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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

Colour psychology: brown’s branding brilliance

Colour Pshychology: Brown (with coffee beans in background)

Thinking of brands that use brown may take more time and be taxing compared to some of the more popular colours but the evidence is there – brown is about quality not quantity. In our colour psychology series, we discover why colours are specifically chosen in branding and what resonates. This week, we’re focusing on the brand colour brown.

The brand colour brown

Stable, reliable, practical and warm, brown has many positive connotations that could make it the ideal choice for your brand.

Darker shades of brown possess earthy, rich, luxurious traits that brands like Molton Brown have harnessed to create a brand that feels premium. Costa coffee uses the colour of its main ingredient but with a twist, going for a reddish-brown to create a warm feeling.

Coffee Costa uses brown for their coffees

Another area that often uses its main ingredient to influence its brand colour is chocolate. Galaxy uses several shades of brown on its packaging. And it’s the main colour for M&M’s Rolo and iconic US brand Hershey’s.

If you think the cool kids might avoid what could be considered a dull colour then consider McDonald’s, which has increasingly used brown in its interior branding. In an attempt to align itself with healthier eating, brown and green have replaced the traditional yellow and red.

Practical matters

Using brown has the downside that it’s harder to pair with black – a core colour – but it can be used as an alternative, bringing the warmth that black lacks.

Hitting the road is a messy business and keeping a fleet clean is costly and near impossible. Unless you follow UPS’s lead and use brown as a key colour, hiding the dirt and making it a very practical choice. It was so taken with its colour it used the tagline ‘What can brown do for you?’ for nearly a decade until 2010.

If your brand has natural or organic equities brown is a good match, along with green it’s associated with earthy qualities. Brands such as Botanicals use brown bottles to adhere to this tone.

Its earthy humbleness has meant that, historically, it had been worn by monks, friars and other religious devotees wanting to avoid being seen as opulent.

Planet earth

Planet Earth Colours

In the west, brown’s positive connotations outnumber the negative but, when considering it for your brand, it’s worth looking at what it means in other parts of the world where you might want to do business.

In some eastern cultures, brown is used for mourning, as is the case in India – unless it’s a Hindu funeral, where white will be worn. In Colombia and Nicaragua, it’s a poor choice for brands as it’s unpopular and can have a detrimental effect on brand performance.

As you can see from this article, there’s no reason to be down on brown. Brown shades suggest qualities that are immediately recognisable by the viewer as being natural, organic and luxurious.

If you think there’s a home for brown as part of your brand then get in touch and talk to us about how we can make this work.

More from the brand colour psychology series

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