Regardless of your opinion of McDonald’s, there is no denying they have been a highly successful and dynamic institution for over half a century. The addictiveness of their fries notwithstanding, they have made it a point to be masters of marketing and the catchy jingles and slogans are just the beginning.
What are the primary colours associated with a McDonald’s restaurant, or with every commercial they make? Without a doubt, you said yellow and red. Not just any yellow and red though. More specifically they are yellow PANTONE 123 and red PANTONE 485.
Why is this such a big deal you ask? In the realm of communication, spoken or written information is simply one aspect. Non-verbal communication such as the colour choice of your logo will convey just as much information about you to a potential client.
McDonald’s figured out a while back that their specific colours trigger a subconscious reaction in people. The combination of these two colours make the subconscious reaction much stronger. From the moment you see their ads or step into one of their stores, everything is set up to make your mind say one thing, “I’m hungry.”
It’s been determined that when you see the colour red it stimulates your pituitary gland which triggers a myriad of physiological responses. You breathe more rapidly, blood pressure and pulse rate increase, your adrenaline kicks in. When you consider the other things commonly associated with red like sports cars, love, passion, aggression or spicy food it all starts to make much more sense. Red gets you revved up. It makes you want to take action.
Suddenly, the notion of choosing the larger sized fries even though you didn’t think you were all that hungry doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Others have caught on to this trick as well. Consider how many restaurant chains you can think of who use some sort of red and yellow colour combination.
Colour combinations are also important
Another item to consider is how various colours are combined to complement and enhance the message behind the logo. To use McDonald’s again as an example, the use of red alone may not necessarily get your mouth watering but when combined with yellow its effectiveness with food association increases exponentially.
While red may be associated with hunger, yellow can be associated with bright, sunshiny happiness. It can also evoke feelings of greater confidence and inspiration or enthusiasm. But notice they don’t overuse it. The yellow “Golden Arches” are there to accentuate a red-dominant design. Too much yellow or the wrong shade of yellow can also produce feelings of agitation or anxiety so getting the correct value and saturation will ensure you feel what they want you to feel.
McDonald’s cashed in on this big time and by making sure their design and colours are carefully considered and chosen. While the big “M” seems obvious as a logo choice everything about their image says “hungry, happy people” and they maintain strict guidelines about colour consistency and proper use of all McDonald’s related images.
Plus there is the obvious red and yellow colour association.
In many people’s minds, “Red and Yellow” in food terms, equals “Ketchup and Mustard” the most widely used condiments for hamburgers. Sure, we may put other things on our burgers but name a person would could not instantly recognise the association of these two colours to these two condiments?
How you combine two or more colours can either greatly enhance your design or sabotage it. Green and yellow can portray either sunshine, happiness and grassy hills or nausea and vomit depending on their shade.
Interior designers will create colour combinations for rooms based on their intended purpose. Man-caves usually get masculine colours (i.e. not pink, fuchsia or lavender), baby’s rooms get pastel pinks and blues, you get the idea. The colours express the identity or personality of the space much the same way your choice of colour in your logo will express the identity or personality of your business.
Best to have a trained expert on hand to help figure it out with you.
What image do you want to send about your business?
As a business owner, what do the colours associated with your business say about you? But what if you’re an IT consultant? Or an accountant? Obviously, you have no need for something which makes your potential clientele more hungry, amorous or aggressive. Something more grounded, perhaps?
Brown is associated with earthy, organic stability and refinement. Soil, wood, antiques, all are examples of things that last. Fine leather and fine cigars are just the right brown to portray an image of refinement. But, if you don’t get just the right shade, tone, value texture and all the other things which go into the colour, it can also make your logo look like it has more in common with what’s left behind in the loo.
Definitely NOT what you want potential clients associating with your services.
Image is everything
Hip and trendy? You’d better have a good grasp of what colours are in vogue at the moment or you may look like an outdated style from the 80’s. What if your business is in finance and investments? Hip and trendy may not attract clientele who seek longevity and want stability.
Calm and serene? If you run a day-spa don’t overuse black or red as they may make your place of business seem less than reputable. A lighter shade of green with some earthy tans would work better to give a Zen-like quality.
High energy? Does your business or service rely on getting people excited about something? Brighter colours rather than muted will make you appear more active rather than subdued.
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, don’t panic! As a professional Brand Designer, I am well equipped with the skills to guide you through the process of logo design and brand identity. It will always be worth your time and resources to invest in professional design as it will often be the first impression a potential client has of you.
Don’t make the mistake of letting something as simple as a bad colour choice turn someone away.
Originally published at inkbotdesign.com on June 22, 2015.