The logo colors of retail

Harness the power of color to build your small business brand
Bernice the retail bunny with a t-shirt

A rainbow of ways to sell your brand

Retailers help us select the products that define our identities. Their scope ranges from dollar stores to luxury car dealerships, from cosmetics to power saws. To be successful, retailers need to seem relevant and to appeal to shoppers’ personal values. The one thing they have in common: they have to convince consumers that we want—nay need—what they’re selling. In doing this, however, they can sometimes appear to be pushy, and only concerned with their bottom line.
 
How do you choose a color for your store that highlights your relevance, but also allows you to build credibility with your customers? We’ve analyzed the color palettes of over 600 retail logos, evaluated the brand personality traits that retailers want, and consulted color psychology experts in order to help you decide.

Closing the deal: the product life cycle of retail colors

  • Retail industry popular logo color choices
Retail tycoon Mr. Shellhammer tells Kris Kringle to steer children’s wish lists towards what he has in stock.
Retail is the only one of the eight industries we surveyed in which the most popular color in 99designs logo contests was different than the most popular color in industry leading logos. The former requested blue in 40% of contests, and the latter showcased red in a whopping 59% of brand marks.  Though blue was the third most popular color among industry leaders, appearing in 37% of logos, red was only requested in 20% of 99designs contests. Do retail entrepreneurs on 99designs have something to learn from the big guys, or is the discrepancy caused by underlying differences in the two populations?
 
In both data sets, black and white were popular add-ons to complete brand color palettes. Brown, purple, and pink were the leftovers to be put on clearance.
 
The top four retailers in the country tell an interesting story, with three staying right on trend, and one going their own direction:
  • Walmart logo
  • Kroger logo
  • COSTCO logo
  • The Home Deport logo
In general, the top retailers—all of whom are based in the US—want to be all American with red, white and blue. We see this plainly in the Kroger and Costco marks. Walmart also prominently features blue, however they also add a dash of economical yellow, which fits with their low-cost reputation. Contests launched on 99designs are based all over the world, which could explain the discrepancy we see. These businesses are also much more likely to be based online, as opposed to having physical storefronts. With an actual shop, a bright, exciting red might be more useful to draw in buyers.
 
Home Depot has gone in a different direction than the other top brands, choosing an emblematic orange to represent themselves, and they’ve clearly been quite successful. Again, though it’s a different color, orange is friendly and exciting, and pulls shoppers into a store (or in their case, a warehouse).
 
The colors you select for your retail logo have a huge effect on how consumers view your brand. How might your small business emulate the success of trendsetting industry leaders without the multi-million dollar marketing budget?
 
Once you know what you want your brand personality to be, it’s easy to translate those traits into colors.

Putting it on layaway: colors of brand personality in retail

When you complete a 99designs design brief, you are asked to rate your business on twelve personality traits.
  • 99designs' brand personality traits
Our data shows that retailers have the following preferences:
  • Retail industry preferred brand personality traits
From this we infer that retailers have a slight preference to appear more youthful. This trait aligns with the following colors:
  • Retail industry brand personality-color combinations
According to the research, we would expect to see a lot of orange, red, purple and pink logos, and very few brown and gray. In reality, the only one of the high association colors that shows up regularly is red. Brown is, as expected, unpopular, but gray is more controversial; it’s a popular request in 99designs contests, but appears in less than 4% of industry leading retail logos. Since it is a neutral color, though, it is likely oftentimes being used as an accent rather than the primary hue.
 
Red has high associations with youth and excitement, which makes sense for a retailer trying to portray themselves as relevant and engaging to customers.
 
What was most interesting in the retail data was that retailers, as a whole, did not seem to have strong preferences for any particular brand personality traits. This can be explained by the breadth of businesses and target audiences encompassed under the retail banner, from luxury stores tailored to older adults with money, to online candy shops targeting preadolescent allowances. The good news? This means that retailers have a whole rainbow of possibilities to play with? The bad—they have to think a little bit harder about what, exactly, they want to represent.

The hard sale: what colors should retailers consider?

Based on what we see among industry leaders, the safe colors in retail are red, white, blue and black. Since retail as a whole is such a diverse industry, it’s difficult to make blanket recommendations. That being said, there are a few colors that entrepreneurs could choose to use, as they are are currently being underutilized, that can portray your shop as youthful: the one trait on which retailers seem to have a slight agreement.
  • Psychology of color meanings
Orange, purple and pink all have high associations with youth, yet each appear in less than 16% of all industry logos. If you want to excite customers with your positive energy, consider a fun shade of orange. If you’re the authority in your niche, let your customers know by selecting purple. If you’d like to make your storefront warm and approachable, why not consider a friendly shade of pink?
 
Some industry leading retail logos give insights on ways to use color to play up particular aspects of brand personality:
  • Apple metal logo
  • Amazon logo
  • IKEA logo
Because of the diversity of the retail landscape, it is particularly important for entrepreneurs in this field to define their brand personalities when deciding on a color for their logo. While a slight majority of retailers want to be seen as youthful, and should consider orange, red, purple, and pink logos, that doesn’t mean that all of them do.
 
Once you understand what traits your brand represents, you can use that information to select a color that represents your values and helps you stand out from the crowd.  If you’re selling luxury goods, consider purple and black. On the other hand, if you specialize in something that’s very personal, maybe a warm pink or friendly yellow will help develop relationships with your customers.
 
So have we convinced you stay with the staple of red? Or have you been sold on the virtues of yellow? Either way, when you design your logo you know it will be a hot ticket item!

Blue collar, white collar, purple collar: what are the colors of other industries?

Accounting    |    Agriculture    |   Entertainment    |    Healthcare    |    Photography    |    Real Estate    |    Retail    |    Technology
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