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January 12, 2018

The Science of Colour Use In Marketing

Published: 12 January 2018 

The sense of sight is the strongest developed sense in most humans. It is, therefore, no surprise that 90% of snap judgments consumers make about products can be based on colour alone. While individual’s personal experiences have a lot of sway over how they will react to a specific colour, we do know there is a relationship between brands and colour, and this primarily hinges on the perceived appropriateness of the colour being used for the particular brand. Consumers make decisions about whether the colour is a good “fit” for the product being sold.

What some marketers have found is that, in general, certain colours tend to evoke a trend in emotions. In general, this includes the following:
• Yellow is optimistic and warm.
• Orange is confident, friendly, and cheerful.
• Red is energetic, youthful, and bold.
• Purple is imaginative, creative, and wise.
• Blue is dependable, tranquil, and strong.
• Green is serene, growth-oriented, and natural.
• Grays and Black and White combinations are elegant, simple, credible.

This means that colours influence how consumers view the "personality" of the brand in question. Therefore, we must use our knowledge of colour’s impact on consumers when designing logos, apps, and online platforms. For example, if your target audience is women, you should focus on blue, purple, and green, as women respond more negatively to orange, brown, and grey. If your product is targeting men, however, blue, green, and black are your best colours. Men also respond negatively to brown and orange but also to purple.

However, it can be difficult to use these generalizations about colour more broadly, as so much of a person’s reaction is contextual to the product and other factors. Far more important than the individual colour chosen for a brand is the marketer’s abilities to predict how consumers will react to a particular colour in relation to the overall brand and product.

Research has also shown us that our brains prefer immediately recognizable brands, and colours are so closely associated with brands and brand identity, it can be difficult to know whether a reaction is to a brand or the colour of the brand. It may be even more important for new brands to select colours that differentiate them from their competitors rather than ones that remind consumers of the competition brand.

While certain colours are able to broadly align with specific traits, it is far more important that your brand’s colours support the personality you are trying to portray rather than aligning with colour associations. Beyond just colour, it is the feeling, mood, and image you create for your brand that plays the largest role in consumer persuasion. Marketers are best served by field-testing colours and combinations to see how each influences brand identity and emotional response than relying solely on colour charts.

What we have known for a long time about colour is that contrast is best. Consumers are more likely to remember something that is different or striking than something that resembles something else. When selecting colour combinations, it is more important that consumers remember your colours than prefer them. They make like green and yellow for their homes but they are more likely to remember purple and orange in your branding.

The science of colour offers us a lot of “maybes” and “sort ofs,” which means it is upon us to determine how best to use colour in our marketing work. Colour is but one element in brand identification and design that should be tested and examined thoroughly to be sure it aligns with the emotions you wish to evoke from your consumers. There are no hard and fast rules, but we can continue to raise better questions about colour’s role in marketing and test our hypotheses as we go.

Ben Maden

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