Every day, 1.82 billion users log into Facebook. It’s one of the most recognizable brands in the world — people from India to Italy can identify the company’s blue and white “f” logo at a glance.
Have you ever wondered why Facebook is blue? There’s one practical reason: it’s a color founder Mark Zuckerberg can see. In 2010, The New Yorker reported that Zuckerberg has self-diagnosed red-green color blindness, or deuteranopia.
People with deuteranopia have difficulty seeing the difference between red and green. Blue, however, tends to be clear and visible. That’s the case for Zuckerberg, who told reporter Jose Antonio Vargas, “I can see all of blue.”
Has Facebook Always Been Blue? The Evolution of the Blue Branding
Although Facebook is strongly associated with its blue branding, it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, Zuckerberg’s first color choice was red. This shade appeared in 2003, when Zuckerberg launched FaceMash, the website that paved the way for Facebook. The FaceMash logo featured white letters on a crimson background. This site lasted only a few days before Harvard shut it down.
When Zuckerberg re-launched the site as thefacebook.com in 2004, the red was gone. Instead, co-founder Andrew McCollum designed a logo with light blue letters on a medium-blue background. On the left side of the page, a pattern of white zeroes and ones lay over a blue line drawing of a man’s face.
When the company dropped the “the” in 2005 and became Facebook, they turned to graphic designer Mike Buzzard for a new logo. Buzzard’s company, Cuban Council, considered other colors for the new Facebook brand. Though they offered different options, Zuckerberg insisted on blue. To satisfy his client, Buzzard took the exact shade from the first iteration of thefacebook.com.
This shade remained until 2019, when Facebook unveiled an update to its signature blue hue. While the original was muted and sedate, the new blue was brighter and more vibrant.
The same year, the company released a new logo for the Facebook parent corporation. To create a visual distinction between the app and the corporation, designers used a simple all-caps wordmark. The GIF version of this logo cycles through a rainbow of colors to represent the different brands under its umbrella.
The rainbow effect was short-lived — it disappeared in October of 2021, when the Facebook corporation rebranded itself as Meta. To maintain a sense of familiarity during the rapid shift, Facebook returned to its roots. The Meta branding uses the standard Facebook app font for the corporate name and the 2019 blue for the infinity-loop logo mark.
The Emotion of Color: What Does Blue Mean?
Facebook’s signature blue might have originated with Zuckerberg’s color-blindness, but that’s only part of why it endures. After all, the whims of a founder aren’t enough to override the practicalities of big business.
The answer lies in the way humans react to color.
Think about how you feel when you look at colors. Certain tones can evoke a specific feeling or reaction. Red can seem energetic and aggressive, while yellow feels optimistic and warm. The exact emotional reaction varies slightly from person to person, of course, but studies have revealed a number of patterns.
Some of the most common color associations are:
- Green: Harmony, safety, growth, health
- Blue: Security, trust, loyalty, responsibility
- Red: Action, strength, energy, passion
- Yellow: Happiness, optimism, positivity, intellect
- Purple: Spirituality, mystery, royalty, imagination
- Pink: Compassion, love, femininity, playfulness
- Orange: Emotion, youth, optimism, enthusiasm
- Brown: Reliability, stability, honesty, comfort
- Gray: Compromise, neutral, control, practical
- Black: Protection, power, elegance, sophistication
- White: Cleanliness, purity, innocence, perfection
Companies use these reactions to capitalize on the strong emotions that accompany a purchase or decision.
Picture the clearance section of your local big-box store. Are the discounted prices marked with bright red stickers? This is a common tactic companies use to build excitement and urgency. The mere sight of that bright-red sticker can increase your heart rate, making the low price feel even more thrilling. You might also feel the need to snap up the product before it’s gone. Wal-Mart takes a warmer approach, using bright yellow clearance stickers to evoke a happy feeling of excitement.
Why does color create such powerful associations? Scientists haven’t come to a consensus, but it may be because vision is the most important and prominent of the five senses. By choosing an evocative color, companies can establish a strong mental connection. Over time, the brand, the color, and the emotion become inextricably linked in the customer’s mind.
Take companies like Target and McDonald’s — you can probably picture the color of the logo instantly. This type of brand recognition is a powerful asset for a brand. It can influence buying decisions and make a customer more likely to choose one company over another.
Why Does Facebook Use Blue?
Anyone in marketing will tell you that blue is among the most powerful colors on the spectrum. It’s associated with stability, credibility, and tranquility. Brands often choose the color blue when they require high levels of trust from customers.
Think about the logo at your doctor’s office or hospital; there’s a good chance it’s blue. That’s because companies that use this color want you to feel calm, confident, and trusting when you interact with the brand.
Other businesses that favor blue branding are:
- Financial institutions
- Law firms
- Healthcare facilities
- Government agencies
- Technology firms
- Scientific research labs
At first glance, Facebook doesn’t seem to fit in with these serious industries. Posting vacation photos on social media hardly seems comparable to picking a financial planner or filing your taxes.
Why does Facebook need to use a color that evokes trust? The answer is simple: data collection.
Facebook users entrust the platform with a huge amount of personal data. Every time you log in, the system tracks every action you take. The app uses your IP address to estimate your location, so it knows where you are at any given time. Your messages, likes, and interactions might be hidden from the public, but they’re all saved in Facebook’s databases. That’s just the start — Facebook collects information about business details, financial information, addresses, and more. It even knows the charge level of your phone battery.
When you agree to Facebook’s terms, you allow the system to use your data. It controls everything from the ads you see to the posts that appear in your news feed.
Any time a company sells access to personal data — as Facebook does in its ad-targeting ecosystem — consumers get nervous. This is where a trust-inducing color like blue can be a big benefit. A blue logo isn’t a magic pill, of course, but it can create a sense of security and reliability.
Make no mistake: Facebook has a vested interest in helping users feel secure. In 2020 alone, the company brought in more than $84 billion dollars in ad revenue.
Can Color Actually Influence Online Behavior?
Color evokes an emotional reaction — but can it actually affect the actions people take on Facebook? Studies and field data suggest it can.
For its business model to work, Facebook needs to elicit three main behaviors:
- Encourage new users to sign up
- Convince existing users to spend more time on the platform
- Increase overall interaction with platform content
The color of the platform can have an effect on all three of these actions.
Color and Facebook Signups
Researchers at the University of Winnipeg found that when a person first encounters a product, they take just 90 seconds to decide whether or not to continue the interaction. What’s more, the study revealed that color accounts for a whopping 62%-90% of that decision.
For digital brands like Facebook, the 90-second period can be even shorter. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, users decide to leave or stay on a website in just 10-20 seconds. If the brand color elicits a negative feeling, users are likely to click away.
Here, the Facebook blue is a great choice; it has overwhelmingly positive associations. When a new user considers signing up, the clean, blue branding is likely to sway the decision in Facebook’s favor.
Color, Time on Platform, and Increased Interaction
Why does your heart rate and mental state matter to Facebook? A high heart rate and a feeling of anxiety makes it hard to focus. You’re more likely to be distracted and unable to stick to one task. If you log into Facebook, you probably won’t last long before switching to a different app.
That’s where blue comes in. The sight of the cool-colored Facebook logo has an instant relaxing effect. Your heart rate slows slightly, and you might feel calmer. In this state, it’s easier to keep your mind on the tasks at hand: browsing friend’s profiles, clicking on links, and commenting on photos.
All of these actions are like gold to Facebook. When you spend more time exploring the app, the company can show you more ads. Since Facebook charges advertisers based on impressions, your scrolling directly increases ad revenue.
Your interactions on Facebook also matter. Every click adds to the company’s data pool, which means that it can deliver highly detailed ad targeting. Companies shell out serious money for this service — it ensures that their ads reach the people who are most likely to buy.
Blue Branding and Positive Associations
It’s no secret that brands benefit from positive customer impressions. After all, no one wants to buy from a company that makes them feel angry or sad.
For a large business like Facebook, positive associations are everything. They enhance trust, build credibility, and encourage loyalty. If the sight of the Facebook logo makes you feel happy and positive, you’re less likely to jump ship to TikTok or Twitter.
Again, the company’s blue branding is an asset.
The positive effects of blue go well beyond the initial emotional reaction and relaxed physiological response. This color also plays on your personal preferences.
Survey after survey has shown that blue is the most common favorite color. Both men and women favor this cool tone over all other colors. That’s not all — almost no one chooses blue as their least favorite color.
These trends hold true across the world. A YouGov study found that blue is overwhelmingly the favorite color in countries ranging from China to the United Kingdom.
For Facebook, this is great news. The company’s blue branding is likely to produce a positive reaction in most people. Even better, it’s unlikely to alienate a significant part of the target audience.
Keep in mind that cultural context also affects the way people perceive colors. While orange looks warm and cheerful to Americans, someone in the Middle East might associate it with mourning. Blue, on the other hand, tends to have a positive connotation across the globe.
Why do people like blue so much? Researchers Stephen E. Palmer and Karen Schloss theorize that it has to do with “affective responses to color-associated objects.” In other words, people tend to like things that are blue — fresh water, sapphires, blueberries, bright skies — so they also like the color itself.
These factors all work to Facebook’s advantage. No matter where a user lives, blue is likely to have a positive association.
Facebook Blue: A Futuristic Vision
Users are only one part of Facebook’s target audience. As a publicly traded company, it must also answer to shareholders and a board of directors. Unlike users, these groups are primarily concerned with one thing: profits.
The world of social media is fast-paced and volatile. In that climate, the worst thing a company can be is stale or outdated. Shareholders want to know that the business is evolving, growing, and innovating.
In the first half of 2019, Facebook was in a tough spot. Usage was lower than usual, and the number of interactions was down by nearly 20%. A data privacy scandal had damaged the company’s reputation around the world.
Shareholders were angry. At the company’s annual meeting in May of 2019, four different groups proposed changes that would switch up the company’s leadership. They failed, but Facebook got the message.
By the end of 2019, Facebook had introduced new branding that was intended to increase transparency. Although the corporate logo got all the attention, the change in the company’s signature blue was perhaps more powerful.
In light of the privacy struggles and falling user engagement, Facebook was eager to shake off its reputation as an aging social media platform. It also needed to reassure its shareholders that the business was ready to innovate and evolve.
The updated blue underscored this forward-looking vision. The original shade was muted and calm; it wouldn’t be out of place in a law firm. The new blue was brighter and more vibrant. This electric blue hue is particularly evocative. According to Psychology Today, it’s been seen as a futuristic color for hundreds of years.
By moving to a vibrant blue, Facebook subtly communicated its goal of regaining young users and embracing new technology. It’s worth noting that the parent corporation chose the same shade of blue in its 2021 transition to Meta.
What Other Companies Use Blue in Branding?
Facebook isn’t the only big brand that understands the power of blue branding. You can probably name three or four other major corporations right off the top of your head.
Financial institutions favor blue; it takes trust to hand over your money. Citibank, Capital One, American Express, Chase, PNC Bank, and Bank of America all use blue in their logos. Look in your wallet, and you’ll probably find a card with a blue American Express or Visa logo.
If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, you’re putting your life in the company’s hands. It’s no surprise, then, that every major American airline uses at least some blue in their branding. They’re making a powerful play for your trust.
Some of the other brands that use blue branding are:
- General Motors
- Blue Cross Blue Shield
- General Electric
Compare these brands to companies that employ other branding colors. John Deere uses green to suggest growth, while retail brands like Target and K-Mart choose exciting red logos. Some companies go for broke with the implied diversity of a rainbow. NBC and Microsoft are two prominent examples.
Will Facebook Always Be Blue?
Based on its history, Facebook is unlikely to drop its signature shade of blue any time soon. Every major change in the company’s branding has retained a similar color. As the company moves toward the “metaverse,” its blue logo will convey both security and an innovative view of the future.