Remember the photo of ‘the dress’ that emerged in 2015? It was an internet sensation that had the world torn, with some people believing that the dress was black and blue and some swearing blind it was white and gold. It seemed that everyone was talking about it, and if we hadn’t found out that the dress was in fact black and blue, some of us would still be making a strong case for it being white and gold!
Of course, the reason some saw the dress differently to others was down to how our eyes perceive light and colour. Which got us thinking about our perception of colour, particularly in advertising, where certain colours work to stimulate certain emotions in consumers. As ‘the dress’ proved, colour can have a powerful effect on our visual senses, which is why it’s so important to utilise it when it comes to marketing your business.
Whether you’re in the midst of refreshing your brand identity or you’re looking to promote your latest campaign, colour should always be at the forefront of your design. Not only does it help to influence how your target audience feels about your brand, but as 90% of consumers admit that colour and visual appearance are their primary reasons for purchasing (as stated in the study Impact of Colour), it can also compel your audience to take immediate action, which is great if you’re selling tickets to an event or promoting your new product line.
To help you get a better understanding of the effects of colour in marketing, we’ve broken down all the ways in which it works to evoke feeling, influence mood and solidify your message…
Colour in Branding
Think about a brand that you love. Setting aside the products they sell or the purpose of their business, what is the first thing that springs to mind when you imagine the brand? We’re guessing it will be a certain feeling, whether that be trust or excitement, optimism or serenity. What you may not realise is that whatever emotion you’re feeling when you think of that brand is often influenced by the colours used in their logo or on their website.
According to the study Exciting Red and Competent Blue, colours greatly influence how customers view the personality of a brand, and as additional studies have revealed that our brains prefer brands that we recognise immediately, the relationship between brand and colour is key when creating a brand identity.
When it comes to choosing a colour that ‘fits’ your brand ethos, it helps to know which colours are associated with what feelings. Psychologist and Stanford Professor Jennifer Aaker carried out a study on this very subject entitled Dimensions of Brand Personality. In the study, Aeker highlights that five core dimensions play a role in brand identity and as the image below shows, each dimension can be paired up with a colour that best embodies it.
To get a better idea of what Aeker discovered in her study, we’ve highlighted the traits that are commonly associated with each colour and the brands that wear their colours loud and proud…
Red is a stimulating colour that’s associated with courage, strength, energy, passion, excitement, urgency and masculinity. There’s also a touch of defiance to the colour red, which would make it great for a company that sees itself as rebellious, innovative or revolutionary.
Well-known brands that use red in their logo:
BBC, YouTube, Virgin, Netflix, ESPN, KFC, Pizza Hut, Coca-Cola, Levis, Heinz, Budweiser, Pinterest, Lego, Nintendo.
Blue is a hugely popular colour for corporate companies, tech companies and banks as it’s often linked to trust, intelligence, efficiency, duty, logic, stability, composure and dependability. It’s no wonder that it’s also the primary colour used by the police force.
Well-known brands that use blue in their logo:
LinkedIn, Microsoft, American Express, Halifax, Barclays, Samsung, Panasonic, HP, Facebook, Twitter, Tiffany, NHS.
Yellow is most often associated with optimism, self-esteem, friendliness, creativity and emotional strength. It also has the benefit of being attention grabbing, and can lift our spirits and remind us of summer and warmth.
Well-known brands that use yellow in their logo:
Ikea, McDonald’s, Schweppes, Ferrari, Nikon, Post-It, IMDb, Stanley, Selfridges and Co, JCB.
Green is the perfect colour to use if your brand has environmental elements or if you’re an advocate of good health. Common traits symbolised by green include balance, relaxation, restoration, awareness, peace, health and refreshment.
Well-known brands that use green in their logo:
Starbucks, Land Rover, Holland & Barrett, Holiday Inn, Tic Tac, Specsavers, Aveda, Greenpeace, Harrods, Reformation.
Purple is a colour that often represents luxury, vision, authenticity, quality, awareness, spirituality, wisdom and imagination. So if your brand has a luxurious aspect to it or a creative identity, purple is the ideal colour to use.
Well-known brands that use purple in their logo:
Cadburys, Hallmark, FedEx, Yahoo, Asprey London, Zoopla, Taco Bell, Milka, Aussie hair products, E4.
Orange is known as a friendly colour which promotes value, warmth, comfort, sensuality, security and fun. If you want to promote yourself as a company of good value, a bright, bold orange is best. If you want to appeal to a more upscale audience, Entrepreneur.com suggests a subtle, peachy shade.
Well-known brands that use orange in their logo:
Nickelodeon, Nike, Hermes, Harley Davidson, Orange, Amazon, B&Q, RAC, Sainsbury’s, Easy Jet, Penguin.
Pink is a versatile colour that can evoke feelings of joy and playfulness while also representing romance and delicacy. It’s a great shout to use pink if your brand personality is tranquil, warm, feminine, fun, youthful, bold or edgy.
Well-known brands that use pink in their logo:
Instagram, Victoria’s Secret, BBC iPlayer, Baskin Robbins, Very, T-Mobile, Dunkin’ Donuts, Soap and Glory.
Brown is a colour that often represents warmth, nature, reliability, earthiness, seriousness and support. If your business uses brown as part of its brand identity, it suggests that you’re stable, wholesome, approachable and dependable.
Well-known brands that use brown in their logo:
Hershey, M&M’s, UPS, Louis Vuitton, Magnum, Fossil, Graze, Galaxy, Nescafe, Timberland.
Black is most associated with business, luxury, sophistication, status, drama, glamour, security, efficiency and quality. This is perhaps why a lot of designer and upscale brands use it for their logo, and why it’s the go-to for premium services such as American Express’s Black Card.
Well-known brands that use black in their logo:
Yves Saint Laurent, WWF, Hotel Chocolat, Guinness, Adidas, Mercedes-Benz, Toni & Guy, Chanel, Uber.
By using white for your logo, you’re showing the world you have nothing to hide. It alludes cleanliness, hygiene, transparency, efficiency, sophistication, clarity, style and simplicity. This makes it ideal for the likes of tech businesses, skin care brands or clinical companies.
Well-known brands that use white in their logo:
Apple, The White Company, Celine, Cocowhite, Asos, Boxed Water, Triangl, Reiss, Sensodyne.
Colour in Advertising
If you want to make your audience feel a certain way, the answer may lie in the colours you use in your marketing. Colour has the power to change a mood. For example, if you’re trying to spread awareness for a charity, you can aim to make an emotional connection with your audience by not only using hard-hitting imagery, but by choosing a colour such as black or grey to emphasis a feeling of sadness, heaviness or vulnerability. If you want to advertise a sale or get people into your restaurant, red is the ideal colour to use as it encourages appetite and creates a sense of urgency. Purple is great for promoting the beauty industry or a spa deal as it helps people feel calm and relaxed, putting them in the mood for a luxurious pamper session. Warm colours such as yellow and orange can help make your audience feel optimistic and cheerful, which makes it an ideal choice for advertising a new line of clothing or a Zumba class.
Interestingly, colour perception can also vary depending on gender. Studies have shown that women usually prefer softer hues while men opt for bold, bright shades. Furthermore, an experiment by Joe Hallock found that women tend to lean towards tints (colour with white added) whereas men prefer shades (colours with black added)…
As we mentioned earlier, the study Impact of Colour states that 90% of impulse purchases can be based on colour alone, so by advertising your product using an appropriate colour, based on either gender or message, you’re increasing the likelihood of turning a prospect into a customer.
When it comes down to it, everyone interprets colour differently. However, knowing which colours help to support your message will not only make a huge difference in how a consumer reacts to your brand, but more importantly, how they remember your brand.