Why Are Noctua Fans Brown? (Finally Explained)

The first Noctua fans were made in a muted brown color scheme almost universally hated.

Why are Noctua fans brown?

Noctua fans are brown because of smart marketing, a focus on performance over appearance, the ability of new companies to experiment, tradition, and the status the fans provide for consumers. Noctua fans are instantly recognizable for their brown and beige color scheme.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

5 Main Reasons That Noctua Fans Are Brown

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Graphic image of a ugly brown Noctua fan—Why Are Noctua Fans Brown
Image by author via Canva—Why Are Noctua Fans Brown?

There are five main reasons (and two additional theories) for why Noctua built their fans with the ugly brown color.

Here are the five main reasons:

  • Marketing
  • Focus on performance not aesthetics
  • The flexibility of small companies
  • Status
  • Tradition

Let’s look at these five reasons before I share a few theories (including my personal favorite).

Noctua Fans Are Brown Because of Smart Marketing

The most popular theory is that Noctua made its fans brown for brand recognition. There’s no doubt that people instantly recognize Noctua by the much-hated color.

For years, most fan brands looked identical.

It was hard to ferret out one fan from another. But not Noctua fans. They stood out like an ugly, sore thumb. That’s brand marketing 101. When everyone else zigs, you zag.

By completely ignoring “nice” colors, they immediately stand out in a crowded marketplace.

This, despite the fact that to most people brown is a color of dirt and feces.

It’s not the most obvious color for building customer loyalty. But it gets attention. And that’s what Noctua wanted, at least in its early years before all their competitors used standard colors.

One of the most famous marketers of all time, notorious advertiser David Ogilvy, shares a great quote on this topic:

“Study the methods of your competitors and do the exact opposite.”

— David Ogilvy

Noctua may have followed this maxim. They may have studied other fan companies with their fancy designs and colors.

Then decided to do the opposite.

The fact that I wrote (and you are currently reading) an article on the topic perhaps proves they made an excellent marketing choice.

Noctua Fans Are Brown Because the Company Is Focused on Performance

Another popular theory is that Noctua just doesn’t (or didn’t) care about the color.

As with the marketing theory, perhaps Noctua decided to do the opposite of their competition—focus entirely on performance.

After all, almost every fan made today is available in a wide variety of colors.

Noctua focused on how good their brown bearing was instead of making those bearings bright and shiny.

Instead of flashy design, they made some of the quietest and best PC cooling fans on the market.

Many people consider Noctua the industry leader.

I certainly do. Since I first tried a Noctua fan, I’ve never bought any other fan for my home or office computers.

Perhaps, in Noctua culture, it’s less important to look good than to be good.

They are not the first company or person to take this approach.

For example, my favorite how-to book on writing comes with a generic cover and confusing title. However, the content is so dang good I don’t care how the book looks.

According to Daniel Coyle, the bestselling author of The Little Book of Talent, ugly things and ugly spaces often do breed great performance.

Maybe Noctua’s ugly brown fans were designed with more purpose than we think.

Noctua Fans Are Brown Because the Company Is New

As we mentioned, a popular theory is that Noctua just doesn’t care about color. And that’s perfectly fine if you’re new or small.

Once you start making hundreds of thousands or millions of fans, maybe differentiating your product becomes more important.

One thing I’ve learned over the years in business is that new or small companies have more freedom to stand out.

They don’t have many customers, so they can be different. They can be quirky.

Noctua Fans might be one example of a brand that sold itself on originality—all while being known as one of the best brands in the world.

Noctua Fans Are Brown Because of Status

Well-performing and easily recognizable products often lend their consumers special status.

For example, Harley Davidson motorcycles or Louis Vuitton handbags.

When people drive or wear these products, they embody the status of the brand. Other people ascribe to them certain traits such as cool, trendy, rich, or high class.

The same can even be said of Starbucks coffee.

Likewise, when someone buys a Noctua fan, they also connect themselves with the product.

Namely, they might feel like a more professional computer user with higher standards and better taste.

Other people might see them as higher-performance people who care more about how well the computer works than how well the computer looks.

After all, Noctua consumer products are so well-engineered that many people choose them even though they’re not the standard color.

Noctua Fans Are Brown Because of Tradition

Maybe Noctua thinks brown fans are better looking than other colors. And it’s true that while most Noctua fans are brown, some newer models come in black or shades of grey.

Once Noctua got popular, perhaps they just wanted to continue the tradition.

Perhaps they thought, “Why change now?”

After all, their brown color continues to spark online and in-person debates almost 20 years later.

A Controversial Theory on Why Noctua Fans Are Brown

There is another possibility, but it’s a bit controversial.

What if Noctua simply didn’t think about the color at all? What if it completely slipped their mind?

What if the color isn’t intentional?

This could very well be the case. Once a computer fan is installed, you can’t really see it anyway.

At most, you can glimpse one side of the fan case.

Maybe, to Noctua, considering the color of the fan made about as much sense as considering the color of an internal car part no one would ever see (except, maybe, a mechanic).

Essentially, what if it just happened?

There might not have been any great marketing scheme, small company experimentation, statement of company value, or hallowed hold onto tradition.

Maybe there is no reason at all.

My Personal Theory on Why Noctua Fans Are Brown

Noctua is an Austrian company with a European love for all things understated.

Or, at least I assume so since almost everyone I’ve seen in Germany loves black, brown, tan, and grey cars, clothes, etc.

Not everyone in Austria or Europe is the same, of course.

But I think it would be unwise to separate the color of the fan from the culture of the company that created the fan.

My experience traveling through Europe—and through Austria in particular—makes me think the culture might be the culprit behind the color choice.

To me, Austrians just don’t like a lot of flash.

They don’t need the constant buzzing attention of other cultures.

Does Noctua Make Black Fans?

Yes, Noctua released Chromax black fans in 2017.

In the Chromax line, you can purchase fans with all-black blades, cables, cases, and heatsink covers. Admittedly, as soon as they came out, I snatched up a few for my personal computers.

Chromax also offers cables and pads in other colors:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • White

In addition, Noctua released a Redux line of fans in varying shades of grey.

Both the Chromax and Redux lines perform just as exquisitely as the signature brown fans.

Final Thoughts: Why Are Noctua Fans Brown?

The truth is that the motivation behind the brown fans might include several of these reasons.

Perhaps Noctua started with a focus on performance, noticed the unintended free marketing, and capitalized. Once the momentum grew, they leveraged the status and tradition of their ugly fans.

Like most other things in life, the genesis of the brown fan is almost certainly multifaceted and complex.

Read these next:


Personality and Social Psychology (Research on Colors)

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