sit on red seats, it encourages us to get excited, full of anticipation for the show to begin. This is because, in colour psychology terms, red stimulates the physical. It raises the pulse rate. By using red in its branding, Netflix is building on that emotional experience and association we are already familiar with.

“There’s no doubt that Netflix wants to get noticed and be seen. Red is the perfect colour because its wavelengths advance towards us the quickest, meaning we see red before any other colour. This ensures its logo stands out amongst its competitors.

“If Netflix changed its brand colour to green, we would straight away lose that sense of anticipation, that excitement. Instead, we’re being encouraged to relax, unwind, like we feel when we are out in nature, amongst the trees.”

Boots- knowledgeable care to playful frivolity

Karen said: “Over 80% of healthcare companies have logos that feature dark blue. The positive psychological traits convey credibility, trust, knowledge, and professionalism, along with logic, rationale, and efficiency. In the context of healthcare, you want your healthcare professional to be calm and focused and dark blue aids in focusing the mind.

“If Boots were to change its core brand colour to orange, we would see it as being fun and playful, not really what you want from your chemist when you need professional advice? Depending on the amount of orange it used, we might even feel the adverse effects of orange and see it as being frivolous which is not what we want from a chemist.”

Cathedral City- indulgent treat to diet option

Karen said: “One of the many ways a brand can choose its colours is through an association, something symbolic or culturally significant. Perhaps the “rich, regal garnet” of Cathedral City’s core brand colour has been based on the liturgical colours worn by priests at the nearby Wells Cathedral, Somerset.

“When it comes to food packaging, over the years, blue has become associated with low fat and dietary products. When we are in the dairy aisle of the supermarket, we can easily spot these products- blue becomes a helpful navigation aid.

“We take in colour before anything else. If Cathedral City were to change its brand colour to all blue, we would make the initial assumption that all its products were now in its ‘lighter’ range, potentially losing customers who were looking for a full-fat rich cheese.  Using too much blue on the packaging could also activate our instinctive response to blue and food, which is to see it as poisonous and unsafe.”

Visa- dependable service to unattainable opulence

Karen said: “Dark blue is a colour that many major financial brands have used to assert their authority as being reliable, trustworthy, and dependable. These positive psychological traits show they are conservative by nature, not rash or impulsive. They want to show they are a safe pair of hands with managing our money.

“If Visa switched to just using gold, that sense of accessibility, and the notion of its an ‘every-person’ card is now gone. Gold branding gives the impression of prestige, desirability and of exclusivity. It’s creating the illusion this brand is now unattainable for its  core target market.”

Samsung-trustworthy communications to premium exclusivity

Karen said: “Dark blue, when it comes to colour psychology, conveys trust. Samsung’s colour scheme suggests they are reliable and not a brand that takes risks. It is a knowledgeable and a leading authority in its field. Dark blue also communicates they are cool and calm under pressure.

“If Samsung changed its brand colour to gold, straight away it looks like a far more premium or a high-end product. Gold creates an air of exclusivity so Samsung becomes an aspirational brand and no longer a brand for everyone.”


We took 9 of the UK’s leading brands ranked by BrandIndex Index score which takes into account consumers’ perceptions of a brand’s quality and reputation amongst other factors and switched its logos to the opposite colours on the colour wheel. Having studied colour for over 20 years, Karen Haller, a leading international authority in the field of applied colour psychology, specialising in business brand colour, revealed what effects this might have on the consumer.


1 CCICOLOR – Institute for Color Research