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Apr 6 · 18 min read

A Guide to Colour Psychology Marketing

We take a look at what brand colour psychology marketing is, colour trends, the importance and the misconceptions surrounding it.

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(Image Source: Red Web Design Blog)

Colour is influential in marketing. It helps advertisers attract attention, evoke certain feelings, and even influence purchasing decisions without using any words.

To understand the impacts of colour, it’s best to explore what brand colour psychology marketing is, colour trends, and how advertisers and agencies can tap into the power of colour psychology. 

 

What Is Colour Psychology?

Colour psychology is the study of colours and their impact on human behaviour. The theory behind colour psychology is that by using specific colours, advertisers and agencies can influence or persuade their target audience to feel a certain way about their brand or product. These feelings may inspire their customer to take action such as clicking the sign-up button, subscribing to a newsletter, or purchasing a product.

Does the colour of a pair of shoes compel us to buy? Do the website button colours affect our behaviour and make us more likely to click through on one more than the other?

The simple answer is yes. 

Sir Isaac Newton first observed sunlight passing through a glass prism back in the 17th century. He saw how the light was reflected into various colours and identified six wavelength shades: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet, later adding indigo.1

But colour psychology predates Newton’s discovery. It was the Egyptians thousands of years ago who studied the effect of different colours on mood.2 

The theory behind colour psychology is complex. Academics have dedicated studies to the meanings of different colours, and how they impact individuals based on demographic and social factors, including gender, location, education and more. Which leads to the importance of colour psychology in marketing.

 

Why Is Colour Psychology Important in Marketing?

Colour psychology in marketing is a tool for advertisers to better target and connect to their ideal customer. In a study titled “Impact of colour on marketing3, researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgements made about products were because of the brand colours.

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(Image Source: Huffington Post)

As digital marketing expert Neil Patel says4, “the colour theory suggests you can develop an edge over your competition, letting you convey your message effectively, meet the needs of your target audience and build your brand.”

When marketers understand colour psychology, they can utilise that to understand customer psychology. By understanding customer psychology, advertisers and marketers can better predict how their target market will respond to marketing messages to provoke an emotional response, action, and boost their conversion rate. These predictions can be based on the colours of text, call to action buttons, banners and links on their site.

 

Colours Can Help Advertisers Build a Strong and Trustworthy Brand

Colour is a powerful tool in branding.  Consumers can quickly identify brands by their logos, because of distinctive colours and colour schemes. Take a look at the highly recognisable bold red used by Coca-Cola:

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In his book, Color Persuasion: The Science of Using Color to Persuade and Influence Purchasing Decisions5, Michael Campbell explained that a background colour could stir emotions deeply.

These emotions play a role in how people behave and their connections with an advertiser right from the very start. Research by Color Communications Inc6 found that it takes around 90 seconds for a person to form an opinion of a brand. Within that time, between 62% and 90% of decisions are influenced by colour alone.7 In other words, if an advertiser chooses the colour wrong, the chance to make an excellent first impression is gone. 

 

Colours Can Incite a Person to Action and Improve a Conversion Rate

Human behaviour is programmed to respond to colour. Drivers stop at red lights and go when they switch to green. By thoughtfully choosing colours, advertisers can attract customers and inspire them to purchase a product or service. 

Many advertisers perform A/B testing, which have shown that the colour of a button on a website can increase conversions. In a test by HubSpot, changing the button colour increased the conversion rate by 21%.8 Keep in mind, changing the colour of call-to-action buttons does not mean the conversion rate will accelerate, but it does mean that colour should inform the design decisions of a website.

 

Choosing the Right Colour Scheme Can Influence Attitudes Towards Different Products

By strategically leveraging colours for marketing and advertising, advertisers can portray their brand the way they want their audience to perceive the product message and values.  

For example, McDonald’s has moved away from using its iconic red and gold in their branding and now use a colour scheme of natural colours like green. Why? To promote its message that it’s a healthier option than other fast-food chains.

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This is why the psychology of colour can be so powerful for marketing efforts, it can help advertisers portray their brand to consumers the way they want.

 

Colour Palettes Can Differentiate Advertisers from The Competition

Choosing the right colour combination for marketing and advertising can help brands stand out from another. If other brands in the same industry are using similar colour schemes, then it’s best to try and stand out with something different.  For example, ING Direct updated their colour scheme to orange after most banks were using blue.

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Choosing the Wrong Colours Can Even Damage a Brand

If an advertiser chooses the wrong colour scheme, it can damage their brand image. For example, if an advertiser chooses the wrong colours for their website or font, it can impact the user experience by making it hard to read or understand.

If an advertiser chooses colours that are similar to their competitors, they risk being ignored altogether. It’s important to remember that not every consumer reacts to colour the same way. Every individual experiences colours differently based on culture, location, memories and sometimes gender.

Consumers will not all react the same way to colours. As individuals, we all have different experiences with colours based on significant events in our past, our culture, location, and memories.

Differences may depend on gender too. Joe Hallock completed a psychology colour study on men and women, mostly from a western culture, to determine which colours they preferred.9 The results showed that men and women preferred blue, and that 23% of women like purple, whereas purple did not rank as a favourite for men at all. For men, brown was the least favourite colour with 27%, and orange was the least favourite for women. 

However, there are a few generalities about how people respond to colour. That is what we will look at next.

 

List of Colour Meanings

Primary Colours

The two main groups of colours are primary colours and secondary colours. The primary colours are red, blue, and yellow. Each colour in this group has its own psychology and meaning. When these colours combine, they create the secondary colours.

We will start with the colour psychology of primary colours:

Red Colour Psychology

The colour red is a dynamic, bold colour associated with excitement, passion, danger, and action. It reflects the physical need to show love and affection and to portray fear. Depending on its use, red is also an energising colour that can represent either strength or aggression.

Because of its powerful presence it’s great for call-to-action buttons, sale announcements and getting attention quickly. However, it’s best to use it sparingly due its negative association with fear and danger.

Examples of The Colour Red in Marketing

Red is the iconic colour used for global brands like Coca Cola, Target and YouTube, for example.

Target’s brand personality is energetic, youthful and loud. Their logo is simple and the colour red works makes it memorable.

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YouTube uses red in the play button of the logo which helps compel the user to action.

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Blue Colour Psychology 

The colour blue is associated with the sea and the sky. For the Egyptians, blue meant that it was close to the heavens of the gods. Many associate blue colours with stability, harmony, peace, calm and trust. As the saying goes, “feeling blue”, it can also mean feelings of sadness, depression.

These are important emotions for advertisers to consider when choosing blue for a colour scheme. Some retailers colour their trust certification or free shipping icons in blue because of the associations with trust.

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(Image Source: Yieldify)

Examples of The Colour Blue in Marketing

Facebook, Twitter and Skype are the iconic tech brands that often use blue in their marketing and logos. Banks also commonly chosen blue for their colour scheme to help build trust in their brand. 

 

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However, banks are moving away from this traditional colour palette and choosing colours that resonate more with a younger, more modern audience.

 

Psychology of Colour Yellow

The colour yellow implies positivity and sunshine. It evokes feelings of happiness and optimism. Advertisers may choose to use a bright yellow as the background for their web page, the call-to-action buttons, content, or the logo because of its ability to stand out and its association with positivity.

Some advertisers choose to use a bright yellow colour as the background or border for their web page, to highlight content, or create a strong logo. It is also a compelling choice for call-to-action buttons as it stands out. 

Examples of The Colour Yellow in Marketing

Brands like IKEA use the colour yellow to reflect the joy and optimism of designing your home. It creates a bold and instantly memorable logo and is used alongside other warm colours throughout the website design:

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Lipton Tea also uses yellow as a brand colour and includes it in one of their product names, “Yellow Label”. The packaging design clearly represents the sun to evoke feelings of happiness and invigoration that occurs from its “sun ripened” tea leaves. 

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Secondary Colours

Secondary colours are orange, purple, and green. They are created using primary colours. On the colour wheel, secondary colours are found in between two primary colours. They work well as accent colours with the primary colours and are often used for contrast.

Orange Colour Psychology 

Orange represents the colour of creativity, adventure, and enthusiasm. It's the result of red’s energy and yellow’s optimism. Importantly for advertisers, warm colours like orange can also represent physical comfort like warmth and can also help stimulate appetites making it great for food brands.

The colour orange can be used to add fun and freedom to any picture, website, or marketing material. It can also draw attention to a particular element of advertising, content or design, such as a call-to-action button or special offer. 

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Examples of The Colour Orange in Marketing

Orange’s colour meaning shines through in logos like Dunkin’. As an accent colour, it is playful and creative while also appealing to appetites.  

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Fanta is another iconic brand that does not shy away from orange to represent energy and excitement. It uses the orange throughout its web content to great effect:

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Purple Colour Psychology

In colour psychology, purple is the colour of royalty. The colour is connected to power, luxury, and spirituality. However, from an opposing point of view, this colour can cause feelings of frustration or arrogance. 

Examples of The Colour Purple in Marketing

Purple is a colour used by chocolate brands, including Cadbury and Milka. No surprises when you consider they are selling an indulgent product.

Cadbury adds the accent colour of gold to work as a contrast to make it even more luxurious.

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Green Colour Psychology 

The third secondary colour is green. It’s meaning is predominantly connected to nature and money while also representing growth, fertility, health, and generosity. There are also some negative associations with the colour green such as envy. 

Green is a standard colour choice for those wanting to demonstrate a link between their sustainable brand message and nature. 

Examples of The Colour Green in Marketing

The major supermarket Woolworths, located in Australia, uses green to help showcase its products as fresh. The colour goes with the slogan, “The Fresh Food People” and is spread across their website, branding, content and point of sale.

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Other Colours

Pink Colour Psychology

It’s no surprise that pink is a popular colour choice for brands who have a female target audience. Pink represents femininity, playfulness, innocence and love. Pink is also seen as a colour preference as an accent or contrast. For example, Uber’s primary brand colours are black and green, but they use pink to accent their marketing materials.

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Examples of The Colour Pink in Marketing

Victoria’s Secret, a women’s lingerie chain, has a sister company called Pink. Pink’s target audience is young female women and represents femininity and innocence.

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Telstra, the popular telecoms company, recently changed its colour palette to include a vibrant magenta to symbolise “the diversity” of its customers and services, according to Telstra’s announcement.10 It now uses pink in different areas of its content, depending on the product.

 

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Brown Colour Psychology

Brown might not be the most exciting colour for brands, but it works great as an earthy, natural colour. Brown is typically found in marketing for natural products because it represents the colour of earth and wood.

Examples of The Colour Brown in Marketing

Iconic Australian brand R.M Williams uses a bold brown colour throughout its online content. It represents the heritage of the brand while also signalling its leather products.

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Recap of Colour Meanings

  • Red signifies excitement, youthfulness, and boldness.
  • Yellow signifies optimism, clarity, and warmth.
  • Blue signifies trust, dependability, and strength.
  • Orange signifies friendly, cheerful, confidence.
  • Purple signifies creativity, imagination, and wisdom.
  • Pink signifies femininity and playfulness. 
  • Green signifies peace, growth, and health.
  • Brown signifies nature, heritage and earthiness.

 

Conclusion 

After countless studies across thousands of years, there is no doubt that colour theory impacts human behaviour. When it comes to marketing, colour is a powerful tool that can evoke feelings, convey the right message and influence purchasing decisions. It’s also a great way to create a connection with customers and represent a brand's personality.

However, there is no golden rule when it comes to colour in marketing. Colour theory shows that everyone experiences colours differently, and what works for one target audience might not work for another. The important thing is to pick colours based on brand personality and test different elements of the website to improve the overall CTR.

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References

  1. Newton and The Colours of The Spectrum
  2. Examining the Symbolic Meaning of Colors in Ancient Egyptian Painting Art and Their Origin in Environment
  3. Impact of Colour on Marketing
  4. The Psychology of Color: How to Use Colors to Increase Conversion Rate
  5. Color Persuasion: The Science of Using Color To Persuade and Influence Purchasing Decisions
  6. Colour Communications Inc
  7. Colorcom - Why Color Matters
  8. HubSpot - The Button Color A/B Test: Red Beats Green
  9. Joe Hallock - Colour Preferences
  10. Telstra Unveils Major Brand Evolution In New ‘Colour Campaign’

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