Colour Psychology in Marketing
The psychology of colour and its impact on branding is a fascinating and widely discussed aspect of marketing theory. While it’s not an exact science, the colours you choose do make a difference. They can impact the way we feel about a product, and can help differentiate between brands. Colour has also been shown to increase brand recognition by up to 80%, and can improve comprehension by 73%.
The study of colour psychology in marketing is an attempt to encourage trust and influence perceptions, both positive and negative, calming and energising. A study on the impact of colour on marketing showed that “people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone.”
And while there are many debatable tropes and myths around the topic of colour psychology – such as using red in fast food logos to stimulate hunger – most marketing experts will agree that there is a benefit to understanding the interplay between colour and brand perception.
The Meaning of Colour
The emotional response we have to colour is greatly influenced by the framework through which we view it. Consequently, colour symbolism can vary widely based on culture, individual experience, and personal preference. Still, there are some common meanings that can generally be referenced when considering which colours to choose for your branding.
Colour can also have a psychological effect beyond its symbolism. Purple balances stimulation and serenity, while blues and greens are peaceful, calming, and restful. From a scientific perspective, green has been shown to reduce eye strain, and blue can actually lower blood pressure and slow your breathing.
Warm colours such as yellow or orange, on the other hand, are exciting and energising, and are thought to increase appetite. However, these colours should be used in moderation, as they can be over-stimulating.
While it’s impossible to factor in the unique tastes of each individual consumer, it is crucial to consider a colour’s potential differences in meaning cross-culturally, especially when marketing outside of your regional context. For example, while black is largely considered the colour of mourning throughout the western world, it varies greatly across different cultures and countries, including the following:
Korea, Iran: Blue
Egypt, Ethiopia, Mexico: Yellow
South Africa: Red
Even commonly used branding colours, such as red, blue, and green, can have vastly different meanings in different countries. In the UK, red is often associated with danger, while in China, it represents good luck. Blue invokes patriotism in the US, while in Italy, it signifies religion. Green represents life in Japan, and death in South America.
With so many factors to consider, how do you choose? The best approach is to select the colour palette that best fits what your brand wants to convey:
Red: good for action-oriented products and brands
Orange: indicates value and discounts
Green: eco-friendly, natural
Blue: most commonly used corporate colour, and the most well-liked colour in the world
Case Studies: brands that have trademarked colours
Studies have shown that people have a strong, immediate reaction to brands they recognise, and as a result are more likely to trust and purchase from them. Some companies have taken the idea that colour increases brand recognition a step further, by claiming specific colours as an integral part of their branding. Tiffany blue, Louboutin red, T-Mobile magenta, and John Deere’s green and yellow colour scheme are all examples of companies that have trademarked colours and used them to such effect that consumers can identify the brand by that colour alone.
How to Choose the Right Colours for Your Brand
While you don’t need to design or trademark a specific colour for your brand, the above examples highlight how important colour can be when it comes to brand recognition. Here are some tips to help you decide:
Look at other logos and branding themes in your industry. Which colours are commonly used? Are there patterns? Do the colours you’ve chosen seem to “fit” with your company and industry? What associations will people make with your colours?
Research the cultural associations of your colours to determine what messages you are sending internationally
Determine if your branding colours will rely more on shades or tints. Studies on colour perception and preference have shown that women prefer pastels and softer colours, while men prefer more saturated or darker colours. It is worth noting that both prefer blue overall.
Decide if you want to use a complementary colour scheme or a contrasting one. Complementary colours are usually perceived as calming and peaceful, while contrasting colours draw attention.
Studies on colour combinations found that most consumers prefer palettes composed of similar colours with a strongly contrasting accent colour. According to the article “Psychology of Color,” effective colour coordination can be achieved by “creating a visual structure consisting of base analogous colours and contrasting them with accent complementary (or tertiary) colors.”
Case Studies: how contrasting colours can boost engagement
Once you have established a colour palette for your branding and website, it is interesting to note that a contrasting colour can be used to great effect to boost engagement. Here are two case studies of companies that showed significant increase in conversions after changing the colour of their Call to Action (CTA) button on their website:
A famous test pitted two button colours against each other: green and red. Green was the colour of the website’s branding, and the original colour of their CTA button. However, by simply changing the button colour to red, the website saw an increase in conversion of 21%.
Another website put this same test into action, changing their CTA button from green to yellow, which resulted in a 187.4% increase in conversions on their website.
These results indicate that it’s not necessarily the specific colour, but rather the contrast that makes the difference.
When evaluating colour choices, it’s important to be open to new ideas, to experiment and try different things to see what works for your company and your brand. Don’t be afraid to take risks, but consider the messages you want to convey with the colours you choose. While there are no absolutes when it comes to colour psychology, these theories can offer valuable insight into what motivates consumers and influences their perception.
Do you need help selecting the best signature colour(s) for your brand? Get in touch with our Managing Partner, Philip Martin, at firstname.lastname@example.org to discover how we can help you use colour to maximise your visual impact.