We are surrounded by colour every day, bombarded with packaging, nature, road signs, adverts and it plays a big part in our everyday living, even if we are not aware of it. So as marketers it’s crucial to understand how colours can affect us emotionally and how this can then, in turn, play a huge role in your marketing.
So we won’t bore you with colour theory we all learnt as kids, we all know what a primary and secondary colour is and what happens when you mix them all together expecting the rainbow… We want to look at the psychology of colour and the power it can actually have for your brand.
It’s first crucial to understand that the effect colour can have is not always the same for everyone. Factors like culture and society play huge roles in how we react and interact with colours. The most common example of this is obviously the colour red. In Western countries a bright red is seen as a warning, emergency, and danger, however in China red is used widely as a symbol of luck and happiness. The brain is such a complex organ that the effect can not be generalised, it can be affected by personal experience, gender, age and health, but there is some evidence about what colours connote (generally).
Here we go, the basics on colours and how to use them in your campaigns.
Dangerous | Aggressive | Love | Courage | Strength | Warmth | Energy | Anger | Stimulation | Masculinity | Excitement | Passion
Probably the most powerful and most used colour within marketing, red often plays a large part in action provoking campaigns and sports brands. Red has the ability to appear closer than it actually is and therefore it grabs our attention first, which is why it is used in traffic signs and lights across the world. Red is also used to create urgency as it stimulates and raises the heart rate to give a physical reaction when used. This can be why the colour is used widely for sports brands, charities and call to action buttons, you’ll never be able to ignore it.
Intelligence | Communication | Trust | Efficiency | Calm | Technology | Coldness | Professional | Silence | Unfriendly
From the words above it’s no surprise that the business world is absolutely packed with brands using blue, from technology, banks and health companies, I’m sure you can think of a fair few off the top of your head. Blue has a very soothing affect on the mind and stimulates a calming feeling along with concentration. It is overall the most trusting colour hence why such large corporations utilise it in their brands and marketing, however it can also have an unfriendly tone that is cold and unemotive. Time and time again it has been show that blue is generally the worlds favourite colour and ‘Tiffany blue’ has been said to be overall the most pleasing colour to use online.
Emotional | Happy | Optimism | Summer | Anxiety | Fear | Confidence | Illness | Depression | Strength | Creativity | Surprise | Knowledge
Yellow is an incredibly stimulating colour emotionally and so arguably the strongest colour psychologically. It can grab someones attention from afar which can explain why roadside brands such as Shell and McDonalds use it heavily on their signage and marketing. Yellow inspires original thought and inquisitiveness and can be incredibly uplifting and energising. But depending on the hue and combined colours, yellow can be fast paced and so easily stimulate depression and anxiety.
Nature | Balance | Refreshing | Rest | Stagnant | Boredom | Environment | Illness | Peace | Harmony | Tranquil | Neutral | Growth
The human eye can see more shades of green than any other colour down to our planet being so abundant with it, which is why the colour is used so heavily within environmental marketing. Green sits in the middle of the spectrum and needs minimal adjusting from the eye, so is seen as the great balancing and restful colour of our minds. It can revitalise us when we are exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally but can be seen as bland and stagnant.
Luxury | Spirituality | Quality | Arrogant | Fantasy | Individual | Cynical | Maturity | Truth | Suppression | Thoughtful | Speed
Purples encourages us to contemplate our thoughts, raises our awareness and supports spiritual values. It’s linked with the cosmos and space pushing thoughts of future and the unknown, again encouraging intense thinking processes, it ignites creativity and individuality. It has the passion of red but is more private and introversive that can connect on a deeper level. Purple is incredibly luxurious and with it’s associations with royalty and wealth, it’s a strong colour to utilise.
Sensuality | Energy | Immaturity | Berk | Warmth | Sociable | Optimistic | Adventure | Frustration | Extrovert | Insincere | Excitement | Motivational
Orange relates to our gut reactions and instincts, it’s fast effects make it a an obvious colour for action. It’s the colour of adventure, risk-taking, excitement and inspire confidence and independence to the viewer. It can also stimulate the appetite and encourage conversation in social situations as well as encourage respect for both oneself and others. Orange aids in the creation of creative thinking and frees the mind of limitations, giving us freedom to think bigger.
Feminine | Sensuality | Strength | Emasculation | Weakness | Sexuality | Nurture | Naïveté | Openness | Comfort | Physical Weakness | Insight
With pink once being a standard colour for boys, it’s fascinating to see the shift in recent centuries, whereas we would now associate pink with little girls and feminine. But pink is a lot more complex that just barbie dolls and hearts, it’s a nurturing and calming colour that has been shown to reduce nerves and create physical weakness with exposure to large amounts, however too much exposure can have the opposite effect. It encourages a need for support, acceptance and unconditional love and comforts the viewer.
Neutral | Inactive | Reliable | Depression | Classic | Gloomy | Lifeless | Formal | Conservative | Stable | Elegant | Intelligence
Grey is one of the only colours to have very little psychological effect on it’s viewer, it is neutral and suppressive and represents compromise and impartial opinions. It doesn’t stimulate or energise but is seen to solid, stable and reliable which is why we can see it used so often supporting large corporate brands. It’s a great supporting colour for brands as any hue can accompany most colours, but used solely can be elegant sophisticate and connote maturity and professionalism.
Glamour | Dark | Sophistication | Strong | Protection | Pessimistic | Seductive | Power | Heaviness | Mystery | Security | Loneliness | Formal | End | Space
Black is all colours, it’s the absorption of all colours and the absence of light creating a protective barrier and security. Black is used for power and mystery, we use black to hide things and to hide ourselves. Contrastingly it is a bold colour with power and intimidation, it’s not there to make friends, it creates fear. It’s sophisticated and showcases excellence and can support most other colours. True black is a bold choice, the colour of clarity and mystery… huh!
Hygiene | Innocence | Purity | Sterile | Sophistication | Clean | Light | Empty | Pure | Boarding | Neat | Clarity | Open | Stark | Coldness | Simplicity
White is the total reflection of light, it reflects the whole spectrum into our eyes creating pure clarity and the feeling of space and openness. It’s the colour of cleanliness and hygiene hence why it’s used heavily in the healthcare sector and is used as the colour of most household goods. White isn’t stimulating to our senses, like lack it is neutral but is a symbol of new beginnings and a ‘blank canvas’ to then build upon and allows room for creation and creativity.
Earthy | Seriousness | Nature | Heaviness | Dull | Outdated | Wholesome | Natural | Cheap | Lack of humour | Friendly | Comforting | Wholesome
Brown is a very down to earth and approachable colour, it’s associations with black make it a stable and serious tone but it’s warmer and more familiar. The right hue can be natural, organic and earthy, being wholesome and rich in quality. It’s the colour of physical comfort and relates to hard work, reliability and ‘the good old days’ with it’s vintage tones and sincerity, we associate it with maturity and age.