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Colour Psychology in Branding

Using Colour Psychology in Marketing and Branding

Colour Psychology in Branding
2 March 2021

Choosing a colour scheme for your business, logo, website, office, social media and even your office has impacts beyond just looking good. While the aesthetic of your business will attract customers, did you know colours can also communicate many different messages to different customers? The colours of a brand, social media post, or office can cause your customers or clients not only think certain things, but also feel certain ways, all without saying or writing a word- which makes colours a vital asset for your business! Colours can influence your audience through their emotions subconsciously, causing them to form an opinion or feeling towards your business- without saying a word! Therefore, it’s important to have a good understanding of how colours work together and for (or against!) you to ensure you don’t have an unknown liability in your business. While most of this is information your graphic designer or marketing team will be aware of, as a business owner its always good to have basic knowledge around all areas of your business. It also saves prolonged conversations with your designers if you’re stuck on using one colour but they are recommending avoiding the use of that colour. 

So when deciding on or changing your business logo, scheme or decor, here are some things to consider:

Colour meanings

Different colours have different meanings, and it’s important to be aware of them so you can choose the right colours to communicate the right message to your customers. 

One of the most popular colours used in marketing (right after blue) is red- it’s bright, it attracts attention, and it stands out from its surroundings. Red can mean a number of different things such as energy, anger, danger, or power, and using it strategically can communicate certain things to your audience. It can catch their attention and make them feel excited- when used with the right symbols. While red is an engaging and exciting colour, like the logo of Netflix or Coca-Cola, when used with symbols like skulls it can alert the viewer to danger. This is not to say to shy away from using a certain colour because of its different meanings, but rather ensure you look at the different aspects within your logo or branding to see how they work together create imagery that communicates all the right things to your audience.

Of course colours may have different meanings to people personally, for example one person may associate the colour blue with positive childhood memories while another may associate it with sad childhood memories. You can’t anticipate everyone’s memories or reactions to a colour, however by doing some research you can figure out what the general meanings for each colour are understood to be by general audiences.

Colour Associations

There are certain colours that are associated with certain movements, beliefs and lifestyles- and even behaviours, feelings values! For example, blues and greens can communicate the feeling of ‘coolness’ (as in temperature), while colours like yellow, orange and red can make the viewer feel ‘warmth’. Green is associated with the sustainability and health lifestyles, and white can make viewers feel clean, calm and uncluttered. Establishing a strategy of what you want to convey to your audience will help you then choose colours for your business and branding that communicates these messages clearly and effectively.

Colours can even be associated with countries! The packaging for Twinnings Australian Afternoon Tea does this well, and I remember being impressed when I first saw it. It has imagery of mountains, wildlife and grass in different shades of orange and yellow, representing quite accurately the look and feel of an average afternoon in the Australian outback- the warmth and glow of an Aussie arvo (this is not an ad). Twinnings in general uses colours well to represent the ingredients and ‘vibe’ of their teas, as does T2 Tea.

With packaging being an important factor in the purchasing decision-making process, knowing how and which colours catch consumers’ attention, generate positive feelings, and create attachment is a strategic move for a business. 

Demographics

One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing new colours is the demographic you are wanting to attract or communicate with- especially cultural demographics. You could do great, in-depth research on colours, their meanings and their associations, but if you’ve picked colours based on the wrong demographic, then all your research was for nothing! 

For example, as mentioned above, red is one of the most popular colours used, due to its brightness. It stands out and attracts attention. However in China, red is a colour for luck, while in South Africa it is a colour of mourning. Even more controversial is the colour yellow, which often represents happiness in Western cultures, but has significantly different (and negative) connotations in many countries! To learn more comparisons of different colours, check out this Huffpost article.

Also consider the capabilities and accessibility of your demographic. If your audience is an older demographic, then lots of colours may hinder their ability to see different aspects, such as text on a website. For teens, certain colours may be considered ‘childish’ as they start to want to be taken more seriously, so designs with deeper, more sophisticated colours would attract them more effectively. It’s important to ensure you have a clear business plan with an identified demographic in order to be able to pick colours and designs which communicate the right message to the right audience.

Industry Colours

It’s also good to consider your competitors and their colours- you want to stand out from them, and be memorable in your own right. Having unique colours, patterns and designs will help your audience remember you. When considering decor, it’s also important to consider why your clients are visiting you- for a children’s service, bright colours will engage them and help them feel happier. For a counselling service, calming colours will help ease clients, and certain colours can help fitness clients feel more energetic. This is were the room “Green Room” comes from. It’s a room were speakers or performers wait – once painted green or filled with green decor to calm the speakers with the cool tones.

As mentioned above, unique colours can help your audience remember you, such as the beautiful purple colour used by Cadbury (they even tried to trademark it a few years ago!) However sometimes competitors can succeed using the same colours, such as MacDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s both using red and yellow in their branding. As fast food outlets, these colours make sense for their industry as red and yellow are considered colours which make people hungry. While both brands using the same colours seems to go against being unique as competitors, they’ve still managed to build brands which are distinguishable between each other. 

So when choosing your new logo, product packaging or office colours, consider your industry and what your edge on your competitors is in order to develop branding that is memorable.

Photo by Smartworks Coworking on Unsplash

Using Colours Together

Finally, it’s good to have an idea about which colour combinations make the best impression and welcome the audience in- and don’t clash and repel your desired audience! As mentioned above, red and yellow are considered colours which cause people to feel hungry, so using both makes sense for fast-food outlets. 

By using bright colours with more demure colours, you can also bring attention to one aspect of your design. On social media this is an effective strategy to have your audience begin to anticipate certain messages from you- for example, if you are a finance firm, you may share some basic tips on your social media. By consistently using images or designs of a certain colour when you post these, your audience will know what colour to look for. However as much as you want a colour that stands out, you don’t want one that clashes with the rest of your social media aesthetic. Choosing a colour that pops but compliments the rest of your posts will keep your feed- and your branding!- aesthetically pleasing.

This article includes some great tips on how to ensure you use colours in the most beneficial ways. Design Wizard also shares some great, eye-catching combinations for you to consider.

Product photography for La Vi Lash by Vision Media Studio
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