Using certain colors in marketing may not always provoke strong, specific emotions that translate to action. However, most research agrees that color can have a subtle effect on mood. From designing advertisements to creating atmosphere, it is helpful to keep in mind that each color is known to elicit a unique psychological response.
Define Your Brand
The color that represents your brand is often the first thing people see. Immediately, the audience judges whether the colors are appropriate for the products being sold. For instance, you will rarely see fast food restaurants with black or white logos – fast food companies want to convey optimism, accessibility and a sense of urgency that promotes quick decisions. Five Guys, Chick-fil-a, Taco Cabana and countless other fast food chains use bright, warm colors. Black and white would convey exclusivity and calm, which is not the ideal message for these brands.
Branding goes beyond choosing the right colors. Consistency is key. Which mobile network is represented by magenta? Which one uses complementary orange and blue? You probably know the answers. Not only does constant reinforcement make a business more memorable, it builds a sense of trust and reliability.
Color contrast is a simple yet effective tool to highlight important content, from brand presence to signs promoting specific offers. The greater the difference between the colors you use, the more your message stands out.
Not only does contrast emphasize what is important, it also makes a design visually engaging. Pairing a color from the warm half of the color wheel (reds, oranges, yellows) with one from the cool half (blues, greens, purples) is an easy way to create a memorable color contrast. Harmonizing colors (those adjacent to one another on the color wheel) can make an underwhelming impact when a point needs to sink in.
Aside from designing logos and advertisements, you can use color to develop ambiance. There may not be enough decisive research on color perception to support crafting your whole business atmosphere around these principles. However, a few widely recognized associations and common color sense can help you get an idea for what subtle splashes can do for your space.
Color can promote response. Spas use calming colors like soft blue and green because they are viewed as restorative and calm. Non-abrasive, natural palettes help clients slow down and decompress. Inversely, red is known to increase the pulse and heart rate, and is believed to promote action. While red couches and dark walls might be counterproductive in a spa, they might be the perfect finishing touch for a nightclub.
Ikea uses literal arrows and pathways to move shoppers through every area of the showroom and ultimately to the registers. Colors have a subtle yet similar power. They can act as a guide, even in small spaces. Using calm colors can motivate people to slow down, peruse, and absorb. A conservative burst of urgent color at the checkout point may help drive decisions.
See How to use Color Psychology to Give Your Business and Edge
for more information on how color choices can shape your business environment.
Reach a Specific Audience
Because colors have heavy cultural connotations, you can tailor your advertisements to appeal to a specific niche. Black is heavily used to convey luxury and drama, and is perfect for advertising watches, makeup and cars. Green appeals to the eco-minded. Bright colors and pastels are used to sell products for children, instilling a sense of trust in parents and grandparents while capturing kids’ attention.
Socio-economic status, age, gender, education and even geographic location can play a role in determining which colors we prefer. While individuals with less education tend to prefer primary and secondary colors, highly educated individuals prefer complex, tertiary colors. Those who live in warm areas may be more partial to bright colors, while people in cool climates often prefer subdued shades. The more you know about the customer you hope to attract, the better you can use color to market your business as well as specific products and services.
Keep an Open Mind
Always keep in mind the influence of particular colors on emotions, but be open to shaking things up. Part of the reason these colors have such a profound psychological effect is that their norms are consistently reinforced. Pink is generally perceived as a feminine color in most western countries today. However, in early 20th century America, pink was sometimes viewed as a “boy color” because it is more assertive and strong. Blue was seen as delicate and soft and more fitting for girls.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and attach your own implications to colors. Imagine more drinking water and healthcare companies bringing green or yellow prevalently into the mix. Perhaps our views of blue and white as colors of cleanliness would be less exclusive. Picture a young girls’ clothing company expanding their repertoire to include richer, darker colors along with the typical bright purples, pinks and lime greens. Could this potentially alter fluid, culturally-inspired perceptions of “girl colors?” Or would it go up against what many believe to be a built-in gender preference?
In an industry dominated by black, white and gold, Tiffany’s claimed distinction by choosing to be represented by a dainty pale blue. This color, described as forget-me-not, is even known as Tiffany Blue. Burt’s Bees is a more everyday example: as a maker of earth-friendly health, beauty and personal hygiene products, the company could have easily chosen a fresh green or a woodsy brown to represent it. Instead, it chose a cheery honeycomb yellow and bright red.
Choosing colors to represent your business is about striking a balance – predicting the emotions you can make consumers feel while still setting yourself apart. If everyone capitalized on the basic rules of color psychology, surprises and attention-grabbing logos would be rare. However, ignoring those rules completely could result in giving potential customers the wrong impression.
There are many color symbolism theories
relating to our natural and cultural associations with colors. But the most important consideration is reflecting your business. Whether you play around or play it safe, you can’t go wrong if you feel the colors you use in creating your advertisements and ambiance mesh with your personal vision.