Colour is a rhetoric that pierces through the visual faculty. It is laden with power to affect mood and by extension, people’s behavior. Colours are often used as psychological tools to make people think, feel and act which makes it valuable in the field of marketing and branding.
For sure, there are various factors that influence how consumers behave. But undeniably, colours and their intensity play a significant role in increasing a user’s interests of a product and encouraging the purchase decision of a potential buyer.
How Colours Affect People
In western countries, Red is always associated with Clearance Sales. Blue is almost never used in restaurants and fast-food chains. While anything organic and earth-friendly is green.
Psychologist have conventionally classify colours between Warm and Cool colours.
I. Cool Colours
Colours within this classification are commonly associated to anything with high proportion of blue or green and has a peaceful, calming effect. Violet, green, purple, teal are just some examples of cool colours.
II. Warm Colours
These group of colours are those that are commonly related to yellow and red. Colours classified as warm are often associated with optimism and strong emotion such as happiness, passion and urgency.
In the colour wheel, the conventional classification looks like this:
Although the distinction can be subjective, these colours are used by industrial designers. For example, colour red is the top choice for road signs, ‘Hot Surface’ signages, or anything that evokes great danger. Yellow are commonly seen in warning signs, caution lines and police lines. While for anything environmental-friendly or natural, green is always the winner. There’s a reason why certain colours are used for specific purposes.
Colours and their Common Use in Marketing
Researchers have created a diagram that could show meanings in a spectrum of colour that can be regarded as universal overcoming cultural biases.
This colour is positively associated with elegance, power, sexiness, exclusivity and sophistication. While black also negatively indicates gloom, sadness or danger. Most brands that dominantly use black in their logos target the adult market. Johnnie Walker does this perfectly. Other luxury brands like D&G, Chanel, Prada and Dior also greatly incorporate black into their marketing campaigns.
Blue is all about peace, tranquility, dependability and honesty. Because of the many positive traits associated with this colour, no wonder it is the most liked colour in the world.
It is often used by organisations that need to establish trust as key part of their brand identity. Example of these brands are tech moguls like Samsung, Intel, Asus, Dell, IBM, HP, Windows, GE. In the field of health and medicine we have Pfiszer, Unilever, P&G, Oral-B etc.
On the other hand, blue is least associated with restaurants and cafes because it is known to curb appetite.
Energy, excitement, speed, urgency, passion.
The colour red is also a favourite among advertisers as it can easily catch the attention of consumers. It induces a sense of importance and urgency, hence the favourite colour for danger signs, clearance sales and discount promotions.
Ever wondered why McDonalds, KFC and Wendy's are dominated by the colour red? It is because appetite can also be simulated using this colour.
Some of the positive attributes associated with yellow are happiness, joy, cheerfulness and optimism. There are researches that show yellow being associated with cheapness which is why marketers often use this colour to draw impulsive buyers and window shoppers.
Major brands that leverage this positive vibe includes Nikon, Shell, Yellow Pages, Schweppes, and Renault to name a few.
The Orange colour is used by major brands like Fanta, Blogspot, Gulf, Penguin Publishing, Nickelodeon to pose an identity of being fun and playful yet confident and optimistic.
Another popular use of this colour is to stimulate appetite. In effect, orange can be widely seen in food product labels or restaurant logos.
Alongside with yellow, orange tops many surveys as the most closely associated with inexpensiveness.
The colour green is perfect to induce relaxation and feeling of freshness. Stores that want customers to feel fresh and relaxed like spas, restaurants and health related stores unanimously use this colour.
Power, tranquility and growth is also associated with green thus it is also a sign of wealth and abundance. Brands that use green to evoke freshness, relaxation or tranquility are Animal Planet, Starbucks, Lacoste, Holiday Inn, Heineken and Tropicana.
Purple & Violet
This colour signifies luxury, royalty, respect and spirituality.
Brands who want to provide their target audience a sense of luxury often make use of Purple & Violet. An industry that apparently makes great use of this colour are beauty and anti-aging products. Hallmark also aptly uses the purple colour in their logo.
Example of other brands that use purple are Asprey London, Yahoo, Tarte Cosmetics and Aussie.
Conservative, outdoor, security, and reliability. This can be the least stimulating and inviting colour and blatantly, brown is commonly used along with green to symbolise nature.
As it allude rawness and nature, brands that commonly use brown are coffee shops, outdoor gear products, leather and handmade brands. Example of these are Ups, Louis Vuitton, Figaro and old Starbucks Logo.
Meanings of Colour are Culturally Linked
Using colour for digital marketing should be well-thought and carefully planned. This is because the psychology of colours is also largely culturally driven. Other cultures might associate a different meaning for a specific colour. It is probable that a colour that evokes positivity for one culture is a colour for negativity for the other.
For western and American people, happiness is closely associated with yellow, but for the Chinese, happiness is colour red. And while the western world sees black as the colour of death, for asians like Hindus and east asians, the colour of death is white.
Colour preferences also vary for different genders. In a scientific study by Joe Hallock, similarities and differences in favourite colours are evident between men and women. For men, the least favourite colour is yellow and brown, while white and grey are for women. Blue is the favourite colour for both men and women. This result is backed by a 1940 study that says blue is predominantly liked by men.
How do Colours affect Conversions?
Buyers heavily depend on what they see. As many marketers would say, Pictures Sell! However, it isn’t just the picture that sells but the colours used also affects the buying decision of the viewer. Researches have pointed out the weight of visual appearance and the important role of colour in selling products:
- Research tells that 93% of customers focus on the visual appearance of a product or business offering.
- According to kissmetrics, 85% of shoppers consider colour as the primary reason for buying a particular product.
- A product has to appeal to customers within the 90-second period of initial presentation.
- 90% of judgements made about products is based on colour alone.
In various experiments, it was found that by changing the appearance of call-to-action buttons, a business is able to increase sales. In one case study, a European ecommerce site is able to reap 35.81% increase of sales after changing the CTA from blue to green. In another instance, a sales increase of 6.39% was recorded after Ript Apparel changed their CTA from complementary black and white button to green.
- There is no definite rule when choosing a colour for a brand. Just remember, colours should match the product and the brand personality that you want to build.
- A good practice is to run A/B testing when considering to apply colour psychology in your digital marketing campaign.
Meanwhile, it is interesting to explore how major brands used colour in creating and marketing their brand.
How Major Brands used Colours in their Websites
The brand logo of LinkedIn is Blue which has been used by many company to present an identity of reliability and honesty. But in the site, we can see that high contrast of black and white along with shades of gray are predominantly used. High contrast creates a more serious and professional vibe to users.
Blue is used as an accent colour for the site’s dashboard to make it coherent while yellow-orange is used for the Call-to-Action buttons.
Lacoste has already established its brand identity across the world. The open mouthed green croc is a trademark that is easily identified by consumers. They used high contrast of neutral colours such as white and black which gave their site a highly sophisticated design.
The colours of ebay resembles that of Google and Microsoft Windows, but vary in vibrancy and saturation.
In the Ebay website, they used red in high proportion for promoting their products and deals. The other colours promote diversity and openness which matches the personality and nature of ebay as a business: it offers wide range of products for all kinds of buyers.
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