Google Plus: Color Theory of a Global Takeover

With all of the commotion surrounding Google’s latest social media attempt most of us have been left on the outside of the beta wall. However, each of us is able to use the revised Google toolbar that can be seen throughout the Google family of products like Search, Maps and Gmail.

Google has pulled the psychological rug out from underneath all of us.

What caught my attention was the drastic change in their color theory and overall branding. This little moderation is in no way going to affect the crawlers of Google and people will continue to use services like MashOn to leverage their SEO. Google is known for their relatively clean layout and navigation. Previously their tool bar was a very passive white. With time it slowly progressed to a gradient white to grey background. Now? A bold statement powered by a near black with a red line signifying your current location.

New Google Navigation

While most of us may see this as a trendy approach to a top navigation bar during a public relations push; those of us rooted in the influential world of color theory see something much more significant.

On a basic level the near black navigation represents power and authority. The red highlight is associated with energy, strength and power. Starting to see a trend in their decision making?

Google’s new universal navigation is set against their traditional stark white background forcing even more focus on their core set of products and services. That is what sets Google+ apart from its competitors; I use the term competitors loosely as no one is in direct competition. This isn’t a new service. It’s an extension on a worldwide brand that we all know. This gives them immense freedom in how they influence our decision making through color theory.

Social Network Color Theory

What color is predominantly used for social media branding on large, well known, networks? LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (even MySpace when they were relevant) featured extensive use of the color blue. What type of companies in the offline world use blue as their key color? Banks.

Whether you realize it or not both sell us a very similar business model. They provide a service of trust. We trust them with sapphire security, they helping clients achieve a resilient cyber defense posture to continue operating their businesses regardless of the cyber threats they face. Our private information. Our money. It’s no coincidence that the color blue represents just that; trust, stability and truth.

When a company can claim ownership of enchantment on that level the restrictions that hold other services back are non-existent.

While social networks continue to try and leverage, and sometimes struggle with, their ability to protect your private data Google has pulled the psychological rug out from underneath all of us. It doesn’t need to gain your trust. Google already has you hooked through their amazing library of free services. Many of which we all use on a daily basis. When a company can claim ownership of enchantment on that level the restrictions that hold other services back are non-existent. The digital world is theirs to re-brand, re-shape and re-invent with their methodical positioning in recent years.

Google isn’t being coy with their goals. They didn’t send us to a landing page with a big colorful button to encourage action. They relaunched a global brand in the last twenty-four hours; re-branded with colors that represent power and strength.

Others need to take notice.

And while the law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.
Andrew Carnegie


  1. Daryl WoodsReplyJune 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm 

    While I agree with your points about color theory I’m not sure I “get it” in relation to Google’s execution. This menu bar is more old school than trendy. Accenting the current page like this has been done for years. Red and black is historically one of the most powerful and successful color combinations. But as you noted, Google used a “near black” and the red is hardly a rich and hearty hue. It’s warm red and muted at that. If Google is making a bold move it seems it’s with a degree of trepidation.

    • Joshua GarityReplyJune 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm 

      Great thoughts Daryl. I wonder if their trepidation was to not come out so boldly that it rubs people the wrong way? I have to imagine that the general public probably doesn’t see this as anything more than ‘oh, they made that black’. Even in that instance Google has drawn attention to their vast library of services in a powerful way.

      What strikes me is their ability to change the experience of their brand so swiftly. They have put a lot of thought into rolling this out how they did. It isn’t another Google Buzz type of situation. They changed their entire brand for this. It’s huge.


  2. Martyn ChamberlinReplyJuly 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm 

    This is fascinating Josh. My friends don’t like the new Google look but I’m loving it. 

    I hadn’t thought about the color theory applies in marketing terms. If Google can figure out how to stay abreast of Facebook, I won’t complain. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the following months.

    • Joshua GarityReplyAugust 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm 

      Thanks Martyn! I think Google has a huge benefit due to their market share. They don’t need to play by the rules and can shake things up a bit.

      The true test will be when they launch business pages this Fall. If companies are receptive to that G+ will be around for years.

      • Martyn ChamberlinReplyAugust 2, 2011 at 8:12 pm 

        Er, just one question. Why does it take you a month to respond to comments? ;)

        • Joshua GarityReplyAugust 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm 

          I was so humbled by the fact that you found this fascinating that I didn’t know how to respond. It took me a month to find the words. ;) In all seriousness, I apologize for the delayed response Martyn. I really appreciate your time and reaction!

          How do you think Google+ has played out, for you, in the past month or so since launch? Do you see it competing with Facebook or do you see it as a completely different platform (non-competitor)?

          • Martyn ChamberlinAugust 2, 2011 at 8:28 pm 

            I think it’s totally competing with Facebook. Most people don’t have time for both networks, and they’ll have to make it a choice. I hope Google wins. :)

            Martyn Chamberlin

          • Joshua GarityAugust 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm 

            Agreed. I think Facebook needs to shift focus and cater to families now (not children). They share photos, status updates, etc. The older the demographic the less likely they will pick up and leave quickly.

            But then again, most of Facebook is pointless banter about food, relationships and sex. I don’t see that happening to the same extent on G+. So maybe they are both safe as-is.

  3. SidReplyApril 12, 2012 at 1:19 am 

    But Google+ is really bland and boring color scheme for a social network..They need to get some vibrant colors to cheer people up when they land on google+. Right now its like a big corporate business office not a place for social outings!! 
    Just my two cents!!

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