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The power of color psychology in branding

Jan 19, 2022 | Branding

Color psychology is powerful, particularly in branding. 

The most famous brands that you can think of: McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, UPS all have distinctive colors that are synonymous with their brand. But why did they pick these colors? Well, because of the psychology of color. Our lives are full of color, and each shade, hue, and print can affect our psyche in quite predictable ways. For example, blue is quite often calming, white is often associated with simplicity, and red is powerful – to name just a few. Now, many brands choose their brand colors to evoke emotions and utilize the psychology of color. They want you to constantly associate their brand with these thoughts and feelings, draw you to them, and ultimately make a purchase. 

This blog will be all about the psychology of color and how to utilize its power in your branding. Selecting your brand colors is not just about your own personal preference and what you want to represent. Instead, it’s about tapping into the psyche of your consumer: your brand needs to reflect who you are, what you represent, and how you will portray this to your target audience. 

What is color psychology?

In the most simple of terms, color psychology is the emotional and psychological connotations of color and the mind. Different colors tend to affect our minds in different ways, which we associate subconsciously either through learned psychology or our own personal history. For example, your favorite color might be yellow because your moms’ was – and it subconsciously reminds you of her. White might be more calming to you than others because this was the color of your childhood bedroom: colors are very personal to us, though they also have significant meanings in general. 

However, while colors can be personal, certain emotions are traditionally reflected in different colors. It is this that brands capitalize on. For example, bedding companies might rely more on blues and whites, as these are typically associated with calmness and simplicity. My brand for example uses purple, which represents imagination, creativity, and individualism. This makes sense because I am a strategic brand designer, so I wanted my colors to reflect my message. We’ll delve deeper into colors and their significance in the rest of the blog – some brands and their messaging might both surprise and interest you!

How do we know that color psychology is important in branding?

Studies have proven that brand colors influence a consumer. In fact, according to Web FX, 84.7% of consumers cite that color is the primary influence in their decision to buy a product. And, 80% think that color would be a reason to increase recognition in a brand. 

Let’s delve deeper into one of the world’s most recognizable brands: Coca-Cola. Their brand color is red. Red is known to evoke strong emotion and increase passion and intensity. But, did you also know that it also increases appetite? It’s clearly clever marketing that a brand renowned for its beverage has chosen this color to represent the brand, particularly when it then owns another 200 beverage companies! Similarly, McDonald’s is a food company, with brand colors of red and yellow. Now, we’ve just looked at what red does to the mind, but what about yellow? Yellow increases cheerfulness and optimism while also being bright enough to grab the attention of passers-by. (Source: Web FX) When these two work together, it’s no wonder that McDonald’s boasts a net income of 4.75 billion USD per year!

What are the different colors and their meanings?

Colors mean different things, and our mind interprets these meanings. Colors can affect our mood, which means that it’s important to be aware of both the positive and negative connotations of a set color. Make sure to consider any context and culture when observing the colors – one meaning to you might be entirely different to your audience. 

Now, let’s explore some different color meanings and how you can use color psychology in your branding.

Red

Red is traditionally associated with passion and power. It initiates a decision-making process within us, which is why it’s used on stop signs, traffic lights, and sale items! Also, it increases appetite, which is why huge food and beverage brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s use it for their brand colors. However, you’ll also see it on Netflix, Target, and so many more due to its association with other powerful emotions. 

The color red also represents: Passion, Power, Sexual, Action, Stimulating, Energy, Love, Desire, Courage, Protection, Money, Luck.

Ester Fried business card mockup
Red is the primary brand color for my client Ester Fried, a soulmate coach.

Orange

Orange is a color that is synonymous with enthusiasm and encouragement. It’s a really happy color, and you’ll find it in a lot of brands that focus on enthusiasm and excitement. Interestingly, orange is associated with impulsive spending, which is why brands like Amazon use it for their colors. Other brands like Harley-Davidson, Fanta, and Nickelodeon all use the color orange in their branding. 

The color orangealso represents: Encourages, Enthusiasm, Emotional, Connection, Compassion, Creativity, Inspiration, Courage, Confidence, Friendliness, Success, Grounding, Healing

Haley Web Design Mockup
Orange is the primary brand color for my client Haley Johnson, a copywriter and marketing strategist.

Yellow 

Yellow increases cheerfulness, warmth, and stimulates the nervous system. It’s utilized in marketing by showing clarity and encouraging passers-by to make a purchase. It’s used in McDonald’s, Shell, and DHL, to name a few. 

The color yellowalso represents: Inspires, Creativity,  Amuses, Energizes, Positivity, Opportunity, Cheerful, Warm, Happy, Intellect, Bright, Intellect,  Spontaneity, Awareness, Energize, Perky

Green

Green traditionally symbolizes money and the environment. In marketing, it’s used to represent wealth and relaxation, which makes sense for brands like Spotify, and Starbucks. It’s also used in 7/11, Tropicana, and Xbox. 

The color greenalso represents: Growth, Harmony, Balance, Reliability, Fertility, Kindness, Nurture, Peaceful, Calming, Earthy, Peace, Relaxation, Hope, Prosperity

About page for entrepreneur and author
Green is the primary brand color for my client Patrick Charles Thornton, an entrepreneur and author.

Blue

Blue is traditionally used in corporate companies because it is non-invasive and productive. That’s why you’ll see it at Walmart and on Facebook! Blue represents calmness and peace and normally is associated with water. It’s a consistent color for humans because of the sky and the sea, so it’s a relaxing color to use with brands.

The color bluealso represents: Imagination, Intuition, Freedom, Self Expression, Inspire, Trust, Wisdom, Honesty, Loyalty, Security, Intelligence, Tactful

Blue is the primary brand color for my client Angelo Law Firm.

Purple

Purple is traditionally thought of as a luxury color because it was used for royalty and the upper class for many centuries. Nowadays, it’s more of a connective, imaginative color representing guidance and wisdom. Brands like Yahoo! And Hallmark use this color for their brand. 

The color purplealso representswith: Spirit, Power, Luxury, Purity, Enlightenment, Guidance, Leader, Visionary, Wisdom, Inner Strength, Connection, Sensitive, Mystery.

How can I use color psychology in my branding? 

Your brand colors can reflect your marketing and messaging for your niche audience. Who are your ideal clients? Who do you want to attract? What emotions do you want to evoke when they come across your page? For my brand, I chose purple as my primary color. I explained why above, but I’ll go into it again here. 

It’s important to convey to my ideal client that I am imaginative, creative, and innovative for my branding and web design business. Purple helps communicate that. So my ideal client will subconsciously associate this message with my brand color when visiting my site and seeing my work, which will mean that they are more likely to connect with my business. Hopefully, they’ll feel called to reach out and we connect further! 

You can utilize color for your brand by choosing what messaging and connection you want with your ideal client and selecting colors that reflect that. Whatever your brand is, you will be able to find the right colors to align your messaging on all fronts. 

The human mind is a powerful thing. This is shown by its association and recognition of different colors. Color psychology is an incredibly useful tool when considering your marketing strategy: you can subconsciously connect with your ideal client further by selecting the right colors. It’s used by top brands worldwide with incredible success, and it can work with your business, too.

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Steph Corrigan Design Blogger

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BRAND AND WEB DESIGNER + FOUNDER

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