Ever wonder why most luxury vehicles are black? Or why the majority of feminine products on the market come in pink packaging? It’s because of color psychology and the way our brain associates black with sophistication and pink with nurture and femininity.
Although the actual intensity of these effects is somewhat debatable, the influence of color on the human brain cannot be ignored. When we consider that 93% of all purchase decisions are based on visual elements alone, it becomes painstakingly obvious as to why color is so important in branding and marketing.
After all, there is a reason why so much thought (and money) goes into choosing the right color and logo for a certain brand, product, or service.
Color psychology is an area of research that explores how color affects human behavior. Years of evolution and cultural conditioning have taught people to associate a certain color with a particular object or situation. For instance, red means danger, while green is usually seen as the color of prosperity.
Furthermore, there is the matter of personal preference. According to advocates of color psychology, personality can be determined just by knowing someone’s favorite color. White, for instance, means you want to be independent and self-reliant, whereas people who prefer black need power and control in their lives.
Not everyone has the same reaction to colors, of course. Age, gender, and a multitude of other factors play a role in how we perceive colors. Take red, for example. Studies show that men find women in red clothing more attractive as they associate the color with sensuality, while for horror movie buffs, red is the color of blood and gore.
Associations made between a certain color and emotion can even change over time. What was once someone’s favorite color can become attached to an unpleasant experience and thus form a negative association in the brain.
So, does this mean that the study of colors and human reactions is worthless? Absolutely not. It just means that it is not without faults. Colors by themselves do evoke certain emotional responses in people, but their power really comes through when they are combined with other aspects.
People think that the ultimate goal of marketing is to persuade consumers to make a purchase. While this may be true, today, the data on brands shows they are also concerned with things like customer retention, brand loyalty, and engagement; this is where colors come into play.
Adding a bit of color not only makes a brand stand out in a sea of competition but it also projects and fosters the values, principles, and goals of a certain company. Design choices like these help keep companies, and the website design industry, pushing forward. The right color (or combination of colors) in a logo, on a website, on staff uniforms, and even on the company’s premises — all serve to enforce the message that the brand is trying to convey.
As we said earlier — different colors evoke different emotions. While the same color may not have the same meaning across cultures, there are some basic rules that determine how certain shades impact our feelings and behavior.
Quite attention-grabbing, red is definitely one of the most powerful and strongest of all colors. It symbolizes passion, love, and intensity.
Red has a physical effect; it raises our heart rate and creates a sense of urgency — hence why it is often used on price tags during sales.
It is also said to reduce analytical thinking by speeding up and intensifying reactions. In other words, it prompts us into action. Why do you think YouTube uses a red play button? Its little things like these that made Youtube the success it is.
According to the psychology of color, red also stimulates appetite, making it one of the essential colors for famous logos of food industry giants, such as Coca-Cola, Heinz, and McDonald’s.
Some brands like Virgin and Ferrari use red to inspire passion, lust, and sensuality, whereas others like Canon and Diesel emphasize masculinity by putting red in their logos.
Some brands steer clear of red as it might seem too aggressive and over-bearing. If you still want to incorporate red in your design or marketing, you can use some other shades, like scarlet or burgundy, that appear less intense.
Blue is the world’s favorite color, and it is especially popular among men.
The color of the sea and sky, blue inspires stability, peace, harmony, and reliability. Blue is also known to increase productivity; one of the reasons why it is often used in office spaces.
This color is mostly employed by brands that want to instill trust into their products and services, such as financial institutions (American Express), or large convenience stores (Walmart), and even healthcare brands (Oral B).
Look at the data on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (to name but a few) – they all utilize blue color in advertising to denote transparency and clear communication, as do IT companies such as Dell, Intel, and IBM – and they are not the only ones. It is estimated that 33% of the top global brands use blue, making it one of the most popular color options for logos worldwide.
Blue is seen as non-threatening and conservative, but it can also appear cold and depressing at times.
Sunshine, joy, and optimism are the emotions most commonly associated with the color yellow.
Yellow inspires confidence and happiness; one of the reasons why lifestyle and entertainment companies use it in their logos.
Sprint, Ferrari, and DHL also include this color in their brand image as yellow is most often associated with movement and speed.
This bright color also stimulates the logical side of the brain by promoting clarity — making it suitable for companies that sell academic-related products like Yellow Pages, Post-it, and Bic.
Yellow is one of the best colors for advertising signs as it has the longest wavelength. This makes yellow one of the most eye-catching and psychologically compelling colors; the perfect fit for retailers who want to attract the attention of window shoppers.
One of the negative emotions people attribute to yellow is stress and anxiety, especially when it is overused. That is why most brands tend to use the color yellow only as a backdrop in their logo or website design.
Green sits at the very center of the spectrum and, as such, is the color of balance, restfulness, and tranquility. Evolution has taught us to associate green with nature and plentifulness. Luscious greenery is associated with life and survival, so people tend to feel reassured and serene when they see this color.
The color green, and its relation to the natural world, makes it a wonderful solution for all eco-friendly companies and startups, as well as businesses operating in the health and fitness industry.
According to the color psychology chart, lighter shades of the color green stand for growth, fertility, and prosperity. It’s no wonder then that brands such as John Deere — whose entire identity is centered on nature — have chosen this color for their logo and equipment. Richer and darker shades, on the other hand, are associated with wealth and prestige and are mostly used by brands like Land Rover.
Green also symbolizes freshness — hence why Whole Foods, Subway, and Heineken have opted for this color as well.
Finally, green represents loyalty, trust, and intelligence — characteristics of some of the most popular brands in the world, like Starbucks and Android.
One of the first things we associate with the color purple is luxury and royalty. Purple simply exudes wealth and sophistication. It is said that, originally, purple dye was too expensive for the common man and was only used by the incredibly wealthy; just one possible explanation for the connection between opulence and this color.
Purple is also on the very end of the color spectrum, thus evoking the states of meditation and spirituality. Hallmark and Yahoo both use purple to emphasize that they offer high-quality services and products.
It may not be found in nature, but violet is one of the most frequently used colors in marketing. However, out of all the brands that utilize it, Cadbury’s is possibly the most famous example. Their shade of purple is so distinct, the company has gone as far as to trademark it.
Craigslist, Viber, and FedEx blend the intensity of red and the serenity of blue in their logos.
Nevertheless, despite its connotations of nobility and affluence, too much purple might be perceived as arrogant and even artificial.
Fun and vibrant, orange is a color most associated with enthusiasm, youth, and excitement. Less commanding than red, yet still eye-catching, brands use this color to attract the attention of consumers on websites or in windows.
Orange also denotes affordability and warmth, so it is commonly used in sectors like fitness, logistics, and technology. Most notably, Amazon, Timberland, The Home Depot, and Mozilla Firefox employ orange to show they are sociable, energetic, and affordable.
According to color psychology research, orange also appeals to youth, so it’s not surprising that it is utilized by brands like Nickelodeon and Fanta, which target a younger audience.
In spite of its many positive characteristics, orange is still not favored by many companies because it is also known to provoke feelings of immaturity and frustration. The overuse of orange may also make brands appear self-indulgent and insincere.
Pink is immediately associated with femininity. Unsurprisingly, it is mostly incorporated in logos of companies that cater to women, like Victoria’s Secret.
Pink is also frequently used in packaging for toys for girls. Think Barbie! The company uses pink to combine the feminine aspect, playfulness, and just a tiny bit of immaturity. Many brands also use this color to add an element of luxury, as well as for its physically soothing and nurturing qualities.
When it comes to colors and moods, pink inspires love, tenderness, and vulnerability, making it the go-to color for many companies and marketing campaigns. For example, Baskin Robbins uses it to express friendliness, Johnson & Johnson use it for its connotations of innocence and purity, while Pepto Bismol relies on the color pink to emphasize its calming and restful properties.
Although some brands shy away from pink for its strong links to femininity, it is still a great and versatile color to use, especially combined with white, yellow, and blue.
Recognizable as a symbol of mystery, power, and glamour, black is the color traditionally worn by priests and villains, as well as by fashion icons and influencers. Designs using black as their base, particularly combined with the color white, are extremely effective and are used by numerous fashion retailers, like Channel, Nike, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, and Lancome. Nike and Channel, in particular, rely heavily on this color in their logo and website to create a note of consistency.
One of the reasons why black is such a popular color in marketing is because black text stands out more and is easier to read. It also reflects seriousness, sophistication, and clarity. That’s why media companies like The New York Times and Sony have included it in their logo.
However, the fact remains that many people still relate black to mourning, evilness, and monotony. Black is, after all, the absence of all colors.
White symbolizes purity and innocence. What’s more, it also stands for simplicity and sleek, sophisticated designs — the perfect choice for tech and wellness companies. This color also gives a heightened perception of space.
Mini and Tesla utilize white to highlight their focus on simplicity and safety, whereas Adidas and L’Oréal use this color to create a sophisticated and transparent look.
White also enforces feelings of hygiene and sterility, making it a great match for hospitals and the healthcare industry in general, but it’s not as effective outside that particular context. Psychology of color tells us that too much white will make consumers associate the product or service with isolation, unfriendliness, and snobbism.
Bear in mind that the color white does not have the same meaning across cultures. In the US, white is used for weddings and celebrations, whereas in some Asian cultures it is worn as a sign of mourning.
Needless to say, white cannot be used all on its own; it’s typically combined with black for achieving the maximum effect. In addition, white also works well with other colors like red and brown.
The color of the earth, wood, and stone; it is only natural that brown symbolizes comfort, security, and reliability. Brown is often compared to black, but, while black can seem suppressive, brown is softer, warmer, and more supportive. For those reasons, it is mostly used by companies dealing with natural products and food; especially coffee and chocolate companies.
A successful example of how brown can be incorporated into a logo is UPS. Combined with other natural colors, like yellow and green, the UPS logo creates an image of a down-to-earth company that customers can rely on.
The relationship between colors and emotions can have negative effects. For instance, for some people, brown can seem heavy and unclean — one of the reasons why it is not such a popular color choice for many a brand.
Like everything else in life, people have certain preferences when it comes to color. For instance, gender, age, and nationality play a role in how people see and react to colors.
Studies in color psychology indicate that men dislike brown, while orange is the least favorite color among women. What’s more, both genders seem to dislike orange and yellow as they get older, whereas green is an absolute favorite among the younger generations.
Both men and women lean slightly towards cool colors, with females going for tints and men preferring pure colors.
Color has so many applications in marketing and sales that it can affect anything from arousal to attention, even to how people perceive checkout lines.
Cool colors, for instance, give the impression that web pages load faster and that lines at the checkout are shorter. These colors, which include purple, blue, and green, also make customers feel more relaxed and willing to spend more time shopping.
However, according to color theory in psychology, cool colors are not the best choice if you want your customers to take action and make an impulse purchase. Warm colors (yellow, orange, and red) increase arousal and spur shoppers into action.
White, light grey, and blue are the best and most effective colors if you want to leave a positive impression of your brand. Experts on the psychology of colors in marketing say that colors with shorter wavelengths tend to create a favorable impression of the brand in the minds of consumers.
Of course, one of the first steps in acquiring consumers is to grab their attention. In this case, it isn’t just about the colors you use, but how you combine them.
Using contrasting colors, or a color that stands in stark contrast to its surroundings, is the best way to ensure that you get the attention of the visitors to your site or store.
According to research, people form a first impression about a brand in 90 seconds, while 62–90% of that judgment is based solely on color. If this doesn’t point to the importance of color in branding and advertising, what will?
But, if you are still not convinced, here are a few more facts: 90% of companies believe that the right color combination can help them get new clients. On top of that, color is one of the most recognizable aspects of a brand. Studies have shown that color drives brand recognition by 80%!
When it comes to designing a logo, color is key.
Consider the kind of image your brand is trying to convey. Think about what kind of audience you are trying to reach in terms of location, age, gender, and cultural background. Check out what the competition is doing. And most importantly, don’t underestimate the power of logos. Consumers get 80% of information about a brand just from the logo.
So, use colors to your advantage and create a logo that truly represents your brand identity.
Color psychology is not a fool-proof science. Nevertheless, it’s important to know that while color perceptions vary, there are some general guidelines that marketers follow to install specific feelings and emotions about their products and services in the minds of consumers. It is these color associations that can guide consumer behavior, generate profit and boost brand engagement.