Branding / Design

How to Use Colour Psychology in Marketing


What is colour psychology?

Colour psychology is a branch of behavioural science that looks at how colour affects the brain.

Colours exert a surprisingly strong influence over our behaviour. How many times have you been drawn to a product because of its colour or the colour of its packaging? What about when you land on a website?

Even before you read a word of the copy, your brain has registered the colours, made assumptions, and processed emotions: all based on those colours.

It’s worthwhile taking the time to understand colour psychology and apply the principles to your own branding and marketing efforts.

Colour psychology in branding

A lot of marketing and branding is about making people feel something.

It’s not enough to say your message in words. Images and colours are just as important in conveying your message and triggering desired emotional responses in the brain.

Don’t just say it. Make ‘em feel it.

“Emotions affect decisions. Decisions affect conversions Conversions affect revenues.”

Part of your brand and marketing strategy should involve creating a buyer persona, and working out their pain and pleasure points.

Distill that information further, work out exactly which emotions you’re trying to trigger, and use that information to help you choose your colour schemes.

It’s also important to take into account the cultural background of your target market and be aware that different cultures may have different associations with different colours.

A perfect example of this is the colour red: in Western cultures, the colour red can represent passion, love, lust, or even anger. In Chinese and Indian cultures, on the other hand, red is associated with good luck.

So while there’s no hard-and-fast rule about which colours work best, you can make informed decisions, then go ahead and run some A/B tests to confirm which options work best for you.

Different color represents different meaning in psychology
Note: This is based on Western culture associations.

Colour psychology to optimise your conversion rate

Want to increase your conversion rates by leveraging the power of emotions? Try changing the colour of your CTAs.

When it comes to CTAs, bright colours have been found to be the highest-converting colours. Thing reds, yellows (ahem Amazon), green, and orange. In Western countries, green has the added connotation of ‘go’ (like traffic lights) and safety.

Avoid dark browns, greys, blacks, and purples for your CTA buttons, they’ve all been found to have lower conversion rates.

This is a fascinating deep dive into the reasoning behind button colours.

Colours and how to use them

Here’s a quick overview of associations with particular colours:

Red: power, passion, anger
Red is the most stimulating and attention-grabbing colour. Great to use for important notices and warnings. If you’re trying to stimulate and incite your viewers to action, go ahead and use red. Just be aware it can also be associated with anger. If you’re trying to create a calm, reassuring environment, red might not be your best choice.

Orange: energy, excitement, friendliness

Yellow: happiness, warmth,
Yellow is an extremely versatile colour, depending on the shade you use. Bright yellows are energising and exciting, middle shades of yellow can be comforting, and darker shades can convey wisdom and antiquity.

Green: environment, growth, go, wealth
Green can be used to create a balanced feel – relaxed and calm, but still alert. Depending on the shade, it can imply environmentalism, or wealth. Because of the traffic light association, it can also be an encouraging ‘go ahead’ colour.

Blue: reliability, safety, trust, calm, or sadness
Ever heard of ‘security blue’? It’s that shade of navy blue used by countless corporations and (Facebook, PayPal, ANZ Bank. IBM), and countless businessmen in suits. Light blue can be friendly, while darker blues can be quite somber. In some contexts, it can relate to depression or sadness or ‘feeling blue.’

Purple: fun, luxury/decadence, mystery, royalty
Lighter shades of purple are often associated with romance and flirtatiousness, while deep shades have connotations of luxury and royalty.

Black: sophistication, power, luxury, evil
Black is almost always used as a supporting colour. It can take on the feel of any of the other colours and depending on how it’s used, can either be neutral or quite dominant. It can also evoke strong feelings of luxury, and is often used by high-end brands to give an air of sophistication.

White: clean, virtuous, simplicity
Often associated with purity and innocence, it’s also used as a neutral background as it draws the least attention to itself and best accents the other colours used.

This is just a quick overview. If you want to dive deeper, check out this chart.

So. Now you understand the power colours can have, and have some ideas about what each colour can mean.

When you go and start applying this to your own business, don’t pick a colour just because you think it looks nice. Choose a colour because it’ll help your business achieve its goals – and test, test, test!

PS – if you want to read more about colour psychology in different cultures, check out this in-depth piece from Web Designer Depot.

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