Color Psychology in Branding and Marketing

In a world full of color, it’s something we often take for granted. We don’t always realize how much color impacts us and creates an instant impression within the mind. This blog will explore the meaning and psychology behind color choices in branding and marketing.

What is Color Psychology?

When you stop and break it down, the brain processes color faster than perhaps anything else. This is one reason we make stop signs red and construction signs red-orange. If they were brown, like the road signs for recreational and cultural interest sights, they would be far less attention-grabbing and wouldn’t convey the urgency of their purpose.

Color signals brand meaning.

In branding, experts use color to signal characteristics, influence mood and provoke reactions. You will notice nothing about the brand faster than you notice the colors used consistently throughout their sign, logo, physical site and website.

Within American culture, some of the basic color meanings include:

  • Red – passion, anger, rage, energy, action
  • Orange – excitement, creativity, friendliness, warmth
  • Yellow – value, worth, happy, positive, sunny
  • Green – life, potential, nature, growth, money, fresh
  • Blue – loyal, dependable, serene, knowledge
  • Violet – royal, rich, unique, imaginative, luxury
  • Black – strength, sophisticated, powerful, mystery
  • White – innocent, ethereal, calm, powerful, clear, pure
  • Brown – earth, grounded, practical, logical, reliable

And, while these colors may have a strong meaning to us, that meaning is often very much based on personal feelings, data and experiences. While white is often a color of purity, power and clarity in Western countries, it is considered a color of mourning in many Eastern countries.

So, to truly choose the right colors, you will need to know your audience.

How Color Psychology Impacts Branding and Marketing

There are a number of ways color is going to impact your brand. These are the reasons it is so important to choose colors that truly represent the meanings you want to convey in your branding.

Sets the tone for your brand personality.

Every brand should have their own approach to customer service, product creation and business development. Your brand’s personality helps establish your “why” that appeals to your audience. When the audience starts to see the underlying motives for what drives your brand, they will form a deeper connection.

Resonates with your target audience.

There are certain colors that are just attractive together. The right color combination will be something your audience can appreciate. Will they want to wear your branded t-shirt or carry around a promo bag/mug/pen from you? If the answer is “no, not really,” then you need to rethink your brand. The right color combination and design will make your brand much more appealing, which helps you create brand fans and advocates.

Can help differentiate your brand.

Most brands do not want to be confused for their competitors. The right colors will help clarify your differences. In some cases, knock-off brands very much DO want to be confused for the brand they are emulating, hoping to snag some of the original brand’s unsuspecting audience. This isn’t good business practice and will be a huge legal problem if the initial brand pursues it as a trademark violation for purposely confusing customers.

Evokes subconscious emotions and feelings.

Color creates an instant opinion within your mind. Before you read the company name, examine the logo symbolism, read any marketing copy or take a look at any products, the colors used have made an impression.

You can use color combinations to make your audience feel safe, excited, motivated, inspired, confident and more. You can also use color to help convey brand characteristics, like money-saving, quality, exclusivity, fun or focused.

Impacts conversions, purchase decisions and customer loyalty.

Based on how your customers feel about your brand, they will either stick around or be pushed away. Visitors that don’t find your site appealing will bounce in seconds. Web visitors will either immediately feel interested in what they see on your site, or they decide it isn’t what they thought and back out. In a less measured way, the same thing will happen with your physical store’s sign, your interior space and your promotional items.

Colors can provide unexplainable feelings of confidence and clarity in how we feel about the brands around us. You need to create the kind of branding that influences those conversions, purchase decisions and customer loyalty in the right way.

How to Choose Your Brand Color Palettes

Choosing the perfect brand colors can be tricky. The right colors need to be eye-catching and communicate important things about your brand. Most brands will choose a limited palette of 1-3 colors, though some will choose a larger number of colors (especially for gradient features).

Look at the competitions choices.

It’s very important to know what other brands are doing within your industry. By looking at their color palettes, you can start to get a feel for what you want to use in your own branding. Choose different color combinations to differentiate your company and explore different areas of the industry.

You may start to realize there is a gap you can fill where you can reach an untapped part of the audience. This may help you determine what colors you want to use to convey that you are the right brand to offer that angle to better fit their needs.

Consider the color meanings.

Not only do colors have meaning on their own, they also have meaning when they are combined with other colors. You’ve already looked at the list of meanings according to common American color psychology, but now check out examples of how those meanings change when the colors are combined:

  • Blue/Red (Pepsi, NBA, MLB, NFL) – American, brave, proud, bold, solid
  • Blue/Yellow (IKEA, Goodyear, Chiquita) – positivity, potential, confidence
  • Green/Yellow (Subway, Sprite, John Deere) – value, money-saving, earth-conscious
  • Yellow/Brown (UPS, Cracker Barrel) – dependable, reliable, down-to-earth
  • Yellow/Red (Sonic, Lays, McDonald’s, Wendys) – speed, high energy, driven
  • Red/White (Coke, CNN, Target, Adobe, Pinterest) – modern, enticing, daring, passionate

There are so many more color combination meanings. If you aren’t sure about the one you are considering, check to see what other kinds of brands are using a similar combination. Do they have a strong appeal with your target audience?

Choose contrasting colors.

Your colors need to be eye-catching. If the colors are too similar in their tone or shade, it may be very hard to make out your logo or various aspects of your design. Use colors that will pop when they are placed next to each other.

And, have options. Not all backgrounds will be white. Consider your plans for when your logo is placed on a background that could make it difficult to see. What happens if your logo is placed on white, black or a solid color that is in the logo itself? Have one or two color variations (like B&W) to prepare for how your logo will be used on certain backgrounds that don’t complement your typical color palette.

Shift hues and tones to test.

Muting or increasing vibrance will change the meaning. So, play with the colors you choose by shifting the slider to get slightly different effects.

  • If you mix in brown with any color, it becomes a more earthy, natural version.
  • Adding white creates a color tint that is more friendly and sweet.
  • Vibrant colors portray confidence and boldness.
  • Dark colors (tints) can be edgy, mature and more geared towards adults.
  • Bright colors can communicate fun, energy and innocence, appealing to children.

Choose the Colors Right for Your Brand

Don’t just settle on the first color that comes to mind. Test out your colors with your logo design to find the perfect combination for your brand. With the right colors, you can communicate a lot about your brand and attract your target audience. Your colors can help your logo be more noticeable and memorable.