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What is the psychology of colour?

Have you ever wondered why a business has chosen a particular colour for its branding? It may be simple enough to understand why Nickelodeon uses a fun, eye-catching and brightly coloured brand, but it's not as immediately obvious why the Facebook logo is a deep shade of blue.

Well, we have some answers to these questions!

Have a browse through our handy slides below to gain a better understanding of the psychology of colours and take our quiz to determine which colour is best suited to your brand.

Colours can have a powerful mental and emotional effect on individuals.

There are no universal truths to the emotion or response one colour can evoke – rather its impact will often be subjective.

The effect a colour has is largely dependent on personal experiences or larger societal influences.

However, we are able to make certain generalisations regarding some colours and the specific emotions that they evoke – or even the influence they have on customer behaviour.

The psychology of colour is based on the meaning of colours and the effects that certain colours are perceived to have.

By gaining an understanding of how colour affects customers and brands, marketers can use colour to persuade, engage with and relate to their audience.

How can colour influence your customers?

Customers make snap decisions about products and colour can play a big part in informing that choice.

Is your logo colour related to your service and does it have the desired effect on your target audience?

There are some commonly noted psychological effects related to certain colours.

Answer the following questions to find out which colour is best suited to your brand.

Q2. What feeling should your branding evoke?

Q3. Your customers should associate your brand with...

Blue – the world’s favourite colour

Blue symbolises trust, serenity, quietness, freedom, logic, intelligence and balance and helps to create a sense of security. This is ideal for the professional services sector, as it is vital to a business' success that their customers feel confident in their ability to deliver a heavily relied upon and complex service.

Over the last decade a new trend has emerged, as more of us turn to the Internet in all areas of our lives – including networking and shopping. It has therefore become increasingly important for online businesses to instil the same trust in their customers – particularly with regard to data protection and online security.

This is evident when we look at the companies who use blue in their branding, and consider why the colour might be a useful tool for their business success:

Green – everybody likes a green brand

Green symbolises nature, growth, money, envy, freedom, harmony, comfort and relaxation. The colour has positive associations such as universal love and re-growth – which is possibly why it is attractive to so many people.

A cool shade of green, such as that which sits between blue and green on a colour chart, is ideal for producing a calm and peaceful environment.

Green has become synonymous with eco-friendly and the active support of sustainable living in society. As a result, a large number of brands incorporate the colour into their branding in order to appeal to and relate to the vast demographic which is concerned with energy and environmental efficiency.

Brands that use green include:

Orange – we all have a soft spot for this cheery colour

Orange symbolises happiness, energy, independence, motivation, warmth and enthusiasm. It is a bold and stimulating colour that can quickly stir up a range of emotions, causing the audience to become irritated or hostile if overused. However, orange is also an extremely warming colour that is most often associated with energy and confidence – making it ideal for a cheeky and spirited brand.

Orange exudes friendliness and confidence; it is the perfect colour for brands that are playful and associated with having fun, while it can also add warmth to an otherwise hard-faced brand. Take, for instance, the motorcycle manufacturer, Harley Davidson. It wouldn’t be product appropriate for the logo’s dominating colour to be orange, yet against the black background, it is a fitting addition.

Purple – favoured by women, ignored by men

Purple symbolises art, creativity, justice, wealth, wisdom and respect. The combination of red and blue can create an effect falling somewhere between serenity and stimulation, giving the imagination a kick-start. Purple can also be used to soothe and calm and, as a result, is often used in the branding of anti-ageing and beauty products.

However, getting purple right can be tricky. Too much can quickly appear tacky – a little goes a long way. As the colour of royalty, purple can be used to give your brand a touch of luxury and sophistication. It is often used by brands in creative, media, digital, luxury and beauty industries as purple is recognised to have such a diverse effect on audiences. For instance, the search engine Yahoo! has a very simple purple logo, conveying that the brand is imaginative, creative and youthful, yet simultaneously one to be respected by customers.

Brands that use purple include:

Red – men like it, women love it

Red symbolises power, passion, love, excitement, danger, energy and intensity. It is an extremely emotional colour and can therefore be a particularly influential one. Red is bold and usually used by brands that are assured, confident and wish to portray their vitality to customers from the beginning. Studies have revealed that bold colours such as red and yellow have the ability to stimulate the customer’s emotions. For instance:

  • Red increases the heart rate, can make reactions faster and creates a sense of urgency, which is why it is so often used in sales messages
  • Yellow is optimistic, friendly and youthful. Strangely, it's also been shown to increase appetites

The fast food chain McDonald’s uses these two colours to great effect. However, overusing or misusing bold colours can be detrimental, as red is also recognised to reduce our ability to think analytically and can have a poor affect on athletic and academic performances.

Brands that use red:

White – no one’s favourite, but we use it anyway

White symbolises sophistication, innocence and cleanliness and creates a sense of space. However, while it is used more frequently by modern brands for its clean and sleek appeal, too much of a monochromatic look can cause people to reflect on their own thoughts and even become distracted from the task at hand due to a lack of stimulation.

If used well, white can give a brand the same sophisticated and exclusive edge as black, without being taken too seriously. White evokes a sense of balance. It is clean and neutral in keeping with an elite or luxury brand’s need to appear glamorous yet charming. White is clean and calm – perfect for upmarket brands that are selling a lifestyle.

Brands that use white include: