Hue’s the Boss – Understanding the psychology of colour

December 3, 2015

Whether used creatively in a logo or as part of a product’s packaging, colour plays a major factor in our purchasing decisions.

You might think you’re made of stronger stuff than to be manipulated by such a simple marketing ploy but studies have shown that, ever so subtly, our day-to-day moods, actions (and desire to get the credit card out) can be directly governed by the colours we interact with.

But how do colours affect us? And what colours evoke what emotions?

Here’s a quick overview of the most dominant shades on the colour spectrum:

Blue – it’s stating the obvious, but blue’s direct association with water, harmony, and a sense of calm makes it the most common colour when trying to evoke feelings of peace and tranquillity. It offers a sense of security and trust is also recognised as the most preferred colour of men.

Brands using blue: Twitter, Samsung, Facebook, IBM, VISA.

Red – get out your book of cliché’s….it’s red, so it has to be fast. But there is a little science behind the claim. The colour red is the go to for anyone wanting to generate excitement or a sense of urgency. That’s why it features so regularly in sales promotions and retailing events. It also is the staple of fast food restaurants because it accelerates the body and encourages appetite.

Brands using red: Coca-Cola, Virgin, Vodafone, McDonalds, KFC, Levis, YouTube.

Orange – like red, orange is often used to promote a sense of excitement/anxiety in shoppers that encourages spending.

Brands using orange: Penguin Publishing, Harley Davidson, Fanta, Firefox, Nickelodeon.

Yellow – yellow is a very optimistic and logical colour. But, at the same time, it represents a lively and mischievous side – making it ideal in marketing directed at children. However, no matter the target demographic, brands like McDonalds, Liptons, Shell and Denny’s show perfectly how yellow will never reproduce as a standalone colour and will always need a secondary border colour to give the logo that much needed punch.

Brands using yellow: Ferrari, Shell, CAT, Commonwealth Bank.

Green – Let’s head back to nature here. Almost every environmental group and many community organisations will draw on green to create a sense of health and tranquillity. It allows them to cash in on our immediate acceptance of green having a direct relationship with the planet. It’s a colour that signifies agreement and accord and is often used by marketers (instore and in advertisements to relax customers and diminish anxiety).

Brands using green: John Deere, Garnier, Starbucks, Woolworths, Tic Tacs, Animal Planet, BP.

Purple – purple has always had a very regal feel to it as it is so often immediately associated with royalty and the surrounding pomp and ceremony (think Wimbledon). It also signifies respect and wisdom which is why if often features in beauty and anti-aging product promotion. Scientific research has shown that purple helps stimulate creativity and problem solving.

Brands using purple: Cadbury, Yahoo, Hallmark, Fed Ex, Taco Bell.

Black – yes, we know… isn’t a colour but it still has a place of significance on this list. It has a very strong character and is often associated with power and authority. It’s a symbol of intelligence and business acumen and has a cold, ‘matter of fact’ feel when used in advertising. Always remember, ‘less is more’ when using black, unless you are striving for a starker black and white historical/negative visual (and if you do, make sure your advertisements or signage are still legible).

Brands using black: Adidas, Nestle, Chanel, Prada, Gillette.

White – you can’t mention the yin of black without its yang of white. White will forever be associated with cleanliness and feelings of transparency and purity. And where black can be overused in an advertisement, ‘white space’ can be a valuable tool as it diminishes clutter and directs the eye to the message you’re conveying.

In the same vein, using grey in small amounts can offer a good addition to a creative advertisement as a contrast to vibrant colours but always bear in mind that, when used well, it can provide a positive representation of old age. Used not so well, it can create feelings of melancholy, depression and despair.

Brands using white: Almost every company (Apple, for one) has some use for white in their logo or extended branding………and you should too.

Next time you’re out shopping, take a moment to see what products catch your eye and see just how effective good logos and packaging can be in influencing your purchasing decisions.

Lauren x

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