5 mistakes to avoid when choosing brand colors

Color is a key part of your visual identity and deciding on the best colors for your logo and branding can be tricky. Avoid making these common mistakes when you are choosing brand colors.

1. Choosing a color only because you like it

“What color do you like?”

This is the worst question to start with. Don’t even ask yourself this question!

Too many online logo design tools and website builders use this question to help you find the right color. It doesn’t matter what you like, what matters is what your ideal customer likes. Choosing brand colors should be based on what resonates with your customers, not your own personal preference.

2. Not looking at your competitors

Take the time to look at what your closest competitors are using for their key brand colors. You want your own brand to feel distinct and memorable in comparison.

colored products in a grocery store
The right color makes your product stand out.

3. Not considering where and how you will use color

Businesses use color differently depending on the type of product or service they are selling.

For example, a consumer brand that sells its product on the grocery store shelf would benefit from colors that are very different than the surrounding items on the shelf. They can cover their entire bottle or box in bright colors if they want.

By contrast, a B2B company is often presenting their brand much differently. When they’re trying to make sales, they may have printed marketing materials that would be challenging to read if the key content was all reversed out of a field of color.

If you will be silk screening your logo on t-shirts, embroidering apparel, or painting your vehicles, you want to make sure the colors will translate well to all of those applications.

4. Using the wrong inspiration

When you’re developing your brand, it’s likely that you looked around your community, Pinterest or around the web for inspiration and ideas of what you like and dislike. This can be helpful to refine your thoughts and as a resource to share with your designer to help them understand what you’re thinking.

But, make sure that the companies you are looking for are relevant to your type of business and your target customers.

choosing brand colors depends on your ideal customer

For example:

  • You might love MailChimp’s humorous monkey and bright yellow color, but it may not be a good fit for your conservative, financial planning consultancy.
  • Many people love Apple’s simple use of color—a lot of white and minimal color. But remember that they have a huge marketing budget! It’s easier to be impactful by choosing a distinct color.
  • Clinique’s muddied pastel colors may feel outdated for Millenials, but if your target market is women who are fifty and older, they may have very positive connotations with that color palette.

5. Not knowing the brand references and psychology of the color

Every color brings thoughts and emotions, both consciously or subconsciously, to someone’s mind. These feelings and reactions come from references to nature and society as well as the branding and marketing campaigns of highly visible companies.

Purple might remind someone of fairies and princesses and red might have them thinking about blood or sex. Black can feel mournful, rebellious and also elegant. While yellow is cheery and uncommon, blue is traditional and trusted. Pink might be the right color if you have a product made for women. Green is frequently used for organic and agricultural products, while orange is a high-energy alert.

People may also associate your logo colors with logos of a similar color.

For example, a dark green circle-shaped logo may have them thinking about Starbucks or Whole Foods without even realizing it. Both of those brands are upscale food and beverage brands. An orange wordmark logo may bring to mind the Home Depot logo. Home Depot has the reputation of putting quantity over quality with their oversized, sometimes poorly manned stores.

Many successful brands have such strong brand recognition that you need to be aware of what connections are frequently held in the back of people’s heads if you choose a logo color that is similar to one of them.


Red can reference love, hate, and sex and are used by powerful brands like Tesla and many healthcare companies.

pinkPink is mostly used by female-focused brands but has also been used by progressive brands like Lyft.

orangeOrange alerts us to danger and is high-energy, famous orange logos include Home Depot and Harley Davidson.

yellowYellow is cheerful and fun like MailChimp or rugged like Caterpillar.

greenGreen often connotes nature and used by many natural and agricultural brands, but also can refer to money.

blueBlue is viewed as conservative and trustworthy and is used by most water brands to show purity.

Purplepurple suggests royalty and fantasy but is now being used by several tech companies.

Blackblack can be mournful, rebellious or elegant.