Color is an essential element to design and marketing.
People instantly recognized color palettes and match them to famous brands or products. We may not think about this, but color has a lot more power over us than we give it credit. Have you ever been in an environment which was particularly calming? Or have you ever been shopping and felt the urge to buy that new product on the shelf? A big factor to both of those situations is color psychology.
“Color psychology is the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior.”
Colors have direct correlations with different emotions and meanings. Red for example is linked to very strong and dynamic emotions such as lust, anger and pain. Many large companies spend lots of money investigating color psychology as they understand color is a powerful tool to send a message to potential customers without saying a single word.
In this post, we’ll go into the basics of this idea, it’s practical uses and what you can do to take advantage of this knowledge.
Warm & Cold colors in marketing
Looking into color psychology, we see that two categories of colors are most commonly used due to their psychological effects on individuals: Warm and Cold colors. Let’s go over each grouping and examine real world applications of these color combinations to understand how they effect people.
Colors such as red, yellow and orange are know to have variety of emotions attached to them ranging from warmth, lust, hostility and anger. Have you ever thought to yourself:
‘Why do so many fast food places use red in there logos?’
This warm color is very stimulating to people since red has one of the longest wavelength on the light spectrum; which is why we see it immediately. It’s also not surprising that red is commonly associated with the feeling of hunger. On top of that, we usually see yellow as a complementary color in fast food logos such as Burger King, In-N-Out and Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. Alongside yellow’s association with warmth and friendliness; on the light spectrum it’s the most visible during the day. Using both of these colors sends the message that this establishment is a nice place to eat. Since the color combination is synonymous with fast food, the customer immediately understands what type of restaurant the logo is associated with and what type of eating experience they’re to aspect.
All of that information is quickly and effectively explained to the customer with only two colors.
Colors like green, blue and purple are heavily connected to emotions such as calmness, trust, tranquility and sadness.
Let’s look at another “surprising” connection between companies and color. When looking at tech companies you will notice a pattern; a lot of them have blue as their dominate logo color.
Blue has one of the shortest, highest-energy wavelengths on the light spectrum. Though it’s the strongest colors in the light spectrum, we consider blue to be the less threatening. This color is most commonly associated with calmness, confidence and trust. On top of that, blue is recognized as being a professional and business savvy color. A good example of this color association to business is LinkedIn, a business and employment oriented social media platform.
What color does it use for it’s logo? Blue.
When dealing with companies that are providing you services, you as a customer will most likely not fully understand the inner workings of how the business works. You need to be able to trust that a business knows exactly what they’re doing. The uses of blue in a logo is to directly tell people:
‘Hey, we know what we’re doing here and you can trust us to provide a great quality product/service.’
Color meanings: Defined
Now with a better understanding of how powerful and extremely useful colors are in marketing, let’s take a look at common emotional responses and adjectives that are linked to different colors.
Let me quickly add here that this list and this post in general is a beginners guide to color psychology. The meaning of colors can instantly change when you start playing with different shades, tones and color combinations. These factors can affect what the colors end up meaning; so just keep that in mind.
Colors in the context of culture
We must keep in mind that there are variations in interpretation, meaning, and perceptions of color between different cultures.
For example, in western society we use black to symbolize death and mourning which is why everyone who attended a funeral will wear black. However, in eastern societies this is not always the case. In the 1950s, Pepsi changed the color of their vending machines in Southeastern Asia from dark blue to light blue. This caused sales to quickly plummet. In the aftermath, Pepsi did extensive research to find the cause of there huge sales drop. They quickly learned that within that culture light blue is heavily associated with death.
So before creating anything, make sure you know the context of different colors within different cultures. Otherwise, the results might be devastating for your business.
Using color psychology to your advantage
As designers and marketers, we must be able to convey a message to our potential customers that connects with them enough to make them want to purchase our product or service. Using color psychology is another tool in our arsenal to do just that. Here are a few tips next time you are thinking about colors:
Know what type of business you are/what product you’re selling
Since many colors already have linkages with different types of industries, consider adding that color to your product or company logo. Are you a dentist? Then maybe the best colors to choose are a mix of white and blue since not only do these colors help explain your business environment but similar businesses use those colors. However, don’t take that as ‘do what everyone else is doing’ since you still need to stand out from competition.
Match adjectives to your business to find the perfect colors
When trying to figure out what colors you should use, look at your business or product and put adjectives that best define the mood and message you want to convey. Let’s use the dentist example again. If you have a dentist practice that caters to children, you’ll want them to feel that your practice is fun and friendly. Knowing those adjectives, you can link them to warm colors like yellow and orange and use them to best convey that information to parents. Doing this simple task can find help you find the right colors to use to attract your customers.
Understand that different people and cultures see colors differently
As previously stated, before deciding on any colors fully understand who your potential customers are. Color association and preference can be affected by the gender of your audience. True Colors Infographic discusses a study into male and female preferences when it comes to color. In this study, data showed that women gravitate more towards soft colors/tints of color whereas men preferred bright colors/shades of color. Knowing your customers will help you make the best decision to increase the chase of getting their business.
The right colors equal SALES! So make it count
How Colors Affect Conversion Rate tells us two important facts:
- Colors increase brand recognition by 80%
- 90% of people make their decisions about products/service solely through visual elements.
As people, we make judgments almost instantly and if the visual element of your business can’t attract customers, it’s highly unlikely they will come back. So make you color selection count.