Colour Psychology in Marketing- A Key Function
Do you feel blue or listen to blues when gloomy? Have you ever gone off the rails to paint the town red in anger (figuratively speaking of course)? All these emotions and their contrast with hues indicate how colours associate with emotions.
Interestingly, colours not only influence what you wear or how you feel, but they are also employed to generate a psychological influence on the masses (both positive and negative).
Brands understand the psychological effects of colours and mindfully design their colour palette. In fact, this psychology of colours in businesses has dramatically helped increase sales, appeal to consumers and build brand loyalty.
Colours play a dynamic role and also influence how you feel. Surprisingly, your favourite colour says a lot about your psychology and personality.
Creative projects, interior designing, a wardrobe remodel, therapy, all emphasize the importance of colour psychology.
What is Colour Psychology?
As per its simplest definition, colour psychology studies the impact of colours- their hues, shades and tints, on the human mind.
But the psychological effects of colour doesn’t end here. It aims to unravel their impact on personality, their profound influence on customer buying pattern, colour preference by genders, emotions and moods,
The best colour in the whole world is the one that looks good on you. -Coco Chanel
That was somebody positivity and fashion motivation by Chanel, but the French Fashion designer hinted at colour psychology. In this quote, she indirectly asks you to try different colours and go with the one that suits you the most. The catch here is that you will only give thumbs up to a particular colour if you have liked it all along (consciously or subconsciously).
Swiss Psychotherapist Max Lüscher studied this connection between colours, personal preference, and personality. His theory relating to colour preference and personality shows the inherent “unconscious” connection to colour, revealing who he really is. Thus, the Lüscher Colour Psychology Test tests a person’s psychophysical state, depending on the colour he/she chooses.
Personality tests like the Rorschach inkblot test, Myers-Briggs personality test, and more help in therapy and lead to a deep psychological understanding of self.
How are Colours Associated With Emotions?
A direct link can be seen between colours and nature. Since colours appeared in our natural surroundings for the first time, we humans have integrated qualities of natural elements to colours. For instance, the fierce and hot nature of fire gives the colour red its respected attributes of anger, dominance, evil, urgency, passion etc.
Apart from nature, the man also gave colours their meaning. Colours with their extensive use throughout history have led to their resonance.
Furthermore, this relationship or colour analogy was extended to define different types of personalities. Colour psychology tests developed based on the tints, shade and hues somebody would choose. The oldest one of these being the theory of Humorism.
Because personalities are shaped by temperament (and its different parameters), Greek physician Hippocrates developed Humorism. Humorism outlined the four temperament types:
To keep it short, the response to colours can be emotional so much so that there can be physiological euphemisms for them. Thus increasing the marketing impact.
What do Colours Mean?
Before employing colours to derive a deeper understanding of your psychology, it would be worthwhile to know what colours mean. There is a whole science behind this. Depending on it, you will easily correlate personalities and colours. This knowledge of hues and character traits will lead you to employ colour psychology successfully.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Red
Red is the dominant colour of fire. It is associated with strong emotions. Therefore, it has related qualities of anger, love, and passion. The colour symbolises energy, activity, strength, enthusiasm, emergency, danger, love, and power.
Depending on such character traits, the type 1 personality temperament- Sanguine. People who fall in this temperament type tend to have a reddish complexion with a shine.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Yellow
In the psychology of colour, yellow is derived from the Sun and sunflower. Like the sun is the source of life, the yellow colour indicates positivity, confidence, youth, fresh energy, happiness, and hope. This is the colour with the longest wavelength and easily visible. Because street lights and headlights are yellow, this colour impacts a person to go ahead and find direction in the darkness. Hence, it is a motivation colour and used to induce positive emotions. The type 2 personality- Choleric resonates with yellow.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Green
The green colour psychology marks nature and growth. It is associated with health, wealth (currency notes), luck (because of the four-leaf clovers). People who love to wear hues of green tend to be optimistic, compassionate, nature-lovers, relaxed and calm. This is because this cool colour evokes these moods and emotions.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Orange
A mix of yellow and red forms orange. Consequently, it takes from the psychological effects of orange and yellow colour. It isn’t as urgent as red yet warm enough to draw attention. Moreover, it isn’t as vibrant as yellow but adequately conveys optimism. For this reason, the orange colour has a special place in the colour wheel.
Artists love working in orange lights as it is known to spike creativity, willpower and enthusiasm. It is ideal to demonstrate an extrovert personality.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Blue
Without a doubt, blue colour's psychological effect induces a very calm, tranquil and healthy mood. It soothes the eyes and allows you to destress. Ergo, hues of blue are very pleasing to look at. Because the sea and the sky have remained consistent since the conception of life and our blue planet is the only one to sustain creation, it has a similar psychological effect.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Purple
Those with phlegmatic personalities are relaxed and peaceful. These people are introverts and resonate more with the purple colour.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Pink
Pink is toned down hue of red. Mixed with white, the extensive dramatic energy of red diffuses, and a softer pigment comes to life. Stereotypically, this colour is associated with feminine gender to connote tenderness, love, and delicacy. Accordingly, pink invokes emotions of passion, love, playfulness, and compassion.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Black
The black colour is used to give anything a more sophisticated, formal, and secretive appeal. It is a solid colour that has many negative notions attached but also conveys emotions of power, authority, discipline, and elegance. Any colour contrasted with black enhances and makes it pop out.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Brown
Brown is found in abundance in nature. Just like the brown soil gives sustenance to earthly elements, this colour is used to symbolise stability, warmth, reliability, honestly, and comfort. Therefore, it is extensively used in agriculture, construction, transportation, food and legal industry.
Impact and Meaning of the Colour Grey
Just like black, grey is also an unemotional and detached colour. It is a neutral colour and may evoke pessimistic feelings of quiet, formality, practicality and conservativeness. Grey is best used in combination with other vibrant colours.
Colour Psychology and Marketing
Colours act as tools in marketing: ones which influence the viewer to develop perception. Not just appealing to the eye, colours play their magic on the mind too. Although it may seem that the psychological impact of colour is mildly subjective, there are similarities in how people respond to colours.
Ergo, marketers have to comprehend what colours mean to people. Understanding colour psychology is massive, for websites, campaigns, ads, branding, etc. all depend on creating a visual appeal for their success.
Here, success does not imply that you manipulate people through colours and trick them in any way. You can use the psychology of colours in business to give people, a more palatable content for their eyes. Ultimately, making it easier to convey your message, surpass your competition and establish a strong footing in the market.
Here is a brief report on the psychological impact of colours in general:
Primary colours- red, yellow and blue- lie at the heart of a colour palette. This is so because they make the next range of colours called secondary colours.
Impact of Red Colour in Marketing
The red colour accent is associated with diverse, energetic emotions and gains semblance from natural elements like sun and fire. Brands use it to steal attention, attract and excite instantly. It is widely used in industries like sports, food, entertainment, and kids product manufacturing.
Just like teacher’s make use of red-ink to pique attention by highlighting errors, this colour is used in marketing to connote emergency. As the red traffic light makes you stop, red is extensively used in call-to-action buttons, sporting events flyers and brochures to promote activity. Because a red tint also hints at ripeness, the food giants like McDonald’s, energy drink brand Sting and Coca Cola use it.
Impact of Blue Colour in Marketing
Blue is another dominant cool colour of the sky and sea. Consequently, this colour has emotions of trust, peace, harmony, tranquillity, and stability. Blue is judiciously used by IT sectors, financial institutions, sports brands, healthcare, and rejuvenation centres. The blue colour also demonstrates friendliness and is predominantly used by social media handles like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Brands employ this colour to state their professionalism and trustworthiness. You can spot blue in Hp, Oreos, Ford, DELL, IBM, Samsung, and Walmart.
Since it signifies trust, Instagram gives accounts a certified batch which is blue in colour. In today’s age, it would be a stereotype to say that blue is liked only by men.
Impact of Yellow Colour in Marketing
The colour yellow can be used in place of red because it is vibrant enough to grab people’s attention. But it is not as dramatic. Ergo, solid yellow shades and accents can be used to drive action, convey a positive message, attract a younger audience, and make a statement.
Food, transportation, travel, lifestyle, and transportation industries actively use shades of yellow.
Since colour psychology of yellow has such a profound effect, brands like Subway, Lay’s, Maggi, Snapchat, IKEA, Ferrari, and Nikon employ it in their representation. Not to forget, yellow is the most visible colour to the human eye.
The colours created by fusing the primary colours are called secondary colours. These include purple, orange and green.
Impact of Green Colour in Marketing
Green is synonymous with nature. For this reason, it is associated with all the qualities seen in nature. These include birth, freshness, fertility, movement, security, luck, safety, harmony and balance. Apart from nature, hues of green are seen in currency notes. Therefore, green colour psychology also indicates health, wealth and fitness. This stain is taken advantage by financial institutions, ecological and sustainable businesses, and the farming sector. The colour psychology of green builds an aura of freshness and is employed by mouth freshener manufacturers in their brand handbook.
Green is one of the cool colours and has a relaxing effect on the brain. Brands like Starbucks, Spotify, Acer, TicTac, and Tropicana have wisely employed it in their logo. On websites, it can be used in pop-ups that appear after successful submission or registration. In design, green hues are used for a breezy effect. However, there is something as too much green. Remember how a green monster on your back points out jealousy?
Impact of Purple Colour in Marketing
Purple is synonymous with luxury, royalty, spirituality, creativity, wisdom, pride, mystery, and magic. Because purple is such a rare natural occurrence, found only in peacock, orchids, violets, lavenders and lilacs, it is considered precious, delicate, elite, and sacred. If you have one of a kind, eye-catching product or service, something that has to do with spirituality, or if you want to give a posh feeling to your brand, use purple. Cadbury, Hallmark, Yahoo, Asprey strategically use this colour to impart its psychological impact on the masses.
Purple suitably markets psychic, religion and humanitarian businesses.
Impact of Orange Colour in Marketing
The psychological effect of orange colour arises feelings of fun, energy, adventure, and youthfulness. It is a blend of red and yellow, therefore, it gives rise to moods and emotions common to both the colours. This colour is youthful, vibrant, stimulates enthusiasm, fascination, and playfulness. It can be synonymously used for a peppy personality, which generally hints to youth. Interestingly, Vitamin C is a key ingredient to keep the skin young and taut. Therefore, serums with vitamin C extracts use orange colour psychology for packaging.
Psychological effects of orange colour include feeling mentally stimulated, active, satisfied, happy, confident and understanding. Also, beware of orange colour if you are hungry! It is psychologically known to work your appetite.
Brands which ingeniously include orange colour to represent their purposes include Fanta, Amazon, Nickelodeon, Gulf, JBL, Harley Davidson.
You can use orange like Neil Patel for your website. After red, it is increasingly used for call-to-actions containers and buttons. Orange is the best fit for you, especially if you want to appeal to the youth and the artsy lot.
Impact of Grey Colour in Marketing
Think about where you see the colour grey most often. What’s the first thing that pops in your mind when you think of it? Maturity? Sophistication? Grey suit? Salt & pepper hair?
All things pointing to B2B and upscale luxury. Now, think of the brands that use the colour in their marketing- Swarowski, Apple, Mad Men (TV series) and the likes. It is quite evident that the colour is symbolic of sobriety, class and luxury. However, the most notable evidence here is that grey is rarely used as a primary colour by brands. It usually plays a supporting role to stronger and darker colours like black, brown and red.
Contrary to popular belief, there is ample evidence to suggest that stronger colours are better allies of marketing than the sober ones (supporting cast). The psychology associated with this is that the stronger colours are the ones that stick in mind. Now, there also exists the debate that some traditionally sober colours like yellow can also be strong. Colour psychologists like Eiseman and Wright mark yellow as “the strongest colour,” since it is associated with emotions, self-esteem, and creativity. So, colour psychology in marketing has varied interests in a sober colour like grey, but the results associated with it are quite unwavering for luxury and upscale products & services.
Impact of Brown Colour in Marketing
Not much has been said about the colour brown in colour psychology used in marketing. Being one of the least used colours in branding (especially logos), it isn’t a staple shade of marketing for many known brands.
Brown is known to have the least recall value, but one of the most known Uniliver brands ‘Lux’ has owned it. However, it hasn’t been made very prominent in the marketing communications apart from the logo.
The more apt and efficient use case of the colour would be by Headspace, Baskin & Robbins and Dunkin Donuts. While the dessert brands use the ‘sweet’ aspect of the colour brown, Headspace goes with something more intricate and relevant to their purpose (meditation)- mellowness.
Impact of Black Colour in Marketing
Fill in the blank:
Black is the colour of ___________.
What did you get? Sophistication? Control? Formality? Whatever word that came to your mind relates to a single line of thought, especially when it comes to marketing.
Black is a colour for high contrast and easy legibility. It is powerful. Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility. Too much black can result in an overall negative feeling. Even for B2B or formal brands, it is advisable to use it sparingly and keep it minimal in the visuals.
The most popular brands that use the colour black include WWF, Nike & The New York Times.
You’re right, there is an anomaly here. But let’s look at some related brands that use black- Adidas, Puma & Kappa. The thing is... As you are about to learn/re-learn in the next section, pink is a colour associated with femininity. Similarly, black is associated with masculinity. Consider this- even brands that use black for their overall marketing, use pink for marketing feminine products.
Impact of Pink Colour in Marketing
Much like brown, pink is one of the least used colours in logos. Most famous users of the colour include Barbie and Cosmopolitan. Dunkin Donuts uses the two most uncommon colours in their logo. Interestingly enough, that is one of the things that makes them stand out. No matter what the urban agenda may state at times, pink will always be associated with femininity. Some other popular brands that use the colour are Victoria’s Secret & Vogue. Less typical uses include Lyft and TMobile—both challenger brands, who aim to stand out from their competitors and bring an element of playfulness and approachability.
Impact of Colours on Conversion
Research by the Institute of Colour Research says that when people come across a piece of content, they decide in 90 seconds or less. Typically, it is a concise period to make any sort of major decision, even a purchase. So what makes a user decide in that short time period? Surely design and colour have a lot to do with it.
One of the best marketing examples of all time is that of Michellin. Who knew awarding Michellin Stars to restaurants in a journal would interest a bunch of bikers and benefit a tyre company. Over a hundred years later, the journal still thrives; but what’s more important to note is that the iconic colour red in a tiny range of textures continues to feature in it and thrive.
The truth is that the colour is what makes the sale within the first three seconds.
Note to modern marketers: the colour of your CTA is one of your top three closers.