The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding: How Color Can Work for You

There have been myriad articles published on the psychology of color and the misconceptions surrounding color, branding, and color persuasion.  On one side, there has been extensive research on the way that color can influence and shape consumer perception.  There is another camp, however, who believe that color interpretations are flawed because they are based on personal experience.

In a study called “Impact of Color on Marketing,” researchers discovered that, depending on the product, 90% of snap judgments are based on color. Observations made on the role that color plays in branding depend on consumer perception of the appropriateness of a color used for a particular brand.  In other words, does the color “fit” the product.

Choosing the Right Colors for Your Brand

It is up to the marketer to choose the designs and colors that will convince a consumer to make a purchase.  Color can be a strong influence as to how consumers view the “personality” of a brand.  A brand has its own personality and consumers connect with products that match their own personalities.  The following questions should be considered when defining your brand’s persona.

  1. Gender – Is my brand traditionally masculine or feminine?
  2. Tone – Is my brand spirited or serious?
  3. Value – Is my brand extravagant or affordable?
  4. Time – Is my brand contemporary or classic?
  5. Age – is my brand young-at-heart or mature?
  6. Energy – Is my brand boisterous or soothing?

Using Color to Convey Brand Personality

The answers to these questions will help to determine a sense of brand personality.  There are industries that lean toward certain colors.  Retail leans toward red, tech favors blue, and agriculture prefers green.  However, when it comes to choosing the “right” color there are many factors in play.  Research has shown that consumer reaction to color appropriateness is far more important that the color itself.  Rather than trying to align with stereotypical color associations, use color to support the brand personality.

Let’s look at some messaging patterns based on color perceptions.

Red – From a marketing and branding perspective, red is an attention getter.  Because of its high visibility, consumers can be stimulated to make quick decisions, but it can also evoke feelings of anger, passion, and even danger.  Red can also increase heart rate and blood pressure.  It is not the best option to convey serenity.

Blue – Blue is known for its calming qualities.  In softer tones, blue conveys health, healing, understanding, and softness.  In deeper tones blue’s portray knowledge, power, and integrity. All shades of blue suggest trust, loyalty, wisdom, intelligence, and confidence.  Blue is a good color to use in your office because it encourages focus.  It’s not a good idea to use blue in the food industry as it’s an appetite suppressant.

Green – To represent an environmentally friendly brand, use green. However, this may not be the message to interest all consumers.  Green is a good choice to express feelings of security, durability, and strength and is associated with money and banks.  It is a fresh color and works to diminish visual fatigue.

Yellow – Like red, yellow is an attention grabber. It indicates a feeling of movement and speed and is said to stimulate the appetite.  It’s a popular choice for fast-food chains and car manufacturers.  Used in moderation, it promotes a sense of enthusiasm, creativity, and spontaneity.   However, a very dull shade of yellow can evoke feelings of decay, sickness, and jealousy.

Orange – Orange is a controversial color.  People either love it or hate it.  The combined energy of red and the optimism of yellow give orange its combined spirit of extroversion and enthusiasm. Orange also expresses success and determination.

Black – Black creates a simple sleek brand identity.  With black, a product looks instantly more expensive and stylish.  Black gives an impression of sophistication, prosperity, and power.  Be cautious with overuse of black.  To some prospective clients it suggests fear and mystery.  It can be a good idea to contrast with brighter colors.

Purple – Purple is commonly associated with royalty, respect, and wisdom.  It stimulates problem solving and creativity.  Research shows that it is the preferred color of pre-adolescent children, which makes it a good choice for toy manufacturers.  Very dark purple can be associated with sadness or frustration, and light purple can have a more feminine energy.

Colors have many shades and hues, which can cause diverse perceptions.  Before making a final determination, be sure to seek opinions from a reliable company or individual with marketing and branding expertise.

Though it may be frustrating, the take away from this information is that there are no clear-cut guidelines for choosing branding colors.  The idea that certain colors will evoke a sort of hyper-specific emotion is about as accurate as fortune telling.  When choosing color, make informed decisions.  Nevertheless, in the final analysis, what matters are the mood and image that a brand should convey.

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