Color is vital to branding and not just any color will do. The language of color is vast, with deep meanings that speak to the subconscious of consumers.

“The color needs to connect the product’s usage to its audience,” says Barry Ridge, CMG, Creative Director at Barry Ridge Graphic Design in Camarillo, California. “If you are marketing power tools to an adult male audience, and you product them in lavenders and pinks, you probably won’t sell many.”

Ridge continues the power tool analogy by pointing to major name brands. If you go to Home Depot today and walk down the power tools aisle, you will discover that all the major companies have claimed their own branding color. Milwaukee Tool is red. DeWalt is yellow. Black & Decker is deep blue-green. Any new entrant that tried to claim one of those colors would have a hard time because it is connected with a brand. In the self-storage industry, everyone is familiar with Public Storage’s orange doors.

Colors are key in branding because they have psychological impact on customers. Indeed, experts say certain colors can be used to communicate the theme of what you are promoting, be it the lowest price in town or higher quality or greater value. Understanding the deeper meaning of colors can help you choose the most appropriate combinations for your brand. Here’s a quick overview of the common color gamut.

Black: Black typically communicates authority and power. Black is a good choice for typefaces because it contrasts nicely against most light backgrounds and therefore can be read from long distances.

Red: Red is a color of high emotion. Studies show it stimulates shopping and appetite. That’s why red cars are known for their sex appeal. Of course, red is a “hot” color that also signifies low price and sales.

Blue: The opposite of red, blue is a “cool” color that communicates elegance and quality. It has a calming effect and also symbolizes freedom.

Green: This color is rarely used in retail settings except lawn and garden and food establishments. Green symbolizes health and nature

Yellow: Yellow is an attention-grabbling color, but experts warn this color should only be used as a background or accept color, in most cases, because it’s difficult to read yellow letters from a distance.

Purple: This color signifies royalty, luxury, wealth and is therefore in appropriate for most self-storage facilities that promote value and savings.

Brown: Brown, on the other hand, is a good choice for industrial applications because it is earthy and signifies reliability and genuineness. UPS has done well with its drab brown brand.

Keep in mind that different shades of these colors may produce altogether different meanings, so working with a graphic designer or branding expert who fully comprehends the language of color is vital in any branding effort. Ridge says there are no hard and fast rules for color combinations. Thy way the culture is now, he explains, you could put just about any color combination together and make it look good if you do it right and in the right proportions.

“Color has to connect with the audience, so you need to have some knowledge of how the audience will perceive the color,” Ridge concludes. “Just as you would use a good headline or catch phrase, you need to use colors that connect in people’s minds in a positive way. There’s a bit of a mystery to it. Color is an endless subject, but you can use it to beat your competition.”