Business branding colours – meaning of brown

Karen Haller 01
Karen Haller

Business branding colours - meaning of brown.

Naturally thinking of who would use the colour brown, I thought it has to be chocolate brands.  Whilst some do, it was interesting to see the majority use brown as one of their main secondary colours. And even more interesting, there is a brand that is actually called ‘The Big Brown’ and they have nothing to do with chocolate…

chocolate brown
You only have to look at the many chocolate brands to see either the use of brown as their main brand colour, or heavily used to connect their customers to their product. The most used brown appears to be a rich, dark brown which we have come to call chocolate brown.  This tone just oozes decadence and luxury. Even every day brands want to give that feeling of pure indulgence.

Business branding colours - meaning of brown - chocolate brands.

who is the Big Brown?
I couldn’t talk about branding and brown and not mention the brand who is known as the Big Brown.  And that is UPS.

Brown became their identifying brand colour in 1916 when it was chosen as they believed the colour reflected class, elegance and professionalism. This was to emulate how they saw the Pullman luxury rail car brand.

The original UPS logo features an eagle carrying a package with the words “SAFE, SWIFT, SURE” emblazoned on the side. Those qualities of reliable service endure today. This is what brown is communicating – safe, reliable, and dependable.

Oh and apparently they say the brown hides the dirt – nothing like being practical.

Business brand colours - brown - UPS. This opens a new browser window.

UPS | Known as the Big Brown. They even capture it in their strap line 'What can brown do for you?'

UPS are another company who have trademarked their tone of brown. Brands usually do this so that no other company within their industry can use their signature colour.

Let’s not ignore the prominent use of gold as their secondary brand colour, representing quality, prestige and value.

Business branding colours - meaning of brown - British Pullman luxury train. This opens a new browser window.

British Pullman | You can see where UPS got their brown & gold branding colours from.

colour balance
Do you have another colour or colours making up your brand identity? Take care when selecting other colours and their tones as they will also have their own psychological properties. You could, inadvertently being sending out a completely different message to the one you intended.

It’s not surprising big brands understand the importance of colour, some going so far as to trademark their brand colours. Branding colours can be that strong, only the colour is needed for the brand to be identified.

brand analysis
If you would like to know if green is the right colour for your business brand and just as important the exact tone of green, then why not see if a brand colour analysis is right for you. My clients find when they get their branding colours right, they really get how it represents their brand’s personality and how the right tone will increase brand recognition, attracting their target clientele and lead to increased sales.

To find out more about the effects colour has on your brand download my free e-book 7 mistakes most business owners make with their branding colours.

If you enjoyed reading this article you may also be interested in other articles relating to colour in business branding.

Images: UPS and British Pullman.

Share the knowledge


  1. Tanya Rennick on November 1, 2012 at 11:04 am

    There was a board outside my first school. It read, “St. Hilda’s – School For Young Ladies” The letters were painted in sky blue on a chocolate brown background. Similarly, our uniform was a sky blue shirt with a brown tie, gymslip and pullover. I thought it was beautiful and have loved the combination ever since. Brown is smart, elegant and luxurious. Now when are we jumping on the Orient Express?

    • admin on November 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      Ha, creativity combined with stability and grounding. Dark brown is a more supporting and positive alternative to cold black. If used right it just oozes decadence, reliability, stability…

  2. Tanya Rennick on November 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    The word ooze has such synergy with chocolate brown!

  3. Nicola Holden on November 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Great explanations on the meaning of brown as a brand colour – thanks Karen! I guess it has to be the right tone of brown to get it right though.

    • admin on November 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      So true Nicola.

Leave a Comment