Color Psychology: How to Successfully Market your Brand
There is no escaping the fact that color plays a very powerful part when marketing a brand. When selecting our brand colors we therefore need to ask ourselves some key questions -
- What subconscious psychological messages do my brand colors convey?
- How do these messages affect my brand from a marketing point of view?
- Which colors are likely to be attractive to my target audience and which are not?
- Are the colors I’ve chosen aligned with my overall brand personality?
Let’s start by finding out why color plays such a significant part when it comes to marketing a business.
Visual Information and Marketing
Just by way of a reminder, 94% of information we receive every day is visual and it takes just a fraction of a second to process that information.
Primitive man had to learn very quickly from his surroundings to ensure his survival. It is almost certain that he learnt to associate certain colors with certain emotional responses; red, for example, might have become synonymous with danger.
“As hunters and gatherers in the early days of our evolution, we experienced a variety of colors and forms in the landscape. This has become part of our genetic code.” -
[Source: Jill Morton, Colorcom]
So whether we like it or not human beings are hard-wired to make snap judgements based on the visual information we see around us -
Visual information we receive is used to help us in the decision-making process, right down to what we purchase either online or in stores -
Color, Marketing and Purchase Power
Color serves two purposes in marketing -
1. Color helps to make a brand stand out and be memorable.
According to a study carried out at the University of Loyola, Maryland, it is thought that color increases brand recognition by up to 80%.
2. Color triggers subconscious emotional responses.
If it is understand which colors can trigger what emotions they can be used to move and entice customers to take a desired course of action and potentially increase sales.
Color is therefore used in marketing to optimise anything from a Call-to-Action button or to entice a customer to make a purchase. In fact, 85% of shoppers make purchase decisions based on color.
Let’s now take a deeper dive into what kinds of emotions individual colors stimulate and how to use those colors to market your own brand successfully.
What Colors are Best for Marketing your Brand?
It’s worth bearing in mind that we don’t all experience color in exactly the same way since our own personal experiences will always vary.
Colors also have different connotations and meanings in different cultures and religion which is worth exploring if you intend to market your brand globally.
When considering any type of visual content, it’s always best to remember the ‘less is more’ rule of thumb. According to Mossberg & Company, one of North America's most respected printing companies, 95% of companies use only two brand colours.
Red is a strong primary colour and is known to stimulate adrenaline. It’s often associated with power, feelings of urgency, speed and is used to alert us to danger.
Red also has positive connotations as it’s widely associated with love. It is thought to stimulate the appetite, a fact not lost on fast-food chain McDonalds.
In the Far East red is a symbol of good luck, hence the use of red in the Japanese Airlines logo, together with a bird to indicate flight.
If you want to give your customers a feeling of confidence and warmth you might want to consider using yellow as a brand color. Yellow is thought to stimulate the feel-good chemical, serotonin, in the brain.
On the negative side yellow is associated with cowardice and fear.
Yellow in Indian culture is a particularly auspicious and sacred color and in Africa it is associated with gold and wealth. However, in China yellow is associated with pornography so best avoided if you intend to market a product or service in the Far East!
Orange is a fun, vivacious colour which conveys a sense of action. It's easy to see why Lucozade chose orange to represent its energy-restoring drink.
EasyJet adopted orange as its brand colour to reflect the fun and hassle-free side of flying.
However orange has occasionally been linked with a sense of the ‘cheap and cheerful’. Strange, then, that luxury brand Hermès should choose orange to market its exclusive goods. Interestingly, after WW2 the only cardboard available for packing was orange so Hermès have stuck with it ever since.
If you intend to market to customers in the Middle East be aware that orange is associated with mourning and loss.
Going back to our caveman he would have seen vast and enduring expanses of blue around him such as the sky and the sea.
Blue therefore tends to convey a sense of consistency and reliability and is used to good effect by large brands and corporations to instil a feeling of trust and professionalism in their customers.
Be aware that blue is often used in phrases that suggest depression and cold. It is also a non-food colour and psychologically it's thought to suppress the appetite, so be wary of using blue if you’re in the food business.
Blue is universally associated with peace, harmony, protection and divinity across cultures and religions so it’s hardly surprising it is often chosen by large global organisations.
Purple is one of three secondary colors and varies a great deal, depending on whether there is more blue than red, or vice versa. The combination of both colors was thought in ancient times to combine wisdom (blue) and love (red) and was therefore often used in stained glass windows.
Historically purple has been linked with royalty. Togas edged by wide purple borders were worn by Caesar as well as Roman dignitaries to signify status and wisdom. It is easy to see why luxury brands such as Aspreys chose purple as a brand color.
Purple is also associated with creativity, mystery and magic, hence its use by brands such as Hallmark and the TV channel, Syfy.
Green, of course, reflects nature, springtime, abundance and enhances feelings of well-being. It is widely used in the beauty business to convey a sense of youth, eternity and to draw attention to organic, natural ingredients.
However, be aware that green is also associated with envy and feelings of stagnation.
For a deeper look into how color affects our moods when we’re shopping and how it affects our purchase decisions take a look at this beautiful infographic from Short Stack.
Colour Preferences by Gender
So now that we’ve covered some of the possible psychological messages that color can convey, let’s look at the next big question: which colors will appeal most to your target audience.
First of all you'll need to find out what percentage of your audience is male, what percentage is female or whether your audience is an equal balance of male and female.
You can easily access this kind of information by logging into Google Analytics and clicking on the Demographics / Overview tab.
A study carried out in 2003 by Joe Hallock involved over 200 people from 20 different countries and revealed distinct color preferences, as follows -
Outcome of Joe Hallock's survey, 2003
As well as discovering that the blue was universally preferred by both men and women, he also discovered that, on the whole, men had a preference for bright colors or monochrome palettes, whereas women had a preference for pastel colors.
Color and Brand Personality
One final question you need to ask yourself is whether the colors you’ve chosen appropriately reflect your overall brand personality or are they at odds with it.
To take two examples -
1. Aston Martin appeals to a mainly male customer by using a monochrome palette and aligning itself with James Bond.
2. Ladureé, my favourite French patisserie, uses a beautiful pastel color palette to attract and appeal to a female client base.
Imagine for a moment if we swapped things around and Aston Martin used a pastel color palette to market its cars. Would these colors resonate with its target audience and would they have appropriately reflected Aston Martin's overall brand personality?
Similarly, would Ladureé successfully market its products with a monochrome palette? Almost certainly not; a masculine monochrome palette would be at odds with Ladureé’s feminine style and personality.
Tools and Resources
Color & Brand Personality
To help you match the right colors with your brand personality write down half a dozen or so words that you would use to describe your brand. Then take a look at this free resource from Cymbolism to find out which colors most match those words.
I did a quick search using the words 'dynamic' and 'professional' and came up with the following color results.
BEST COLOR COMBINATIONS
If you’ve already picked one brand color and need help finding a suitable color combination the following two resources will be of interest to you -
2. Alternatively try this fun interactive colour calculator from Sessions College.
If, like me, inspiration hits you when you're diving down rabbit holes online and you see a color or combination of colors that you'd like to capture for your own use, you can easily copy a color hex code using my 'go to' color-picker “Sip”.
I’ve been using it for several years now and it sits unobtrusively at the top of my screen until I want to use it.
Here's how it works - you can try it for free!
GRAPHIC DESIGN SOFTWARE
One of the best tools available for creating free or low-cost graphics is Canva; I've been using it more or less every day since it was in Beta to create graphics for my own business and for my clients. There is a free and a paid version and it is available on desktop, tablet as well as smartphone.
Here's how to copy and paste a color hex code into a Canva graphic -
Over to you!
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If you have any questions you'd like to ask me or if there are any areas of color and branding that you'd like me to cover just drop them into the comments box underneath.
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See you next time!