The Psychology of Color in Marketing


As the great Pablo Picasso once said: “Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions”. Colors play an integral role in the way we perceive the world around us and are an important communication tool, therefore. They influence our mood and impact psychological reactions. 

That’s why we decided to look into the psychology of color in marketing, with researches having concluded that for 93% of customers, color is a primary reason why they make a purchase. So, buckle up as we dive into this fascinating topic and uncover the importance of color in advertising.

Psychology of Color in Marketing Explained

We often associate colors with specific moods. For example, blue is a calming color because we relate it to a peaceful lake or a calm sky, while red is associated with blood and fire. These perceptions aren’t much different from those of ancient Egyptians who studied the effects of colors and found out that blue soothes pain, while red increases circulation. 

Later on, Goethe and Schiller ideated a theory about colors and emotions called “rose of temperaments” where they matched 12 colors to human occupations or characters grouped in four temperaments: choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic. This is considered the starting point of modern-day psychology of color. In a way, it is also the foundation of marketing color psychology. 

According to a 2006 study entitled “Impact of Color on Marketing”, 62-90% of the subconscious judgment about a product within the initial 90 seconds is based solely on color. This is no surprise given that our brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than plain text. Also, studies have confirmed that color boosts brand recognition by 80%. Recognizing the importance of color and its impact on human behavior, marketing specialists have turned color into an important tool for influencing consumer perception. 

Color Psychology in Marketing: What Colors Mean

Different colors are associated with different psychological effects. The colors on the red end of the spectrum like orange and yellow are connected to warmth but also anger. The ones on the blue end are typically associated with calmness but also melancholy. Take a look at what colors mean in marketing, what are their emotional associations, as well as which brands and industries use which colors the most. 

Psychology of Color Red 

Red is one of the most powerful colors. It conveys a sense of urgency and calls for attention which is why brands mostly use it for CTAs or short-term deals. 

At the same time, red is a longstanding symbol for love and passion, making it connected to the heart which adds a layer of emotion. Brands that want to communicate excitement and energy capitalize on red. This color is also used to stimulate appetite, so many restaurants use it as their primary branding color. Dark reds and burgundy meanwhile conjure up a more sensual and luxurious feeling.  

The color psychology in marketing puts red amongst the strongest colors, so most brands combine it with softer shades like white to avoid pushing the customers into anxiety. So, unless you use red wisely, you risk crossing the line between excitement and aggression. 

Industries that use red: Technology, Food, Transport, and Agriculture

Top brands using red: Coca Cola, KFC, Nike, Colgate, Time, Red Bull, Netflix, CNN

Industries that avoid red: Finance, Energy, Clothing

Psychology of Color Orange

Orange conveys enthusiasm, confidence, and ambition. Less aggressive than red, it is typically associated with value and friendliness, and it appeals to impulse shoppers. That’s why companies focused on building brand loyalty prefer it. Orange can also be used to advocate creativity, cheerfulness, and excitement. 

Orange works best for getting customers to make instant decisions to buy or subscribe. That said, the youthful and playful feel of this color can make your brand feel cheap if you overdo it. If you’re targeting the luxury market, more subtle shades would appeal to upscale customers. 

Industries that use orange: Technology, Healthcare

Top brands using orange: Hooters, Home Depot, EasyJet, Nickelodeon, Harley Davidson

Industries that avoid orange: Clothing, Automotive, Finance, Energy

Psychology of Color Yellow

Yellow is associated with sunshine and light; therefore, it communicates feelings of happiness and joy. In the psychology of colors, yellow also stands for intellect, energy, and affordability. Thanks to its long-wavelength, yellow is highly visible and has stimulating and attention-grabbing powers. 

It’s popular with brands that sell cheerful products and services in industries like food, energy, and household. Brands that target the high-end market should use darker shades of yellow to convey a sense of antiquity and wealth. 

Industries that use yellow: Food, Household, Energy

Top brands using yellow: National Geographic, Hertz, DHL, IKEA

Industries that avoid yellow: Airline, Clothing, Automotive, Finance

Psychology of Color Green

Green is the color most associated with growth, nature, and harmony. It’s easy on our eyes, calming, and restful but also conveys a “go” feeling. Green is also among the most popular colors in marketing that resonate with both men and women and is proven to provide excellent conversion rates. 

In marketing, green communicates freshness, all-natural qualities, and health. It is preferred by organizations that sell organic food and beverages. Darker shades of green are associated with financial stability and luxury, while brighter nuances symbolize vibrancy and energy. 

Industries that use green: Food, Energy, Finance, Household, Technology

Top brands using green: Whole Foods, The Body Shop, Subway, Starbucks, Animal Planet

Industries that avoid green: Clothing, Airline, Automotive

Psychology of Color Blue

Blue is a universal favorite and one of the most used colors in advertising. It’s usually connected to productivity, calmness, and trust. Its dark shades meanwhile communicate trust and stability which makes it the perfect choice for healthcare organizations, financial institutions, and technology corporations. 

Its lighter shades are fresh and are usually used to market health and fitness products. Blue doesn’t work well in the food industries as it doesn’t evoke feelings of hunger or desire to eat. 

Industries that use blue: Healthcare, Technology, Energy, Finance

Top brands using blue: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ford, Visa, PayPal

Industries that Avoid Blue: Clothing, Automotive, Food

Psychology of Color Purple

The science of colors in marketing shows that purple is one of the most preferred colors by women. It blends the calmness of blue with the stimulation of red into a seamless balance that evokes bravery and royalty, as well as sophistication and luxury. Lighter shades of purple are related to femininity, sentimentality, and nostalgia. 

Color psychology in marketing also suggests it’s the perfect option for businesses that want to convey an imaginative or creative brand so it’s no wonder it’s widely accepted in industries like technology, healthcare (anti-aging and beauty products), and finance. It also works well for increasing the perceived value of a product or service; however, you should avoid pages that require urgency as purple is the color with the lowest CTA clicks. 

Industries that use purple: Technology, Finance, Healthcare 

Top brands using purple: Yahoo!, Taco Bell, Cadbury, Craigslist, Hallmark, Milka

Industries that avoid purple: Energy, Agriculture

Psychology of Color Pink

Pink is a symbol of youth, energy, fun, and confidence. In branding and advertising, pink can be seductive and sophisticated, as well as sensitive and sweet. Bolder shades of pink are vibrant and evoke a sense of confidence and passion. On the other hand, lighter shades relax customers. Pink is one of the colors used in marketing by clothing stores and brands promoting products and services intended for women. 

Brighter pink is used for trendy products that appeal to younger audiences while deeper pink shades are often related to businesses that market sentimental services and products. 

Industries using pink: Clothing

Top brands using pink: Victoria’s Secret, T-Mobile, Barbie

Industries that avoid pink: Energy, Finance, Healthcare

Psychology of Color Black

Commonly associated with elegance, power, and formality, black is used in edgier and more sophisticated designs. Although strong, black is still a neutral color which makes it great for using it on typography or other functional parts in the design to convey a sense of mystery, timelessness, and elegance. It’s a typical color in advertising used for luxury products in technology, automotive, and clothing industries. 

Industries using black: Technology, Automotive

Top brands using black: Mont Blanc, Jaguar, Channel

Industries that avoid black: Food, Agriculture, Healthcare, Finance

Psychology of Color White

White is the utmost symbol of innocence and purity. Mostly found in healthcare, white evokes a sense of cleanliness. In advertising, it’s also related to coolness, symbolizes freshness, and heightens the perception of space. Beyond healthcare, white dominates the clothing and charitable industries. In technology, it’s used to denote sleek and minimal style. 

Industries using white: Technology, Automotive, Clothing

Top brand using white: Asos, Ralph Lauren, Honda

Industries that avoid white: Finance, Food

Applying Psychology of Color in Marketing‍

Do specific colors drive us to choose one brand over another? Are we enticed to click on an icon because of its color? The answer is yes. But these actions aren’t unified. Namely, the same colors can have different effects on people depending on their gender, location, upbringing, values, and a number of other factors.  

Gender & Psychology of Color in Advertising 

A survey has found out that blue was the favorite color for both men and women. However, more specific answers have proved that women like softer nuances better and are more receptive to tints. Other than blue, women like purple and green but dislike grey, brown, and orange. Men meanwhile have been found to like bold colors and are more receptive to shades. Besides blue, they also like green but dislike brown, orange, and purple. 

Customer Types & Psychology of Colors in Marketing 

Colors can appeal to specific customer types. For example, red, orange, black, and royal blue tend to attract impulse shoppers. These colors are usually found in fast food establishments, outlet malls, and during clearance sales. The shoppers on a budget are mostly attracted by navy blue and teal which is why these colors are usually used in larger department stores and banks. Finally, sky blue rose, and pink is the colors that are most likely to appeal to traditional buyers. Such colors are most used by clothing stores. 

‍Psychology of Color in Marketing: Valuable Tips

Now that you know the color meanings in marketing, it’s time to make a strategy about successfully implementing them in practice. Here are several valuable tips that can help you decide on your marketing color schemes.

Know Your Audience

One of the most important things to consider when picking your branding and marketing colors is your audience and their preferences. Consider the gender you’re targeting—if you want to appeal more to the male audience, the psychology of color in marketing and branding indicates that you should use bold colors, but if your target group is female, you should go with softer hues. Think about the demographics and psychographics before you choose a color palette. Creating user personas can prove to be very helpful. A 20-year-old female that loves sophisticated beauty products will have different reactions to branding colors than a 60-year-old woman with grandkids. 

Consider Your Brand Message

You shouldn’t go with a certain color just because it seems the right move. Think about your brand’s essence and the message you want to convey. Do you want to be trendy or do you want to be trustworthy? The psychology of colors in business suggests that you should pick shades that align best with your brand history, personality, and market position. Customers want authentic brands so they would immediately note if something feels off. Try to find the right balance between the traditional and the surprising and include colors that people expect but also make your brand stand out. 

Analyze Your Competitors

If you’re advertising a bank, for example, you’d want to go with blue because that’s one of the most effective colors in marketing in the finance sector. However, you can’t just blindly follow the psychology of color in marketing because you risk getting lost in a sea of blue with all your rivals. So, before going with that color, study the colors and marketing used by your competitors and find a way to stand out. 

Mind Regional Sensitivities

You don’t want to come out as insensitive. So, take into account the region where your brand will be promoted before choosing colors. For example, red symbolizes love and passion in the West but is associated with evil in the Middle East. Similarly, yellow is cheerful in Western culture but symbolizes death and sorrow in Latin America. 

Build Brand Color Scheme

Taking into account the color psychology branding and all principles mentioned here, you should choose a color scheme. A contrasting color combination will help you distinct your brand from the competition and highlight the most important aspects of your brand. Consider doing contrast with dark and light colors — think white letters on a purple background. You can also do contrast with color hue. Choose between monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split-complementary, triadic, and tetradic-complementary color palettes. Another option is to play with color temperature or intensity to create a stark contrast. 

Test Your Strategy

Applying color psychology in marketing is helpful but you need to test your strategy to be sure it works. To determine the best colors for marketing your business, you need to conduct A/B tests. Consider the colors that haven’t shown negative connotations in the markets you’re considering and do another split testing for the two final colors. This test should give you a better idea about your optimal color that has a stronger positive response from your audience and resonates more with buyers. 

In Conclusion

Colors have the ability to conjure up powerful emotions. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll be able to make use of the psychology of color in marketing and make more informed decisions when crafting your strategy. Remember: only the right use of colors in marketing will prove to be beneficial in the long run.