By Beth Meakin
When it comes to consumer perception of your business or organisation, colours play a much bigger role than you might expect.
Colour psychology is the foundation of building a strong, relatable brand – and has the power to impact people’s behaviour and buying decisions. This knowledge has been harnessed by marketers and designers alike, allowing us to create content that evokes consumer emotion and encourage all-important actions.
In a nutshell, colour psychology is the study of colour as a determinant of human behaviour. This area of research looks at how hues and shades can influence decision making, emotion and reaction. We can use this awareness to develop effective results within marketing by making our audience feel what we want them to feel, and act how we want them to act – ultimately converting them into a customer.
Nothing is set in stone however, as factors such as personal preference, cultural differences, previous experiences and context can influence the effect colours have on us – but there is still plenty of research to support the general impact of colours on consumers.
Purchasing intent is affected hugely by colours, as it influences how consumers view the ‘personality’ of your brand. Research by Cardiff Business School found that the relationship between brands and colour hinges on the ‘perceived appropriateness’, meaning the brand needs to fit with what it’s selling and who it’s selling to.
It’s important to carefully consider your colour options when creating your brand identity, focusing on a strategic logo design and brand guidelines. For existing brands, it can be useful to review your colour pallet every few years to determine the alignment with your target audience, products and desired image.
A consistent colour scheme is important for brand recognition, but you may use different colour accents across marketing campaigns when advertising to different audiences, with different products or to invoke unique certain reactions.
The most successful brands in the world have mastered this art – and you may now begin to realise why certain brands have chosen specific colours for their image.
So, what colour would be best for your brand?
When it comes to provoking a reaction, red is probably the strongest and most dynamic colour in the spectrum. It can portray love and affection, but also on the flip side can depict terror, fear and survival. It’s a bold colour to use in marketing, but can be seen as demanding and aggressive depending on its context.
Red creates urgency which is often handy for use in sales, and can be useful for capturing impulsive shoppers. It’s been found to increase heart rate, as well as stimulating appetite glands, which is why it’s used frequently in fast food places and restaurants.
On the other hand, red has connotations of ‘stop’ and danger, so if you’re looking to use the power of red make sure to avoid the extreme negative reactions it can awaken by using it in the right context.
Ever wondered why smiley faces are usually bright yellow? Yellow stimulates the release of serotonin from your brain, also known as the ‘happy hormone’. It can provoke feelings of joy, enthusiasm, inspiration and has one of the longest wavelengths – making it one of the most psychologically compelling colours.
Lighter shades of yellow signify playfulness, amusement and curiosity, whilst darker yellows (bordering on gold) can represent prosperity and security
Too much yellow, however, can raise levels of anxiety and fatigue, so it’s important to find the right balance when using it in marketing.
Orange combines the power of red and the positive energy of yellow. It represents motivation, enthusiasm, and activity as well as having red’s power to stimulate our appetites.
Brands with orange are usually perceived as confident and joyful – but can also be associated with affordability and good value. Using this colour could ‘cheapen’ the look of your brand, so it’s crucial to only use this colour if that’s the kind of angle you are trying to come from.
Green is the colour of nature, which is why it’s the ideal colour to create harmony and represent balance. Deep greens are associated with relaxation, tranquillity, and prosperity, whilst brighter yellow-greens represent energy, freshness and health.
Studies have proven that people are more productive in green environments, and it can actually encourage decisiveness. This colour is best used by brands to create a relaxed feeling, and is an excellent colour for marketing material for companies concerned with financial matters or the environment.
Generally, blue is a safe colour to appeal to a wider audience, and it is said to be the most universally preferred colour. However – different shades of blue can carry completely different psychological reactions.
Light, bright blue colours are best for use in medical, beauty and healthcare due to their connotations of cleanliness and clinical properties. These colours, relating to water and the sky, provoke feelings of freshness, calm, purity and reliability.
Deeper blues are perfect for brands promoting trust and security, known to inspire loyalty and confidence in a business. It has been heavily adopted by technology brands and the financial sector due to these properties.
Have you ever noticed the rarity of bright blues in food branding? It is understood to be an appetite suppressant – which is why it’s usually avoided. The exceptions for this are low-calorie healthy eating products such as Weight Watchers.
Purple is associated with luxury, royalty, mystery and wisdom – a daring colour to use for branding. It provokes the perfect blend between the stability of blue and the power of red, making it the most common colour for luxury brands.
The flipside to this is purple can damage your brand image, if used in the wrong context. It’s best used for brands that want to position themselves as prestigious and extravagant.
Lighter shades and tones can be used for femininity, to soothe and to calm – which is ideal for use in cosmetics and anti-aging products.