Consciously or unconsciously, the colours that surround us affect our perception of things, our mood and our behaviour on a daily basis.
Marketing is no exception! In all aspects of design, from logo to website design, each colour influences the consumer’s perception of a brand and the values it stands for.
When used correctly, a colour can convey a specific message and generate different feelings. A colour even has the power to improve conversions by attracting attention and triggering the right emotions.
Understanding the psychology of colour in marketing means mastering a tool that can be used to optimise your brand’s visual identity, capture customers’ attention and improve the user experience.
See also our 11 tips for improving your website’s user experience in 2019
Of course, the link between colour and emotion is complex. The psychology of colour in marketing is not always an exact science, as colour meanings are the result of many factors:
In this respect, the first question to ask yourself when choosing a colour is: who is my target audience?
If you are aiming at an international audience, you will need to look at “universal” colour combinations. Indeed, what is perceived as positive by one culture may seem negative to another. For example, in the West, white is associated with purity and innocence, whereas in China it symbolises death. The meaning of a colour can therefore change dramatically depending on the country or part of the world you are in.
The gender of your target audience is also important to consider. You can use different studies to choose colours over others, depending on whether you are targeting women or men.
For example, women are more interested in soft colours and are receptive to shades. They generally prefer blue, purple and green and are reluctant to use colours such as grey, brown and orange.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to appreciate bright colours and are receptive to shades. They generally prefer blue, green and black, but are less fond of brown, orange or purple.
So you need to consider all of these aspects to find THE colour scheme that best suits the type of audience your marketing is targeting.
There are also wider factors in the perceptions of colour and the role it plays in purchasing decisions and brand image.
Many studies indicate that certain colours can trigger a range of emotions and behaviours associated with purchase. One study, for example, found that up to 90% of instantaneous product judgements are based on colour alone.
And, in terms of conversion rates, colour is just as important. A CTA (call to action button) with a colour that stands out from the rest of the site’s content could, for example, increase conversion rates by 11%, and add-to-cart rates by 6.5%.
Find more information about how to create a CTA which converts
There is also a link between the use of colour and customers’ perception of a brand’s personality.
Research results show, for example, that the perception of a company depends on the relevance of the colour used for the brand. In other words, the colour must be relevant to the product(s) or service(s) sold. This confirms that purchase intent is greatly affected by colours, because of the impact they have on how a brand is perceived. After all, who would want to buy a Harley Davidson motorbike if it didn’t look cool and rugged?
Other studies reveal that as consumers we prefer recognisable brands, which makes colour incredibly important when creating brand identity. It has even been suggested that new brands should specifically target colours for their logo that differentiate them from historical competitors. In other words, if the competition is using blue, you will stand out by using purple.
The context in which a company operates is therefore an absolutely essential consideration. Without this context, choosing one colour over another will not make much sense, and there is no evidence that using orange rather than pink will make people buy a product.
It is the feeling, mood and image that your brand creates that plays a persuasive role. So make sure your colours reinforce your brand image and the message you want to convey.
Remember that these colour symbols are only guidelines. The most important thing is that all your colours complement each other, create harmony and do not clash with the brand’s imaginary ideal shade.
Blue is one of the most popular colours in commerce. It inspires reliability, offers an air of freshness and encourages feelings of productivity, calmness, tranquillity and confidence.
Using blue for web and marketing:
The world’s largest social network, Facebook, has integrated blue into all facets of its site. The banner is blue. The logo is blue. Your friends’ names are blue. When you like something, the thumbs-up symbol turns blue. For a company whose core values are transparency and trust, this is obviously no accident. There is no doubt that Facebook leverages the sense of calm and security of this colour to reassure its users when they share their personal information.
PayPal, the platform through which billions of euros pass, has also opted for the colour blue to reassure people of its reliability.
No other colour commands attention like red, often considered the most effective colour for calls to action. Stimulating, intense and powerful, red is associated with passion, power and sometimes anger. It can be used for warnings or to signal danger, but it can also suggest urgency, which is why it is often used for clearance sales. Red is also known to stimulate the appetite and at the same time is often a symbol of ambition, boldness and authority. It can therefore have a strong impact on brand image.
Using red for web and marketing:
The primary colour in the design of the Coca-Cola website is red. The combination of grey and white gives it greater visibility. Coca-Cola’s promotion of happiness through its famous slogan “Savour the moment” goes perfectly with red, which evokes feelings of excitement and energy.
Green is the colour of relaxation and tranquility. It promotes feelings of rejuvenation, optimism, growth, harmony and calm, which is why it is often used in shops to help customers relax while shopping. Green is also the colour of wealth. Wealth in the literal sense – money – and also, of course, the wealth of nature. Many companies use green to emphasise their commitment to the environment and respect for the planet.
Using green for web and marketing:
Carlsberg, a Danish beer brand, uses a strong and elegant green colour for its design and marketing, which is meant to relieve stress, suggest freshness, nature and love for life. It gives the impression of a clean and relaxing experience.
Yellow is often considered an energising and optimistic colour. From the earliest times, it has been associated with the sun and is therefore psychologically associated with warmth and happiness. But it is also the most tiring colour for the eye. Yellow can be disconcerting and should be used sparingly. In more subtle shades, it can suggest yellowed parchment and can therefore also be associated with caution, wisdom and curiosity.
Use of yellow for web and marketing:
The website dedicated to the 24-hour video clip “Happpy” by Pharell Williams is an excellent example of using the colour yellow to promote a joyful and animated user experience.
The famous McDonalds red and yellow combination is not a coincidence: it is intended to provoke excitement in children and suggests a touch of madness.
Purple is associated with elegance and sophistication. It conveys wealth, power and royalty and gives the feeling of being unique. It is also a colour that stimulates the mind and invites contemplation. Purple should be used with caution, however, as some shades can have the opposite effect and look a little cheap.
Using purple for web and marketing:
Monster.com uses purple to give the visitor the feeling that the site is trustworthy and, above all, authoritative.
Vibrant, energetic, friendly and welcoming, orange is a more balanced and less “overwhelming” colour than red. It attracts attention, but emits a sense of warmth as opposed to urgency. It communicates ambition, enthusiasm and confidence.
Use of orange for web and marketing:
Amazon uses orange in small ways: in the logo, the search bar and the call-to-action buttons. The site is an excellent example of using a colour to highlight important features without overwhelming users.
Pink suggests feelings of fun, tenderness and romance. It is a reassuring and soothing colour, especially associated with youth and femininity. Playful and soft, it is reminiscent of chewing gum and innocence. The effects of pink can vary according to its intensity (light, deep, strong, etc.)
Using pink for the web and marketing:
It is impossible to think of the colour pink without thinking of the Barbie doll, which plays the card of a return to childhood, femininity and romanticism.
Associated with the earth and nature, brown inspires relaxation and calm. While it can sometimes seem lacking in boldness, it is also an elegant and pure colour that can suggest authenticity, reliability, stability, comfort and piety. Brown can also whet the appetite (chocolate!).
Using brown for web and marketing :
Nespresso uses different shades of brown in small touches on its website to create an elegant, natural and cosy experience that stimulates the appetite.
Although black is not technically a colour, it is undoubtedly one of the most elegant shades. Versatile, timeless and classic, it blends well with all other colours. Black is associated with authority, mystery, depth, darkness and power. It can therefore be intimidating, but can also create a sense of sophistication. Be careful not to use it for call to action buttons, as they may go unnoticed.
Using black for web and marketing :
Dior uses black to signify luxury, to communicate glamour, sophistication and exclusivity. Objective: to make people understand that the brand is a serious value.
White reflects light, so it awakens the eyes. It is associated with organisation, equality and, more commonly, purity and innocence. It is also associated with cleanliness, simplicity and newness.
Using white for web and marketing :
The abundant use of white space is a design feature to create an airy experience and a sense of freedom. Take for example the most popular site in the world: Google. The search engine uses mostly white.
In both your marketing and website design, it is unlikely that you will use just one colour.
Taking into account the psychology of colour, and the impact of each colour on your customers, you will then need to consider how the secondary colours match the main colour you are using.
With this in mind, you should take care to mix your colours correctly. There are three basic methods you can use to help you:
Whichever method you use, it is recommended that you limit your colour scheme to no more than two, three or four colours.
As a general rule, each colour used should appear in several places on the website:
Where a brand already has a logo, one technique is to extract a colour from it, and use it in navigation paths, hyperlinks, and then use another colour from the logo for the background, headings, etc. Repeating the colour is a sure way to give a brand a unified and consistent visual identity.
It is also ideal to use neutral colours (white, black, grey, brown, beige, etc.) for the background, as they work well with almost any colour scheme.
The punchier or more ’emotional’ colours can then be used for certain important elements of the website, such as CTAs or navigation tabs, to make them stand out through the isolation effect (also known as the ‘Von Restorff effect’) which proves that we remember things that stand out better. In colour psychology, this isolation effect occurs when an element, such as a conversion step, is the only element of a particular colour.
In conclusion, colour is an essential aspect of a brand’s visual identity, which should match its overall personality.
Colours help to create a specific mood and environment for your customers, whether it’s a bright red to evoke a sense of urgency, or a purple for sophistication. Just keep in mind that your colour choices should reflect your company and your products.