Could BLACK be your brand colour?
What does black mean to you?
Does it signify sophistication and luxury – as used by premium brands like Chanel? Or is it sad and gloomy like Winston Churchill’s ‘Black Dog’ of depression?
Shall we go Back to Black and explore what it could mean for your branding?
Remember that choosing your brand colours is a strategic decision because you’ll use these colours everyday. When used consistently over time, your colours will contribute to your brand stand out, recognition and memorability.
The human eye sees colour first – before shapes or words – which is why your choice of brand colours is vital to making a bold visual impact. As I’ve mentioned before, a University of Loyola study indicated that colour increases brand recognition by up to 80%. This is why Pantone say that ‘colour is the silent ambassador of your brand.’
Before choosing your brand colours, it’s important to work out your brand thinking first (what we call the brand strategy).
The core of your brand thinking means that you clarify:
- Who your brand serves – and what they need and want (your target audience)
- Why your brand provides the best solutions for them to buy (your brand value proposition)
- Who your brand is, and what it stands for (your brand personality and brand values) – which creates powerful emotional affinity with your target audience
With these strategic foundations in place:
- It’s easier to choose your brand colours with intention and meaning
- Your brand colours will express your brand positioning and personality
- Customers will feel the combination of your brand colour palette, logo and typography is authentic and true to your brand
Let’s take a look at what using black could mean for your brand…
What’s the meaning of the colour black?
Black is the absence of light. It is absorbs all colours. This is why it is associated with darkness and night and is perceived as the colour of death and mourning in the west. When death is personified or depicted in images, he wears black robes.
Upsides and downsides of Black
The upsides of black relate to power, sophistication and substance:
- Black can feel protective, like a psychological shield because it absorbs the energy coming towards you
- It can signify clarity and sharpness, especially when used with white
- The colour black feels substantial and serious. It has gravitas
- Black communicates sophistication and glamour which is why it works well for luxury brands
- ‘In the black’ indicates a positive balance of cash and wealth
Every colour has upsides and downsides, and black is no exception. The downsides of black relate to the absence of light, for example:
- It can convey coldness, menace, oppression and scariness – we magnify the scariness and make it fun for commercial Halloween products
- Or signify depression (black dog) or low mood (black cloud)
- Black is also associated with the dark arts and ‘black magic’ and fear of the dark
- The little black dress is not really slimming. Experts say that it works by not drawing attention to yourself – because black is the most recessive colour
- The darkest black on the planet is called vantablack
- A lover of black is a nyctophile
Names for Black
These names seem to be inspired by the dark and objects found in nature:
- Charcoal, carbon, coal and pitch
- Ebony, sable and raven
- Obsidian and jet
- Ink and midnight
Let’s take a look at some more aspects of the colour black…
- National Black Cat Day is an annual event every October in the UK. It was first created by Cats Protection in October 2011 “to help celebrate the majesty of monochrome moggies and beautiful black cats. When the campaign was launched, statistics revealed that black and black-and-white cats took, on average, seven days longer to find a home compared to cats of other colours.”
- I love black cats – they’re so special. My beloved black cat died during lockdown, and I’d love another one. Although at the moment I’ve settled for my current bonkers cats – one black and white (Hattie the Bandit), one tabby (Cleo the Princess) and one tortie (Tigger the Lucky) – because she was smart enough to adopt us when her owners moved and left her behind.
- Why are black cats more difficult to rehome? Is it the mythical association with witches, broomsticks and black magic? Or is it because in some cultures black cats are seen to be unlucky? Or because they’re more difficult to photograph?
- Catster writes that in Japanese culture a black cat crossing your path is seen as a good omen and that black cats are generally seen as good luck in Japan and much of Asia.
- “They possess strong powers of good. If you keep your black cats happy and safe, they will keep you happy and safe. If you don’t have a black cat in real life to guard your home, a black cat figurine facing north will keep bad energy and spirits away.”
- Whilst in Norse mythology Freya, the goddess of love, fertility and beauty rides on a chariot pulled by two black cats. This is why farmers would leave bowls of milk for these cats in their fields, so that Freya would bless them with a good harvest.
In the USA, Black Friday follows Thanksgiving and is the start of the holiday shopping season. It has been exported around the world and brought to the UK, by US-owned retailers including Amazon and Asda (then owned by Walmart) in the 2010s.
Wikipedia provides different origin stories – all rooted in the USA:
- Black Friday and Black Saturday were terms used by police in Philadelphia and Rochester to describe the chaos and congestion caused in the first days of holiday shopping
- Although in the early 1950s Black Friday was also used to describe the practice of workers calling in sick after Thanksgiving so they could enjoy a 4-day weekend!
- A more recent explanation is that Black Friday heralds the day when retail sales shift from being ‘in the red’ (loss) to being ‘in the black’ (profit)
In the UK the police and NHS called the last Friday before Christmas ‘Black Friday’ due to the numbers of accidents after people went out drinking to celebrate the holiday – so quite a grim association.
Examples of the colour black in branding
Black is a favourite colour for the logos of luxury brands. Take a moment to consider which luxury fashion houses do not have a black logo? The Chanel logo typography and double ‘C’ icon is a great example that conveys gravitas and authority.
Here client Tales of Thread taps into the premium appeal of black to support the premium mass market positioning of the brand.
Just as with the luxury fashion houses, many top end interior designers use black for their logo – even ‘The Queen of Taupe’ – Kelly Hoppen!
Another example of a category where black provides substance and authority is in the world of art – for both artists and galleries. Here client Laurel uses the red dot associated with the sale of an item to add an emphatic flourish.
Black in your branding – summary
When used as your brand colour, black conveys sophistication, glamour, efficiency, substance, authority and gravitas.
Beware and avoid the downside of black, including oppressive, cold, menacing and scary.
Colours that work with black
Consider these options for your black brand colour palette:
- Silver is cool, precious and feminine being the colour of moonlight
- Gold is also precious and adds affluence and overt affluence
- White is sharp and clear.
- Red is a powerful combination – sometimes perceived as the colours of the boudoir!
- Yellow and black stripes convey nature’s warning and this combination has high visibility
Choosing your brand colours
Always remember that selecting your brand colour palette is a strategic decision. This is why I suggest you take into account:
⭐ The power of individual colours and colour combinations
⭐ Your target customers’ needs, wants and mindset
⭐ The personality, values and purpose of your brand and what makes it different from competitors
Read more: 5 Ways to use Colour to Build your Brand
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