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Color psychology: strike the right (color) tone in your marketing

Color psychology explains the associations that colors trigger in us.
Image: © ghazii / AdobeStock

More clicks, conversions, and sales from the psychological impact of colors

It is already evident how color psychology can be used even at an early age. The educators at a daycare center got the children there to try three drinks in different colors. The kids responded to one of them without any particular emotion, they loved the second one, and the third disgusted them so much that they spat it out into the bowl placed in front of them. Spoiler alert: all three drinks were the exact same apple juice, only that they were colored differently. Today, this psychological effect of colors has been widely researched and numerous studies have been conducted. Marketers, advertisers, and designers tap into this phenomenon in their work, for example for their:

  • Logo design
  • Corporate identity
  • Packaging design

Another example demonstrating the power of colors comes from interview coaches, who recommend that applicants dress in certain colors depending on the industry, company, or region. In direct sales, outfits are also chosen for the psychological effect of their colors. Red and royal blue, for example, are meant to encourage impulse buying in customers.

Besides this, companies pay close attention to the color design of their packaging and displays. In many production facilities, the color tone of these items is digitally inspected. If there is a deviation in hue, even if the nuance is not noticeable to the human eye, the packaging is sent back to the manufacturer. That shows just how highly experts value the psychological effect of colors on the subconscious.

90 %
of our purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. They are triggered by emotions arising from various factors – including colors.

What color psychology tells you about your target group

The effect that colors have on your potential customers is wide-ranging. They trigger emotions and feelings, awaken expectations, and evoke associations. They can determine the rise or fall of your campaigns.

If you want to use color psychology to successfully position your brand, you should first identify your target group. Research their gender, age, culture, and region.

Then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What colors fit in with my target group?
  • What colors fit in with my product?
  • What emotions do I want my product to trigger, and what colors will achieve that?

Specific colors have been used for certain target groups for decades. You only need to walk down the aisle of a drugstore to see that products for men are mostly dark blue and those for women are either light or bright pink.

Color psychology and color symbolism: associations, effects, and uses

When your target group attributes certain characteristics to colors and when colors give rise to certain associations or expectations in your target group, this is what scientists call color symbolism. Where and when you use a particular color is a factor that shouldn’t be underestimated when designing your ads and products. But which emotions are aroused by which colors?

Red color psychology

Red is stimulating, activating, exciting, and warming – but it is also seen as a warning, alarming, and aggressive. It is often used symbolically for blood and love as well as eroticism and seduction. Some other positive connotations are power, fire, a zest for life, dynamism, will, and vitality. In marketing, it is frequently used to highlight discounts or low prices. Red is also used to warn against danger. Eye-catchers and CTAs are often designed in red.

Examples of brands: Deutsche Bahn, Sparkasse, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, YouTube, Oracle

Blue color psychology

Blue makes you happy if you believe an old VW ad. That might be because it is supposed to be calming, cooling, and harmonious. Symbolically, it stands for coolness and water. Other positive associations are calmness, friendship, sympathy, level-headedness, objectivity, neutrality, clarity, security, empathy, and loyalty. In advertising, blue is used to suggest trust and integrity. It is therefore a popular choice for insurance firms and banks.

Examples of brands: Allianz Insurance, Facebook, Ford, LinkedIn, Dell, Nivea, Volksbank

Yellow color psychology

Maybe it’s because the sun is often symbolized using yellow that this color is thought to increase concentration, lift your mood, and even promote optimism. It also suggests creativity, light, a zest for life, joy, maturity, success, power, warmth, growth, openness, curiosity, and spontaneity. Yellow is also frequently used to advertise gold. Especially on dark-blue backgrounds, it creates a strong contrast for eye-catchers and CTAs.

Examples of brands: ADAC, Deutsche Post, Netto discount supermarket chain, Ikea, McDonald’s

Green color psychology

Green has turned its image around over the years. While it used to be associated with poison, it is now mainly used in the context of environmental awareness, naturalness, or purity. Green is organic, organic is green. Freshness and health are also often symbolized using green. The color’s psychological effect is also calming and relaxing. Other positive connotations are hope, youth, liveliness, tenacity, prosperity, freedom, and security.

Examples of brands: Bio Company, Beck’s, Heineken, The Green Party, Android, Xbox, Spotify, Starbucks

Orange color psychology

Orange is supposed to be mood-enhancing, exhilarating, balancing, uplifting, and appetite-stimulating. It also stands for conviviality, energy, warmth, joy, transformation, liveliness, vigor, and tenacity. Only in recent years has it been used more in marketing, for example to market products and services for children. Orange is also often used to suggest that the item being advertised is affordable.

Examples of brands: Fanta, Sixt, easyJet

Purple color psychology

Balancing, regenerating, calming, and conducive to concentration are the effects associated with purple. It often represents supernaturalness. Sovereignty, originality, magic, fantasy, unusualness, luxury, and nostalgia are also evoked by it. Purple or violet are often used in advertising to emphasize creativity or innovation. Since many people associate it with magic and fantasy, it is also used for fantasy publishers or books.

Examples of brands: Milka, FedEx, Yahoo, Monster

White color psychology

White has a refreshing and pure effect. It thus often symbolizes simplicity, coolness, refreshment, or perfect purity in advertising. It’s no coincidence that doctor’s coats are white. Other associations are innocence, wisdom, divinity, peace, certainty, and honor.

Examples of brands: Apple

Black color psychology

Black is ambivalent. Although it comes across as quite oppressive or menacing and symbolizes nighttime, darkness, mourning, and death, it is nonetheless frequently used in marketing to advertise technology, quality, luxury, professionalism, or experience. Particularly when advertising luxury items, black works well because it is associated with dignity, elegance, and luxury.

Examples of brands: Amazon

Have you found the right colors for your target group, your product, and the emotions you want to trigger? Ideally, your answers will point you to one clear result. If you still have several colors to choose from, decide which effects matter to you most and focus on the corresponding colors when designing your campaign.

If you’re creating ads for various countries, keep in mind that these colors may have a completely different meaning in more distant corners of the world.

All eyes on you with the right choice of colors

It pays off to extensively analyze your brand, industry, product, and campaign on a color psychology level. When you consider the multifaceted psychological effect of colors, it will have a positive influence on the success of your marketing.

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Saskia Spiske
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