The True Colors of Retail


Did you know the world has a favorite color? It’s blue. Blue tops the list across cultures and in business as well. 53% of businesses that create their logos on 99designs request blue—that’s almost twice as often as the second most popular color. In retail, three of the top four business leaders (Walmart, Costco, and Kroger) use blue, too.

But what’s even more intriguing is the colors companies aren’t using, but perhaps should. These invisible colors can provide a means for retailers to stand out for the competition.

But first, let’s back up for just a minute. In the Business of Color, a new study conducted by 99designs, combines compiled information from nearly 14,000 logos, specialist input, and color psychology to ascertain exactly how color affects brand identity. The research demonstrates that while some colors are popular choices, there’s symbolic significance in the entire rainbow.

Color psychology is complex and influenced both by learned and created cultural institutions. Red is a universal sign of heightened, enthusiastic emotion; it’s also a wedding color in China and a mourning color in South Africa. Different colors can also share some of the same associations and diverge from others. People associate both orange and purple with youthfulness, but say purple feels sophisticated while orange is cheap.

If you are a company owner designing a logo, don’t just pick a color you like. First, know your brand values and your target market. Marketing to a rocky, no-nonsense crowd? Earthy browns and vigorous reds may be the ticket. A luxury brand may lean toward royal purple and glossy black. When thinking about the multiple traits every color represents, you can discover the perfect shade to illuminate your brand.

So back to those underused colors in retail: Youthfulness is the number one trait retailers throughout the industry attempt to connect with their brand. Color psychology links orange, purple, and pink to youthfulness. It is surprising, then, that in a report by Retail, these colors barely appear in stores that are retail. In fact, we found each in under 16% of industry logo palettes.

This finding will help retailers break away from the pack in their logo design. We are aware that red, blue, white, black, and black are all safe choices. They’re popular, and there’s plenty of evidence to reveal their tried and true effect. They are also very commonplace. Adding a different red logo to the market won’t necessarily help a business stand out from the crowd.

A unique logo can make clients stop for another glance. I mentioned that three of the top four retailers nationally use blue in their logos. The fourth is Home Depot, with a bright orange—among the youthful colors. The CEO didn’t simply flip a coin to determine which shade to pick, though. Orange feels invigorating and economic, so it fits nicely with a company advertising affordable, DIY home improvement. A delicate shade of pink, but also young, just would not be the same.

Retail is an especially varied sector, with less agreement on desirable traits than any other industry that has been researched. As a result, retailers must take special care to select logo colors which reflect their company identity.