Color psychology plays a crucial role in marketing and branding as it prompts the customers to notice a brand, making it an enthralling and controversial subject. While the term is used a lot while forming marketing and branding strategies, the complexity of the expression is often overlooked.
In marketing and branding, colors are generally represented in a splashy format that lacks depth and rarely goes beyond “Barbie” levels of coverage. If you are serious about taking your company to the next level by applying effective marketing and branding techniques, then you must allow yourself to transcend from this shallow understanding of color psychology. Once you understand how colors affect people under various conditions, you will be better equipped to use the color spectrum to communicate relevant messages.
Interesting read: 15 unique and cost-effective branding ideas for your business.
What is color psychology?
Color psychology is a branch of study that reveals how colors affect behaviors and perceptions. In marketing and branding, color psychology is used to persuade and create an impression of the brand. It is a very powerful weapon for creative artists and business owners to communicate the key personalities of a brand.
While brands have a standardized concept of color psychology, it can vary from culture to culture and personal preferences.
Here is a great video on color psychology marketing.
According to a research titled “Impact of color on marketing,” a whopping 90 percent of consumers base their purchasing decision on colors alone. Color psychology as a subject is complex and involves various practical applications such as mixing and experimenting with colors, exploring color theory, and understanding color perception.
History of color psychology
Image Source: Tipsmake
Sir Isaac Newton has a lot to his name. From the falling apple, which led to the discovery of gravity, to invented calculus to motion, Sir Isaac Newton’s contribution to science is unparalleled. Sir Newton is also known for discovering the color spectrum.
In 1704, arguably the greatest scientist of his time developed the color wheel after exploring how different wavelengths of light were responsible for creating various colors.
In addition to Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery, Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, studied how various colors affected the human mind. Jung used his research to create the widely popular color therapy, still in use today.
Why is color psychology important in branding and marketing?
Color psychology marketing is something that branding gurus and design experts use to create compelling advertising strategies. While Sir Isaac Newton and Carl Jung have worked on discovering and using them to heal people, branding experts today use them to promote various products and services. But why is color psychology so important in branding and marketing? Let us explore.
Color evokes feelings
Did you know colors evoke feelings? Yes, that is true. Red evokes love and passion, while orange symbolizes energy and excitement. Branding experts know this secret. They know when a Valentine’s Day gift is wrapped in red decorative paper, it can evoke the feeling of love. This is precisely the reason why software and real estate companies use blue because it symbolizes trust and professionalism, and companies like Starbucks use green because of its association with eco-friendliness.
Good read: Starbucks logo – history, evolution, meaning & visual identity.
The right colors help your brand stand out from the crowd
Are you thinking of launching your company website or creating that dream logo? Well, by all means, go ahead. But have you given colors a thought? I am sure you have. However, do the colors highlight your brand personality? Do they separate you from your competitors? If you have not given them a thought, then you should ponder about them before you think of designing your website, logo, or packaging design.
Choosing the right brand colors aligned with your brand mission and values can easily separate you from your competitors. Furthermore, it can help your target audience see exactly what you intend them to see.
Influence your customers with the right colors
Branding experts and marketing professionals use color psychology to influence how consumers behave, think and interpret information. Color psychology is among the key elements that make a brand successful. You may have a great product or service, but what use are they if they do not communicate the key characteristics of a brand? Choosing relevant colors will allow customers to choose your brand over your customers.
Whether you are a content marketer or a branding specialist, it is vital that you understand what different colors mean and the emotions they evoke.
Color psychology chart
In this segment of the article, we will explore what each color signifies and how brands use them to their advantage.
Love, passion, action, excitement, energy, courage, and danger are what red symbolizes. Red is considered one of the most intense colors; hence, it is used as a signifier of powerful emotions or feelings when used in a logo or packaging designs. Marketers use the color as sale icons or create a call to action button on a website because red stands out in comparison to all the other shades of a color wheel.
Iconic brands such as Coca-Cola and YouTube use red to attract the audience. The color can be used to increase appetite when used with lighter shades such as white. For example, Coca-Cola uses a combination of red and white for its branding. Furthermore, words like happiness add to its overall impact, allowing the brand to evoke a sense of excitement.
The three primary additive colors are red, blue, and green. What does this mean? When the primary colors are added in varying amounts, almost all the colors of the color wheel are produced. However, you get white when all the primary colors are mixed in equal amounts. With that in mind, let us talk about the next primary color, blue.
If red evokes the feeling of love, passion, and aggression, then blue signifies stability, calm, and trust. Blue is also closely related to the sea and the sky. Marketers use the color for brands that want to communicate the feeling of assurance and security. IT and the banking sectors use blue to inspire confidence and reliance. If you look at some of the biggest names in the banking sector, you will find almost all of them use the color blue. Some examples of financial institutions that use the color blue are Bank of America and CitiBank.
Green is one of the primary colors, and it maintains a similar place in color psychology. Green is associated with nature, growth, finance, fertility, generosity, and health. While the color is mostly connected with positivity, it has some negative associations, such as jealousy and illness.
Health and fitness industries use the color to symbolize good health and vigor. If you are into the fitness industry, you may consider using green in your logo, website, and banner.
Green is also associated with organic food products. The use of green in your packaging and logo would indicate that your company produces or sells organic products free of chemicals.
While orange is not as commanding as red, it holds a place of prominence in color psychology. Symbolic of adventure, creativity, success, and balance, orange is known to add a childlike-fun to any website, logo, or image.
Marketers and branding experts use orange in specific areas of a website where they are able to seamlessly draw your attention, like the call to action icon.
Brands like The Home Depot and Nickelodeon use the color in their logos to attract the audience and share their fun side. Nickelodeon is a fun channel for children. The Nickelodeon logo is executed in orange, which symbolizes enthusiasm, fun, and creativity. So, if you are a fun start-up try using orange for your branding.
In color psychology, yellow symbolizes positivity, youthfulness, summer, and happiness. The color also stands for sunshine and everything associated with it. While yellow is mostly seen as a positive color, it has some negative connotations. The color can sometimes represent warning and deceit.
Branding experts use the color to portray cheerfulness and positivity. A touch of yellow on your landing page or your social media handle can leave the visitors feeling positive.
Some of the biggest brands use the color to evoke the feeling of joy and happiness, such as Ferrari. One of the biggest automobile brands in the world, Ferrari uses yellow to depict a carefree lifestyle.
Femininity, love, romance, playfulness, admiration, and immaturity are what pink symbolizes. Pink is generally used by brands that focus on female consumers. Fashion and beauty brands use the color in their websites and logos to communicate the key messages to their target customers.
Some of the most popular brands, such as Barbie and Victoria’s Secret, use pink to highlight their brand personality. Victoria’s Secret even has a brand called Pink. The brand is celebrating pride month and has donated $200,000 to create a “more inclusive college environments for LGBTQIA + students.”
Purple is associated with royalty, nobility, spirituality, wisdom, power, and luxury. While the color can evoke an array of positive emotions, brand gurus limit the use of this royal color because the shade can sometimes symbolize frustration and arrogance.
You can use purple as an accent color on your website or logo. If you browse through the websites of Yahoo and Hallmark, you will notice that purple is used as an accent color which adds to the overall appeal of the website.
That said, if you are a brand that wants to communicate luxury and royalty, purple can be your best friend.
Related: 14 ways to use the 7 colors of the rainbow in graphic design.
Black remains one of the most popular colors for marketers. From fashion houses to sporting brands and automobile companies, black is used to depict style, elegance, sophistication, power, and mystery. According to branding experts, black is a color that never goes out of fashion. Popular brands use the combination of black and white in their logos and packaging because of the sharp contrast.
Top brands such as Nike and Gucci use the color black in their logos. Furthermore, they use images and texts on their website to appear consistent with their branding. Another iconic fashion brand, Chanel, is consistent with the use of black. Coco Chanel, the founder of the fashion brand, once mentioned:
“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”
Gray is a color that stands somewhere between black and white. The color represents sadness, loss, and depression; however, in color psychology, gray is said to evoke feelings of balance and neutrality. While the absence of color makes gray a flat shade, marketers and creative artists use it to create appealing designs to attract the audience.
Some of the best brands use gray for their branding. One such brand is Apple. The IT giant uses a combination of white and gray for their laptops and iPhones, which give their products a touch of class, elegance, and sophistication. The company is consistent with its branding, which helps them maintain a neutral look.
In color psychology, brown represents security, comfort, reliability, and strength. Brown is associated with earth, which is why it is often linked with feelings of relief and security. Marketing experts generally use the color for food and other natural products. The color is often used in banners, packaging designs, and logos on a white background.
Popular brands such as UPS and Hershey’s use the color for their branding. Hershey’s is a brand popular for its chocolates. From its logo to packaging designs, the chocolate giant uses brown for marketing its brand. Brown symbolizes their product and also the source—the cocoa fields.
Image Source: CNN
White symbolizes innocence, purity, cleanliness, humility, and goodness in color psychology. While the color mostly has positive connotations, it is also associated with coldness, isolation, and boredom. As a brand owner or a marketer, you must understand how your target audience would react when they see different colors.
White is the preferred color for e-commerce portals and product shoots. Product photos generally have a white background because the color is known to create a sharp contrast.
Brands such as Adidas and ASOS use white on their websites and logos. The top navigation on Adidas’ website is black with its white logo strategically placed, which brings a sharp contrast to the brand’s online store.
The trouble with color psychology in marketing and branding
While it is true that colors play a significant role in marketing and branding, they have their share of problems. Let us explore some misconceptions surrounding color psychology.
- People perceive colors differently
While Carl Jung developed color therapy based on how different colors affect the human mind, there are various misconceptions associated with color psychology in terms of marketing and branding. Brand owners and marketers should consider the fact that colors cannot and should not be associated with specific feelings. In other words, how one perceives color depends on his personal experiences.
Research published by the National Library of Medicine reveals misconceptions surrounding color psychology. The study found that personal experiences, preferences, and upbringing play a significant role in how colors are perceived by various groups of people.
- Avoid making broad statements
Broad claims or statements made about a particular color could be a recipe for disaster. Statements such as “green means tranquility” or “green stands for calm” should be avoided. There is an absence of context in such statements. Green could also be used by financial institutions where the color would indicate funds and not peace or tranquility.
Brown could be used by leather companies for a rugged look and also by chocolate brands to work up an appetite.
Business owners and marketers should find practical ways to choose colors. As a brand owner, you must avoid picking a color based on generalized notions associated with a particular shade. This brings me to the next section of the article, where I will reveal a few tips on selecting the right colors for your brand.
Related: How to choose the right brand colors that’ll be a winning bet for your business.
A practical approach to color psychology
Before you sit with your team and brainstorm about that perfect color for your brand, you should first consider the question and its answer. The hundred-dollar question is the following:
“What colors best fit my brand?”
And the answer:
The truth is that there are no specific guidelines for choosing one color over another. Frustrated? But that is the truth.
The context is more important than simply finding suitable colors for your brand. The context will help you understand the mood and the feeling associated with your product or brand. The context will also help you create mental images, which will allow you to select the right colors.
Here are a few tips you can use while choosing your brand color.
- Choose appropriate colors
Is the color aligned with the product I am selling? Now this is a vital question any brand owner or marketer should ask before choosing one color over another. Predicting a customer’s reaction to a certain color is more important than just choosing a shade you think would be perfect. So, before you make your decision, ask your customers what they feel about various colors in relation to the product, following which, you can create a list of appropriate colors.
- Choose colors that highlight brand personality
Not only are customers attracted by the color of a product when it sits on a shelf of a store, but it also has a profound effect on how they view a brand. When choosing colors for your product, you must consider what the product is and how it impacts the customers. Again, when you choose colors for your organization, you must take a look at your brand mission and values.
- Choose colors that will set your brand apart from the crowd
Colors play a crucial role in fostering brand awareness. If you are a young start-up, you should choose colors that make you different from your competitors. Customers always prefer brands they know, which is why you must first attract customers with your colors and then tell them what makes you different from them.
The bottom line
Understanding color psychology is vital for marketers and designers because it plays a crucial role in marketing and branding. From developing brand identity to fostering conversion rates, color psychology can prove to be a useful guide for marketing experts.
Head of Design at DesignBro and is responsible for UI/UX Design, managing the global designer community, and ensuring quality levels of both designers and designs remain high.