Color Psychology: Use Color to Your Advantage
Studies of color psychology reveal every hue has the power to evoke emotions. Designers have long known color can dramatically affect moods, feelings, and emotions.
Color can signal action, influence mood, and evoke physiological reactions. For example, specific colors are associated with increased blood pressure, metabolism, and eyestrain.
Whether you want to build a strong brand or learn how to leverage color in your marketing, understanding color psychology can be a great tool.
What Is Color Psychology?
Color psychology is the study of how colors affect human behavior and emotion.
Color helps convey information, create specific moods, and even influence the decisions people make. Color preferences also influence the objects people choose to purchase, the clothes they wear, and the way they adorn their environments.
Colors are also subject to personal, cultural, and situational factors. Different regions of the world may react differently to colors. For example, in Western cultures, white symbolizes purity, while in many Eastern European countries, it is a symbol of mourning. When choosing colors for your brand, especially if you have a global audience, you should consider these differences.
How Does Color Psychology Fit into Branding and Marketing?
While a strong logo can help connect with customers, the colors can send a subtle yet powerful message. Without consciously recognizing it, customers are making assumptions about the style and tone of your brand.
The primary colors of your brand should convey its overall traits. Secondary colors can evoke more emotion or spur an action, such as a call to action button with a bright color to urge new customers to join a mailing list.
Understanding the psychology behind specific colors will allow you to build audiences and drive sales.
Emotion by Color
Following are the most common colors and the emotions they may evoke. As stated above, these can vary based on regions of the world.
- Green: Nature, Fresh, Loyal, Gentle, Money
- Blue: Peaceful, Dependable, Wise, Calm
- Purple: Royal, Rich, Artistic, Unique, Imaginative
- Pink: Soft, Caring, Gentle, Affectionate
- Red: Hungry, Romantic, Brave, Bold
- Orange: Cheerful, Friendly, Playful, Warm
- Yellow: Warmth, Clarity, Sunny, Happy, Positive
- Brown: Earthy, Organic, Stable, Natural
- Black: Sophisticated, Powerful, Mysterious
- Gray: Focused, Neutral, Calm, Modern, Careful
- White: Innocent, Etherial, Sterile, Calm
Studies demonstrate that seeing red increases our blood flow, which speeds our metabolism and makes us hungry. Is it any wonder top food brands, such as McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Coca Cola utilize red?
Red can evoke strong emotions. Brands looking to showcase courage, boldness, action, and passion should consider using red in their logo or marketing.
The Softness of Pink
Most people associate pink with femininity. It creates a sense of youthful playfulness may choose to use pink in their marketing.
Modern brands, including Lyft, Dunkin Donuts, and Instagram, have begun to utilize different hues of pink to connect with characteristics beyond femininity.
Orange is attention-grabbing, which is why it’s often used for road signs, especially in construction zones or for hazard warnings.
Brands use orange to grab customers’ attention and inspire creativity or adventure, such as Harley Davidson, Home Depot, and JBL.
There is no more positive a color than yellow. It evokes happiness, positivity, and optimism and is the symbol of summer.
Brands using yellow as a primary color include Ikea and Snapchat. In the fast-food industry, you will find many brands combine yellow with red, subliminally suggesting you will be happy when you eat their food.
Green is the primary color of nature, and as such, evokes feelings of growth, generosity, health, and fertility. Brands use it to signify their connection to nature or natural foods, including John Deere and Whole Foods.
Green can also symbolize money, such as Fiverr and Shopify.
Blue is often noted as the word’s most favorite color. Why? The sky is blue (mostly), the ocean is blue (mostly), and we humans connect with this color in a stable, peaceful, calm way.
Research shows that customers are 15% more likely to return to a store when it’s painted in a cool hue rather than a warm color for marketing purposes.
Many financial and healthcare institutions choose blue, especially darker shades, in their branding, including American Express, Intuit, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Allstate, and MetLife.
Recognized as the color of royalty, purple continues to evoke regal vibes in modern marketing. Purple symbolizes luxury and power but can also denote wisdom and spirituality.
Brands using purple include FedEx, Hallmark, Cadbury, Roku, and (surprisingly to me) Taco Bell.
Brown of the Earth
Brown is a natural tone symbolizing stability, strength, and earthiness.
UPS is perhaps the best-known brand using brown to project feelings of resilience and dependability. Hershey’s, M&Ms, and several other food and beverage brands also use this color.
White: the Absence of Color
While the color white must be paired with another color to be visible, the absence of color can create a strong contrast and evoke plenty of emotion.
Traditionally white is the hallmark of innocence, purity, and cleanliness. It is considered sterile and calm.
Some brands use white to add drama to their logos and branding, such as Apple, Chanel, and Adidas.
50 Shades of Gray
In recent years, a color that has risen in popularity in marketing, home decorating, and other areas is gray. It was chosen as Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2021.
Many shades of gray can have different meanings but most commonly produce feelings of neutrality, luxury, and balance.
Apple, Lexus, Sony, and Forbes are a few brands that use gray in their branding.
Black is a popular choice for brands across a variety of industries. The color is known as sophisticated, powerful, confident, and elegant with a touch of mystery.
Brands that utilize black in their logos include Coach, BMW, Gucci, Nike, and Prada.
Where to Place Colors
Using psychology in color selection alone is not enough. Where colors are placed is equally important. Colors can be used in specific locations on your website and marketing to encourage customers to take action or prompt interaction.
For example, bright, bold colors like yellow or red are great for action buttons and can help increase clicks. White backgrounds with contrasting dark tones draw the eye to certain features.
Conclusion: The Psychology of Color in Marketing
Color is at the center of all design. From establishing your brand to driving action, color psychology can help you maximize the subconscious affects your marketing has on your audience.
About the Author
Jillian Harman is a seasoned marketing and graphic design professional who is also knowledgable in database design and automation. Her company, Hyperion Design & Publishing, helps businesses of all sizes with their marketing, communications, design, and technology needs. Hyperion also publishes The 330 Business Connector magazine. For more information, visit hyperiondp.com.