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Colour is a very important aspect of the world we live in, and has a powerful effect on people. Different shades can alter actions, influence thoughts, communicate information, evoke certain feelings and even have power over decisions people make, which is why it is so often found in marketing and advertising. The average human can see around one million colour shades[i], and every single one of them has a different meaning that can play a part in our mood, feelings and thoughts. Advertisers are able to use this to their advantage, cultivating their products and marketing campaigns to entice their audience and elicit a positive response.
But what is colour psychology? And how exactly do advertisers use colour to sway their audience? Today, we have everything you need to know about the psychology of colour, what the most common colours mean, how advertisers use colour, and how you can use colour to your advantage in your own advertising – so let’s get you started.
Colour psychology is the study of how different colours affect human behaviour and their subconscious. The aim is to establish how the colours we see affect our everyday decisions, like the items we buy, the companies we buy from and the websites we visit. The colours of all of these things do have power over our choices when interacting with them because different colours evoke different emotions and responses in the brain. If the colour of a website logo induces happiness, for example, your subconscious is more likely to encourage you to click on it. Colour psychology is widely used in advertising but also has an effect when used in everyday things, like clothing and décor.
Each colour has a different meaning, and it’s this meaning that effects what we associate that colour with. Using colours to evoke the right emotions has been proven to have the desired impact on day to day things, including what people buy, what they think, and how they perceive that item or person. Many colours have multiple meanings, so choosing the right shades is important for different brands. These are some of the most common colours you are likely to see in everyday life, and what they mean:
Colour psychology is important in marketing because using the right colours in advertising campaigns, website design and product design can convince others that that they act better, taste better or simply are better than similar products. Using colours to incite positive emotions and influence how others view your product or brand is likely to encourage purchases or online traffic. 85% of consumers say the primary reason for their purchase of a product was the colour, and poor website design will drive them away from a website at least 52% of the time[ii], so choosing the right colours for branding and marketing is important. The right design can often be the difference between a successful business and a failing one, so a good understanding of colour psychology is vital for a rewarding marketing campaign.
Because colours will have such a strong influence on the way consumers feel about the product, selecting the right ones for different campaigns is critical for advertisers. Choosing shades that are in tune with the products being sold, the brand and the customers it wants to attract will evoke certain feelings or thoughts and encourage positive reactions. Colour psychology in advertising is important across many aspects of a brand’s marketing and advertising strategy, and the right colours need to be considered for:
Advertisers use the colour meanings to define which ones will fit their desired response and incorporate them into the design of their marketing strategy. Through audience research, advertisers can then discover what colours work on their target audience to boost sales, interaction or online traffic.
Now you have a firm understanding of colour psychology and its effect in marketing, you can begin to implement it in your own advertising. Since colour has such a big role and it can be hard to find a starting point, here are the best design tips to get you started:
Think about who you are aiming your product at, what kind of colours they would prefer to see, and which shades will produce your desired response.
Although certain colours will evoke certain reactions in most, this is not a universal given. Everybody is different, so completing thorough audience research and testing colour schemes on your target audience before releasing a product will give you a better understanding of the kind of colours you want to be using.
Colour plays a huge part in how people will perceive your brand. Choosing an aggressive or saddening colour, like pure black, for example, will likely have a negative effect if used incorrectly because of the subconscious response. The choice of colour and what emotions they will elicit should be top priority when planning branding – make sure your scheme matches the goals of the brand, appeals to the target audience and is attractive to look at.
When you’re choosing colours to represent your brand, it can be tempting to cram a few positive or aesthetically pleasing shades together because of the response you hope it will get – but don’t! Opting for two strong main colours that match well to make up the majority of your colour scheme will make your branding easier to remember and much more pleasing. Look at McDonalds, for example: they’ve created their branding using only red and yellow, and their logo is easily recognisable all around the world. Keep it simple, and stick with two main colours.
Seeing a colourful logo can trigger emotions, thoughts and feelings before a person has even seen it up close, so establishing a successful logo is important. Since the logo will be seen on almost everything your brand produces – websites, packaging, business posters, advertisements, business signs – and will be what most people associate with your brand, getting it right is essential. Use colours that will encourage people to make positive associations with your brand and simple design techniques that can be instantly recognisable – again, look at McDonalds, with their simple yellow arches.
Naturally, the design of your website should match your logo, however, you don’t have to restrict yourself to the same colours since this is a bigger platform. Use the colours in your logo as a foundation for your website, but don’t be afraid to branch out a bit more. When designing your website, consider what you will be selling – you don’t want to be encouraging people to buy bouncy castles with a colour scheme of blacks and greys. Consider the effects of the different colours on your target audience and try to match these to your products for a successful website.
In a shop, where shelves of similar products are all grouped together, you have to be able to encourage consumers that your product is better than everyone else’s. How can you do this? Colour, of course! Clever packaging design and colour choices can encourage the purchase of your product over everyone else’s. Opting for shades that are most attractive to your target audience will make yours more likely to be the item that they buy – for example, men are more likely to buy a product that is green, blue or black, whereas women are more attracted to red and purple, although they also go for blue.
The psychology of colour is one of the most powerful tools in an advertiser’s arsenal. With the power to alter how images, words and subliminal messages are conveyed in a marketing and advertising context, learning how to control it can have a huge impact on your brand. Harnessing it correctly will embed positive associations into the minds of consumers and encourage brand recognition, and you will soon be basking in an ever-evolving success.
What are your thoughts on colour psychology and its use in marketing? Let us know in the comments below.