When it comes to advertising and marketing for any business, you may not realise how important colours can be to show off your brand. You may not notice it at first and you may think I’m talking riddles, but when you actually take a second to think about it, it all makes sense.
For example, you’re less likely to see brown associated with fruit, such as berries, as it’s more of a sign of mould, instead, you would see red, pinks and purples. Or, if there were two activity barns for children and one had a sign that was bright greens and yellows, and the other was grey and black, you’d most likely take you child to the bright one because those colours are associated with youth and fun. To keep it short-and-sweet, this is the psychology of colour in the making.
Why colours are important in advertising and marketing:
Getting the colour of your brand right for your business is so important as this is another way of communicating with customers or clients on a more emotional level. This is because colours speak to us in a way that words can’t. When we see something, the colour is the first thing our brain observes before anything else. People make a subconscious judgement about a product, business, environment or person just within the first few seconds of seeing or meeting them. This is why colours can have a powerful impact on decision making.
Take a moment to think about some of your favourite products or brands. What is their dominant colour? Is their logo mainly blue like Oreo and Pepsi? Or do you prefer the colour pink like Pink Victoria Secret or Barbie? Maybe green is your preference like Heineken or Animal Planet. Colour can actually be the main reason that someone has purchased a particular product. It is said that about 85% of people claim colour as the main reason when they make a purchase and 93% focus on visual appearance.
Psychology of colours in advertising and marketing:
Each colour has its own list of associations that link with it, and within the advertising and marketing industry, you can take full advantage of this. We’re going to go colour by colour, talking about what each one can be associated with.
Blue is usually considered a very masculine colour, however that isn’t all that it can be described as. Here are a few more associations:
Blue can be a great choice for any healthcare or medical brands as it gives a sense of healing and calming. You wouldn’t see many medical brands having black as there colour as it’s a colour that has less trust. Another business where you may use blue, for example, is a pilates studio. This is because it emphasises the tranquility and relaxation that their customers experience.
Green is another calming colour and can be warm and inviting. It can denote health, goodwill and gives you a feel of friendliness with nature and the environment. It is also a very down to earth colour and can represent new beginnings. A few more associations include:
Mostly when you think of green, you think about the environment and anything that’s eco-friendly, organic or associated with organic recycling. It can also be linked to businesses such as tree surgeons or gardeners. Green could also be linked to spas as customers would expect it to be a soothing, calming day.
Purple is a colour that relates a lot to royalty and wisdom. It’s a colour that you may respect over other more ‘childish’ colours. It can also be related to leadership and richness. Here are a few more associations for purple:
As well as purple relating to royalty, it can also be a colour that links with mystical and mysterious places, maybe even futuristic. This colour could link in with gaming companies that sell VR headsets, or games that make the player feel like they are in a futuristic time zone. Purple could also represent women and femininity as females tend to prefer purple more than men. This may be because purple has been used to promote some powerful women’s causes, such as International Women’s Days, which has a purple logo.
As we know, red is a very attention-grabbing colour. As well as this hot, vibrant colour being used as a warning for dangers such as fires, it can also be used for love and passion. These are a few more associations of red:
The first thing that people link red with is love. So any dating company, whether that’s a physical dating service or just an online dating experts page, red would be used as it can be described as sexy and intimidating, as well as passionate. This could also link in with perfumes or aftershave products such as the Polo Red and Red Rush Fragrance by Ralph Lauren. Using red in the adverts between a male and female promotes a sexiness and excitement that comes with purchasing that product.
When we think of orange, we think of a cheerful and friendly colour. Orange does have a few cross overs with red, such as warmths and high energy, but it also has a few of its own associations, such as:
Orange is a great colour to use for anything relating to the younger generation that promotes playfulness and excitement. For example, the TV channel Nickelodeon has orange in their logo and brand colour. They would have used this colour to symbolise energy, youthfulness, joy and fun. If you heard of a new tv channel for children that was brown or black, you may not be as interested in it as if it was orange or maybe yellow.
We know yellow best as a happy colour. Yellow can link in with a few of oranges associations as they are very similar in what they symbolise. Here are a few other associations with the colour yellow:
There are lots of businesses that use the colour yellow in their logo and branding. Yellow seems to appeal to the child in us, that’s why it links with happiness and creativity, as well as it being bright, and stands out. Thats why you have many brands such as Lays, Subway, Mcdonalds, Snapchat and Pokemon using yellow in their logos. However, there is one associations that stand out compared to the others. Yes, yellow can be linked to danger, along with red. This is because yellow can be associated with fire, war warnings, cautions and can seem negative. However, this can work for brands that want to be noticed, but in a way that says ‘Caution!’ Or ‘Aware!’.
As I said earlier, blue is a very masculine colour, but here we have the opposite with a very feminine colour and that is pink of course! Pink can be a difficult colour to use in some cases as it is mostly associated with females, however it can represent gender equality in some views. However in the advertising and marketing industry, pink can also be associated with:
There are a few types of businesses that would use the colour pink, such as beauticians. As beauticians are based more towards females (even though males are always welcome) they would use lighter colours such as pink and purples as they are upbeat and girly. Another one may be bakeries and this is because they’re sweet, just like the cakes they may sell. Also, pink can be used as a colour of defiance, rebellion and innovation because of its ‘safe’ connotations. For Example, pink is used on Victoria’s Secret and The Breast Cancer Research Foundation Logo. This can lead to females feeling like they have more power and control.
Many people think that grey can be quite a dull and boring colour, which in some cases it can be, but that is only if it is used incorrectly. As grey can link with professionalism, using it with the correct advertising and marketing strategy, it can work. Grey can also stand for:
A business could actually use grey to stand out from the crowd, and yes, that may sound crazy, but let me explain. If you are a clothing brand for young children, most of your competition would have a brand with bright colours such as blues, pinks and yellow. But if you were then to have yours as grey, it would stand out from the bright colours. It may then also be classed as very unique to a children’s clothing brand. Also, if you had a billboard advertising a product, having the main colour as grey with a small pop of colour will help your product stand out.
Black could be classed as another dull colour, but it is actually quite bold and powerful when it comes to branding and logos. Here are some associations with the colour black:
Black is quite a cool and modern colour but it can also be dark and creepy. However, as it can be a powerful colour, many brands that sell gym wear use black in their logo, such as Nike and Adidas. As it’s powerful, that makes gym-goers challenge themselves to be a better and stronger version of themselves. As this colour is also seen as sophisticated, that leads onto why brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and Calvin Klein use it as their logo colour. A well designed logo with a simple but effect colour can go far in some cases.
The colour white can be classed as a blank slate. A fresh start. A new beginning. Couple white with another simple colour and you’ll have a very elegant brand design. Some other associations of white can be:
With logos and brand designs, white is usually used with another colour to connote with what the business is trying to sell. For example, as white is quite a cold colour that reminds you of snow, if you then used it was a light blue or pink, that could be used to colour an ice-cream van. Also, many businesses whether they are completely new or want their brand updated, white may be used to show the the business as having a fresh start. White can also be a sign of equality, neutrality and implying fairness.
Brown is a colour that has been used for generations in the adverting and marketing industry. It has been around for years and will be around for many more years to come. Some other links that brown has in the adverting and marketing industry are:
Brown is a colour that not every business can get along with. This is mostly because you aren’t going to see a 5 star hotel or a sophisticated spa with brown in there logo or on their branding, as some say brown is a dirty colour. Instead you’re more likely to see this colour for a gardening supply store or on products that are for your garden. However, brown can have some positives other than just being related to dirt. This is because there are some things in life that we love that are the colour of brown, such as chocolate, coffee and some dark beers. These brands may have some brown on their branding to show that it is simple, but also trustworthy.
Colour meanings change by culture:
As important as it is choosing a colour for your brand and business, it’s not just about picking a colour that goes with your products, for example pink for girls toys and green for gardening products. You also need to take into consideration your target audience’s cultural background. Even though we have gone through multiple associations for each colour, in some cultures these links will be different. Here are a few examples of what this means:
In countries such as North and South America and Europe, red means love and passion. It is also used as the main colour for Valentine’s Day with red hearts. However, in China red is represented as luck and fertility. Women often wear red on their wedding day to symbolise fertility and the change in their life. On the other hand, in African cultures, red is associated with death and grief and in Nigeria and South Africa, violence and sacrifice.
For a colour that can be described as warm and cheerful, in some cultures is has a seriously negative meaning behind it. In France, yellow is associated with weakness, betrayal and jealously and that’s why the French used to paint traitors and criminals doors yellow. On a different level, in many African nations, yellow is used only for people of higher ranks as it is closely related to gold. Egyptians also relate yellow to gold and that is why they paint mummies and tombs this colour to symbolise mourning of the afterlife.
Whilst you may think that blue is a very masculine colour, in China this is the opposite as blue is considered feminine. In many Middle Eastern countries, blue is associated with safety and protections well as being linked to spirituality and heaven. Also, in many Latin America Countries blue is a sign of good health, in Judaism blue is associated with holiness and in Hinduism it is the colour of Krishna who was the most worshipped Hindu god as he destroys pain and sin.
Colours expanding your message:
I’m hoping now you have a better understanding of the psychology behind colours in the advertising and marketing industry. Showing you that it isn’t just about picking your favourite colour to use for your brand, it’s much more than that. Using colours in a strategic way will work out better and help express your message to your audience in the way that you want. In reality, there will always be someone that doesn’t like that specific colour or the mix that you’ve put together, on the other hand, other people will love it. It’s all just about taking into consideration what you want your message to say and who your target audience is (as well as trying to have a bit of fun with it).