Colors trends in digital health: Sex may play a surprising role in the blue logo boom

Tweet it: In the red-hot #digitalhealth sector, nearly half the companies’ logos are blue.

It’s a trope (that I’ve not only used but disseminated frequently) that the digital health landscape is a veritable sea of blue logos. The massive, hyper-fluorescent HIMSS exhibit hall (the organization itself has a blue logo) does look a bit like 40,000 attendees at a Smurf conference when you squint.

Is the blue logo stereotype true? And, if so, why does blue have such a strong grasp on digital health?

To get a perspective outside my own bias (both of the health tech startups where I’ve worked in-house, Practice Fusion and Doximity, have the healthcare “black and blue” color scheme nailed), I mapped out 130 established and emerging digital health brands (methodology at the end):

Digital-health-logo-color-trends

Blue is the clear digital health logo leader with a 40% share of the market—not even counting the many, many logos that combined blue and another color. Orange is the next most popular hue, barely edging out, green, red and black. Yellow came in last with a mere two brands embracing the sulfuric hue.

health-tech-startup-brand-colors

Why blue? I remembered an article in The New Yorker a few years back where Zuckerberg talked about choosing blue for Facebook because he is red-green color blind and “blue is the richest color for me—I can see all of blue.” About 8% of men are thought to be color blind while less than 1% of women have the recessive sex-linked vision deficiency.

Let’s do some back-of-the-napkin math: If 96% of healthcare CEOs are male, as according to a 2012 Rock Health report, that translates to 7.68% of all healthcare CEOs being color blind. Would that explain the rise of blue? Imagine 1,000 healthcare execs picking their logo colors; with the current male-led mix, 78 of those CEOs would be biased against red-green and more likely to pick blue vs. just 45 CEOs if the gender mix reflected the larger population. There could be nearly twice as many blue logo picks in the male-led group, just accounting for color blind bias. Add in a dash of compounding peer-pressure from other brands, and you can see how the scales might be tipped.

Of course, even if my theory holds true, 85% of healthcare decisions in the U.S. are made by women, and 78% of the healthcare workforce is female. Brands might be smart to pick something that stands out to their customer base. Let’s take a closer look at this spectrum of digital health brands in each color:

Pink—Only five brave digital health brands start us out on the fuchsia side of red.  Diagnostics companies Alere and 23andMe, plus BetterDoctor, DaisyBill and Hi.Q “think pink.” Pantone reports that pink represents “festive and fun”—just like a diagnostic blood test.

Red—With the Red Cross as the international symbol of medicine, it’s surprising that the color doesn’t have a stronger showing than 15 digital health logos. Pantone calls red “bold and passionate” for brands, but maybe they’re avoiding a possible tie-in with blood. In the red category, we have Epic, Viewics, HealthLoop, IncentFit, CRIXlabs (Quantified Skin), iMedicare, Meddik, Sano, Mango Health, Cardiio, Neumitra, Aidin, ChickRx, Beyond Lucid and Avva. There seems to be a loose theme of big data, measurement and larger enterprise focus in this color.

Orange—Categorized as “vibrant and energetic,” the color’s popularity with 17 logos was a surprise to me but makes sense for brands on the consumer wellness–end of the spectrum that appear more common in this color. Castlight, Omada, ForSight Labs, MindBody, Medikly, Lantern, Proteus, Welkin, Wello, Moxe, ReferBright, AllazoHealth, HealthRally, Ginger.io, HomeTeam, GeriJoy and Pager.

Yellow—Yellow may be “optimistic and innovative,” but it is also a tough color to work with on the web. If you go yellow, you’ve got to go big. Grand Rounds pairs it with gray. Healthify goes for a buttercup hue. AthenaHealth used to be a loud and proud yellow with green but recently deserted their yellow hue for a crisp purple.

Green—The color thought to be “rejuvenating and natural” comes in No. 3 after Orange. On team scrub green, there’s drchrono, HealthyOut, Lift Labs, Zipongo, Kurbo Health, Allscripts (formerly orange), Neurotrack , Kinsights, InquisitHealth, Symbiosis Health, StartUp Health, Skimble, AdhereTech, Rock Health, Sensore and Stirplate.io. Is there a pattern in the green brands? It looks like a diverse mix of everything digital health to me.

Blue—The heavyweight champion color of health technology. Blue denotes “trustworthy and secure,” according to Pantone and is generally thought to be a soothing hue. Blue includes ZocDoc, Practice Fusion, Fitbit, Theranos, Pad in Motion, Amplify Health, Guardant Health, Sharecare, Assurex Health, HelloMD, Podimetrics, CredSimple, Reify, MynewMD, IntelligentM, Propeller Health, StaffInsight, AgileMD, Luminate Health, Procured Health, Docphin, Board Vitals, Greatist, Blueprint Health, Health Recovery Solutions, Nurep, NoviMedicine, Genterpret, Zephyr Health, Vapotherm, BigEvidence, AirStrip Technologies, CellScope, Healthgrades, CliniCast, RxApps, Benefitter, Touch Surgery, Holaira, Care at Hand, WellTrackONE, Smart Patients, SERMO, Best Doctors, Fluid, Wildflower Health, Evolent Health, Kit Check, Benchling, Symcat, Ambient Clinical Analytics, Chrono Theraputics, American Well, Doctor on Demand and WebMD.

Purple—It seems like purple is having a moment, having just won the AthenaHealth brand over from yellow and also taking over the latex glove world. Iodine, AthenaHealth, Audax Health, Vitals, Acumen, PokitDok, Medmonk and OpenPlacement represent the end of the color spectrum with the shade considered “enchanting and regal.”

Black & Gray—“Sleek, timeless” and very “Uber for healthcare.”  Our analysis concludes with startup brands that have eschewed color for something a little more serious. Sensentia, Flatiron, BrainBot, LabDoor, Anapsis, Pipette, Healthy Labs, Artemis, Cognitive Health Innovations, AchieveMint, Spire, Sessions, Nephosity, HeartBeat and Enhatch.

Let’s wrap this up. If you’re asking “what is the best color for my digital health startup’s logo?,” blue seems like a safe choice, but you might have a hard time standing out from the crowd. Orange is popular for consumer-facing health and wellness apps. Green is up for grabs. Black seems to be increasingly popular (thanks, Uber). Pink and purple if you want to be a bit bolder. Maybe leave yellow to the experts.

What do you think explains the rise of blue logos in digital health? Which color do you think will challenge blue for the lead in 2015?

METHODOLOGY

This report evaluated 130 established and emerging brands in digital health, sampling unscientifically from the portfolios of Rock Health, Startup Health and Blueprint Health as well as listings on CrunchBase, Canvas Venture Fund (Morganthaler) and Sequoia Capital. For the most part, I excluded hospitals, payers, HMOs, biotech, devices and pharma, which are a bit outside the digital health space. When logos included more than one color, I used the more dominant or less common as the placement. A couple startups were excluded because their logos included every possible color.

Am I missing your favorite digital health brand? Let me know >