How This Zebra Got its Stripes


Take an inside look at The Zebra's branding strategies—and the color science behind them.

3 min read

The Zebra’s CEO and founder Adam Lyons recently spoke with The Huffington Post for a piece called 4 Ways to Architect an Iconic Brand. At The Zebra, we always keep branding front of mind, so I wanted to share Adam’s unique advice, but I also wanted to go a step further and pick the brain of our genius UI/UX designer, Clark Wimberly, who was instrumental in developing our online presence.

First, what Adam said to HuffPo:

Branding 101: Add some color, but keep it simple.

Adam explains:

“We liked The Zebra because we wanted to emphasize simplicity, especially in the car insurance industry, which is marred by regulation and advertising noise. Hence, our slogan, ‘Insurance in black and white.’ Additionally, via color science, we know that black tends to make consumers feel protected, while white represents a business that is simple and easy. So in addition to the colors we chose for our brand and logo, the words themselves — and the word “Zebra” — had an added boost of evoking those feelings.”

So there you have it. We chose colors to let our customers know we’re trustworthy, and used a lot of white, to assure them we offer a genuinely easy way to compare car insurance rates. It seems straightforward, right? But most branding in the insurance landscape is anything but simple and clean. That’s precisely why, Clark explains, he wanted to do something different with thezebra.com.

Clark explains:

“With a brand like The Zebra, I’m afforded the freedom to work in really stark terms. I use a ton of white space. Our type is large and punchy. It’s allowing me to bring a level of simplicity and clarity that was largely missing from the insurance industry—or at least their consumer facing products.”

No matter what he’s working on, Clark keeps The Zebra brand front of mind. And he also articulated to me that a brand is much more than just a logo: “By using the logo, and colors, and copy, you create a brand,” Clark says. “The brand is the takeaway, what you make stick in someone’s head—their gut feeling about a company.”

Color_Emotion_Guide22

Though it makes the consumer in me cringe a bit, when I look at the color emotion guide above, I recognize that I do have emotional associations with many of the brands listed—and they often line up with their color’s associated emotion. Virgin and Target do seem like exciting brands, or at least more so than BP or Apple. And I most certainly trust Oreos completely.

Buddy the Elf, What’s Your Favorite Color?

Then again, others have argued that color science is a bit of a stretch. Gregory Ciotti, in a great Entrepreneur piece, explains what numerous studies have shown: “Color is too dependant on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings.”

90 percent of snap judgments made about products are based on color alone.

But he also references a study finding that 90 percent of snap judgments made about products are based on color alone. What do you think, as a consumer? Have you ever been aware of being swayed by color or design? Or do you think our experiences with color are too specific and personal to draw universal branding conclusions from them?

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I'm a Texas-based Kansan who misses seasons but loves breakfast tacos. My journalism and short stories have been published all over, including at Popular Mechanics, USA Today magazines, SELF magazine and Black Warrior Review. I have an MFA in fiction, but I'll stick to the truth at Quoted.