The Psychology of Colors and Marketing

Although they say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” visual experiences are very important when it comes to making decisions. Around 93% of buyers solely rely on what they see when deciding what to eat, wear, or buy. A huge visual component that affects these decisions is color. Does seeing a red stop sign ignite feelings of urgency and alert? Do light blue skies calm you down? Color can be a powerful tool, especially when marketing your brand or product.

First, let’s explore the physics and the psychology behind certain colors and then we’ll dive right into tips and tricks on how to utilize them to make the most out of your marketing strategy.

Color Perception

Color is essentially broken down white light. This light is split up into different wavelengths and each wavelength can be seen as a separate color. Objects that we see absorb these wavelengths, so when we’re looking at a red apple, it is the red wavelength that is being reflected, while the rest are all absorbed.

Humans feel color. While some give off a calming vibe, others can ignite rage in us. Although every single human out there thinks and feels differently and has a unique brain, there are certain colors that have quite the universal significance and influence people in similar ways.

How do colors influence people?

Red: Red is associated with energy, power, determination, along with passion, desire, and love. It physically stimulates the body. It increases respiration rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. Most importantly, red attracts attention and creates a sense of urgency, which is why it is used for stop signs and lights. 

Orange: Orange combines the energy of the color red with the happiness of the color yellow and therefore is a combination of the physical and emotional feelings. It often focuses our minds on things of comfort such as food, warmth, and shelter, but also can trigger a sense of caution.

Yellow: Yellow is said to be the strongest color, psychologically. The right shade of yellow produces a warming effect and can be associated with joy, happiness, and energy. Too much of it, or the wrong shade, can cause fear and anxiety.

Green: Green hits the eye in a comfortable way, and therefore gives the viewer a restful and relaxing feeling. It strongly corresponds with safety and suggests stability and endurance. Dark green can be associated with money. Overall, the color is considered beneficial to the mind and body.

Blue: Blue is associated with peace, water, and tranquility. It stimulates productivity and provides a sense of security. Blue is soothing, and affects us mentally, rather than physically. It is the most common color used by brands looking to instill trust in their product or service.

Purple: Purple combines the stability of blue with the energy of red. It is very closely associated with royalty, power, nobility, and ambition, and communicates something of the finest quality.

White: White symbolizes light, purity, and innocence. The color defines perfection and usually has a positive connotation. White spaces help spark creativity because of the cleanliness it represents.

Black: Black is closely associated with power, elegance, death, evil, and mystery. It usually tends to have a negative connotation and can be overwhelming if used too often, but prestigious in just the right amounts.

How can colors can your help your branding and marketing strategy?

Research has shown that color affects up to 90% of snap judgements made about products. Another study shows that this relationship between a brand and the color it chooses to use, all depends on the perceived appropriateness of the color and whether or not it “fits” the product or service the brand is representing. Below is an example of brands that have mastered their branding strategy by perfectly tying it together with the psychology behind the color they’ve used.

Our brains tend to prefer brands that we can immediately recognize, which is why choosing the right color when creating a brand identity is so important. You need to predict how your consumers will react to color appropriateness. For instance, if you think your consumers want to purchase a product that will make them feel healthy, colors that fit that need, like green, would work best. Around 80% of clients believe that color is responsible for brand recognition and therefore the feeling and image that your brand or product creates is very closely tied to color.

The Colors of Big Corporations: McDonald’s

McDonald’s colors, red and yellow, are both very high energy. This has several results, including appealing to kids, creating an appetite, and a sense of urgency. If McDonald’s decided to go with a completely different color like green, it may not have been so successful.

The Colors of Big Corporations: Starbucks

On the other hand, a company for whom the color green has been successful, is the ever-popular coffee chain, Starbucks. In the diagram below, you can see how the color scheme of the logo has greatly contributed to the brand’s success.

Color Theory

Just choosing the right color for your brand or product isn’t enough. Adjusting the contrast and vibrancy of the colors you chose is also just as important as the color itself. For instance, imagine you are creating a website for your company. Colors matter there too. Choosing colors that complement each other on the color wheel, creates an easy to read area. Make sure the item you want to focus a potential buyer’s attention to is the brightest element of the design. A lack of contrast between the item and the background strains a user’s eyes, and can cause them to be less engaged and interested.

Brighter colors can inspire energy in users and therefore can lead to a response from them, whether that reaction is a click or even a purchase. If you’re trying to convey a great deal of information to your potential buyers, stick to more neutral, darker colors. It’ll be easier to read and process with that color scheme.


Although colors may not have the same connotation to everyone, for the most part, their defining traits are universal. When a majority of a buyer’s decision to purchase or not  depends on visuals, specifically colors, it is extremely important to pay attention to your choices when branding. By choosing a color scheme that evokes the kind of emotion you want your consumers to have when seeing your brand or product, you can give them exactly what they’re expecting, and in turn, creating an effective strategy for selling.

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