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Jun 25 · 9 min read

A Guide to Brand Colour Psychology Marketing

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

Psychology-of-Colour

Image credit: Red Web Design Blog

Brand colour psychology, or the belief that colour can influence human beings, has been studied for thousands of years dating back to the ancient Egyptians. They used colours to influence their moods and allocated different meanings to different colours. More recently, people are interested in how colour can influence an individual in terms of marketing.

We're taking a look at what brand colour psychology marketing is, colour trends, the importance and the misconceptions surrounding it, so that you can better understand it and make better decisions for your brand.

What is the theory behind brand colour marketing psychology?

The theory behind brand colour marketing is that by using colours, you can influence or persuade someone to take an action on your website, whether that is to click a button, to sign up to your newsletter, or to go through to purchase something.

Why is colour so important?

Colours can elicit emotions, convey messages, influence mood, influence attitudes towards different products, and differentiate you from your competitors. Our bodies are programmed to respond to colour (we stop at red lights, and we go when the lights switch to green). Between 62-90% of people who are making a snap decision, base it on the colours you’re using. This is why as a brand, it’s important to make informed decisions about colour, so that you attract customers, and they go through to buy something from your site.

Why is colour psychology controversial?

Colour psychology has always been controversial because the way we experience colour is different from person to person, it is impacted by individual bias and perception, and cultural backgrounds.

The old adage that pink is for girls and blue is for boys is a cultural shift according to the Smithsonian magazine. In the early 1900s, boys wore pink, and girls blue until around 1940s. In Japan, pink is a colour for boys, though it’s worn by both sexes.

A great example of people experiencing colour differently went viral in 2015 when someone published a picture of a dress, and it set off arguments for weeks over what colour it was. The reason that people saw different colours was to do with our brains filling in the gaps when it needs to.

This means that while colour is incredibly important, there is no definitive answer to what colours you should be using for your brand, and that testing is key in order to see results and what works for you.

The Colour basics

This colour wheel shows you the relationship between different colours on the sepctrum.

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Image credit: Beads And Pieces

Colours are made up of primary, secondary and tertiary colours. Primary colours are red, yellow and blue. Secondary colours are when you mix two primary colours together. A tertiary colour is when a primary colour is mixed with half of a saturation of another primary colour.

Choosing colour combinations for your site

When you’re choosing colour combinations for your site, you should think about what kind of colour scheme you want, and what you like. You should also think about your brand and what you are selling.

These are the different types of colour schemes you can choose:

Monochromatic

Using a single colour with different hues is called a monochromatic colour scheme. This makes a website easy on the eye and is used for a sleek, minimalistic look.

Triple colour: Triple colour is when you use three equally spaced colours on the colour wheel. This is much bolder than monochromatic and is popular.

Complementary: When you’re looking at the colour wheel, the best way to pick colours that will stand out on your website is to go with colours opposite to the hues you have chosen - this is called a complementary colour. This helps to make things stand out. This is best for when you want to use a different colour for a button, for example, or an infographic. You take the complementary colour to your base colours. Too much of a complementary colour can be hard on the eyes if you use it all over your website though, so exercise this with caution.

Red and green can be problematic when you put them together because people who are colour blind can’t distinguish between some colours, including red and green.

In the example below, the first column of colour is how someone without colour blindness will see the colour. The last three columns are the different types of colour blindness and which colours they can’t see at the bottom. This shows you what they see.

nullImage credit: CoSchedule

Don’t forget contrast

Contrast is so important when it comes to colours. It enables colours to stand out from each other, instead of blending in. That’s why it’s important when you are working on your website, that you make sure that there is contrast so that certain things stand out.

Virgin Australia uses contrast to highlight the button ‘Book Now’.

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Image credit: Virgin Australia

Colour and branding

For most people, big brand names are instantly recognisable based on their colours. You could spot an Apple logo or a Qantas logo without too much of an effort. This is true for many logos, where if you take out the words, people would still be able to recognise the big name brands. There are plenty of online quizzes for this too.

In the colour emotion spectrum below, Qantas is categorised as eliciting an exciting, youthful and bold feeling. Apple is categorised as balanced, neutral and calm.

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Image Credit: Visually

  • Yellow signifies optimism, clarity, and warmth.
  • Orange signifies friendly, cheerful, confidence.
  • Red signifies excitement, youthfulness, and boldness.
  • Purple signifies creativity, imaginativity, and wisdom.
  • Blue signifies trust, dependability, and strength.
  • Green signifies peace, growth, and health.
  • Grey signifies balance, neutrality, and calm.

Of course, there are other factors to choosing a colour for your brand than picking colours from the spectrum based on the feelings they elicit.

The personality of the brand plays a huge part in this too. The perception of whether the brand personality and whether the colours are appropriate for that brand play a key part in our decision making. For example, if there were two brands selling outdoor goods, and one had earthy colours, and the other had purples and pinks, which would you be more likely to buy from? A study has shown that a colour appropriate for a brand name is important when deciding whether to purchase.

Your purchasing intent can also be influenced by colours. Many brands perform A/B testing, and in several cases, changing the colour of a button can increase your conversions. Hubspot ran a test where they changed the colour of a button and increased the conversion rate by 21%. This isn’t to say that changing your button colour to red is going to increase your overall conversion rate. It’s more that this colour stood out more on their page resulting in more conversions.

Colour preferences

Joe Hallock completed a study on men and women mostly from a western background to determine which colours they prefer. He found out that men and women both prefer blue, and that 23% of women like purple, but that isn’t a favourite for men at all.

When it came to least favourite colour for men brown was the highest with 27%. For women their least favourite colour is orange. However, this doesn’t mean to say that a brand shouldn’t work outside of gender stereotypes, since it’s entirely possible to do.

Interestingly, colour names also have an impact on us too. A study has suggested that people like creative names for colours over a standard name. When people were shown the same colour, but with different names, people preferred the colour mocha to the colour brown.

Conclusion

Colour has been studied for thousands of years, and more recently people have been asking whether colour can impact marketing. This is because colour evokes feelings, conveys messages and influences your mood. However, colour research is problematic if you’re looking for definitive answers, as everyone experiences colour differently. People come from different backgrounds, where colours have different connotations. Some people prefer one colour to another, so it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re making a decision.

The most important thing is to pick a colour scheme based on your brand, and test different elements of your site (like button colours) regularly to try and improve your conversion rate. You should use the colour wheel and decide what kind of colour combinations you like. While colour preferences are important, you shouldn’t forget that this is also only a preference and is heavily down to an individual, so testing is key to ensure you get the correct colours for your site.

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