Charlie chose Brown. Why?

UPS trademarked their “Pullman Brown” in 1998; FedEx chose a distinct purple and orange; the United States Postal service is true to their red, white and blue. Have you ever wondered why these brands chose these specific colors?

Okay, maybe you haven’t, but UPS definitely put some serious thought into its color, which has shaped a century-long, powerful, trusted brand. When founder James E. Casey decided that the UPS fleet should be yellow in 1916, his partner, Charlie Soderstrom, disagreed. To Soderstrom, brown was a clean, classy and professional color that would withstand dirt and grime more than yellow. Even though that decision was made more than 100 years ago, the psychology of color and how it relates to branding is still, if not more, important.

Think about this: Have you ever purchased something based on the color of the packaging? Odds are, you have — maybe without even realizing it. Is there a science behind color choice? Why do I buy bright, blue and white boxes of Oreos when I know I prefer homemade cookies?

Most people, myself included, might think they are above the “advertising game of color.” Gregory Ciotti, a marketer at Help Scout, sites that most people want to believe they make their choices based on personal experiences, upbringing, culture, context, etc. However, he later argues that while there may not be a universal rule for colors evoking “feelings,” there is, in fact, a science to color in regards to purchasing and branding.


The color chart above is a great representation of what general colors represent in our minds. Blue and white equal trust; I trust that Oreo cookies are the same delicious cookies I had as a child. If you took the friendly, orange Nickelodeon logo and changed it to green, would it end up looking like slime? While the network consistently features green slime, is that what they really want the entire brand to be associated with?

Whole Foods is another great example from the green section. Whole Foods has done an excellent job building a brand that is perceived as organic, healthy and good for the planet. If it were red, would you be excited by it? Probably not, at least not in the same way. Red does not say “fresh produce” or “healthy choices.” Red says, “bold” and “hyper.”

Brands must be thoughtful about the colors they choose to communicate their brand experience. Ideally, those colors will be used throughout the entire purchasing journey and all communications with their target audience in order to create a full branded experience that keeps customers returning to your brand over and over again.

Interested in learning more about the visual story your brand is telling? Read more on the Red Fan blog and share with us what your favorite brand colors are.

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