Cobalt Communications The Art + Science of Understanding

How to Use the Color Blue in Your Marketing Strategy

Blue is all around us. It colors our oceans, our skies, and our walls at home. The color can evoke a plethora of ambivalent feelings — from calm and trustworthy to distant and cold. With such diversity of meanings, feelings, and even shades or tones, how can your team tame blue to benefit your business and brand?
by Hannah Daniel
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Blue Means Business

In this day and age, we see blue all around us. It’s the color of our sparkling ocean waters, the hue of the sky, the awe-inspiring blue of planet Earth seen from space. It’s on our walls, it adorns our clothes, it’s in our homes and offices. Blue is also the most pervasive color in marketing, accounting for almost 40% of all logos, and it is the favorite color of people all over the world. The color blue has a variety of meanings, but in business, it can signify trustworthiness, honor, veneration, intelligence, calm, trust, dependability, loyalty, relaxation, maturity, protection, and honor, among others. But where did these perceptions come from, and how can you use them to your advantage?
One of the Greats
Make no mistake: IBM is one of the most well-known companies in the world, mostly due to its early and innovative marketing strategy that established its nickname as “Big Blue.” While the nickname “Big Blue” came about organically, the IBM team used their cultural influence to strengthen and solidify their brand by using solid blue as the dominant color scheme in their branding. Today, IBM is a corporate powerhouse with a strong sense of identity, thanks to the pervasiveness of Big Blue.

Vatican Blue

Blue is a manufactured color rather than one we generally see in nature. Historians propose that some people might not have even seen the color blue. For instance, the color blue doesn’t show up in ancient Greek literature such as The Odyssey, even though much of the story takes place on or near the sea. Even when blue began to be processed, in ancient Egyptian times, the precious lapis from which it was made was only reserved for the rich, upper classes. It was only during the fifth century that blue became a color recognized by a majority of people in Western culture. The Catholic Church color-coded the saints, and they chose the virgin Mary to wear a navy blue cloak. Around the same time, the Jewish Talmud was written, and the old scriptures tell us that the Ten Commandments were written on two blue tablets made of lapis or sapphire (that part is still up for debate).

This spurred the blue revolution. Mostly, the perceptions of blue arise from this choice by religion. After the virgin Mary got her makeover, and this revelation of the Ten Commandments was revealed, many governmental entities caught on to the trend. They began to dress their officials in blue, their law enforcement officers in blue, and blue became the color of choice among authorities everywhere. Because the virgin Mary stood for trustworthiness, and the Ten Commandments for lawful good, the same ideas of trust and dependability were associated — subconsciously — with anyone who wore the color.

Pale blues began to emerge later to balance out the wave of navy blue that had swept the population. Light blues like sky blue and turquoise were developed to reiterate and reinforce the meanings of calm and peacefulness of the virgin Mary.

The Blue Ribbon of Excellence

Color can have a strong influence on how people interpret and react to their world. You and your team can use this to your advantage when establishing a brand. Because of its strong emotional connotations, you can use blue strategically to influence consumers about the values of your brand.

Use the color blue in your marketing to:

Blue Airplane_25
Convince your clients that you are trustworthy. Because blue was co-opted as a symbol of the Catholic Church (and the virgin Mary), as well as authorities around the world, there is an almost subconscious idea in people’s minds that the color blue is associated with being trustworthy and dependable. For instance, many airlines use blue in their logos to help casually undermine people’s fear of flying (while also evoking images of the clear, blue sky). You can do the same in your business.

Blue Jay_25
Build your brand recognition. Blue is a memorable color because it is rarely found naturally in the environment, even though we see it all around us in everyday life. Think about it: how many blue animals and plants can you name off the top of your head? Evolutionarily, blue has always caused surprise and alarm because of its unnaturalness, so you can use it in your logos and branding to create a lasting impression on potential clients. At the same time, because blue is so popular in the business world, you must find a way to innovate with the color, such as pairing blue with a strong, contrasting color.

Blue Brain_25
Convince people that your business is intelligent and performs with precision. Blue is often associated with intellect and accuracy because of its association with authority, and businesses and industries that promise these qualities in their service can further boost their credibility by using the color blue in their marketing.

Beware the Blues

Even though blue in marketing can radiate strength, loyalty, and trust, too much blue could be harmful for your business. Consider your marketing strategy like a science fiction movie. As the producer, you may dress your main character in a blue dress, and maybe have them fly around their planet on a large blue bird. However, if all of your aliens are blue, the flora and fauna are blue, the treehouses are blue, and the movie has a flashy blue poster... then the color becomes overwhelming to the viewer, and the adverse psychological effects of blue start to kick in. (Sorry, James Cameron!)

These associations come from unending stretches of blue — looking out over an ocean can make people feel alone in the vastness of the blue water. The same goes for using the color in your marketing. If your marketing features too much blue, then your brand begins to represent negative feelings like emptiness, coldness, and apathy.

Sometimes, blue just isn’t the color you want to use to brand your business. If your business specializes in food, you should avoid using blue. Because blue is a rare color for food, humans have, over time, developed a food aversion to the color. The color blue decreases appetite, and that’s the opposite goal if you’re running a business that relies on hungry customers. Blue also creates a feeling of calm and relaxation. If your company promotes fast-paced services, or speed is standard of your service, then blue will have the opposite effect on customers. The color blue, in excess, will make your business seem slow, relaxed, and sluggish.
Is it a Little Chilly in Here?
You’ve probably heard of people refer cold and warm hues when choosing color schemes. Warm colors are the ones on the orange, yellow, and red side of the color spectrum, whereas the cooler colors are blues, greens, and violets. With these classifications comes perceived color temperature, so on top of psychological associations, the colors also have physical associations too. Use this aspect of color theory to target marketing to certain themes, especially if they have to do with sensation!

Warm and Cool

Now go off… and create!

The way that people feel towards colors is rooted in human psychology. While not every person experiences color in the same way because a lot of it is based on past experiences, the associations that we’ve listed are generally accepted by most people. By following these guidelines, you can choose the way that clients and customers view your brand. Do you want to come off as a dependable, reliable, hard-working business? Do you want to leave a lasting impression on clients that your brand is honorable, mature, and trustworthy? Then blue is the color for you. Sprinkle it in your graphics, your advertisements, and make it a staple of your brand.