Color psychology is one of the more fascinating sides of marketing. Reds to motivate. Blues to build trust. Oranges for confidence. The visual light spectrum has the power to play our emotional responses like a violin.
The use of color for brand building is far from a perfect science. After all, every group, let alone every individual, doesn’t perceive periwinkle in the same exact way. Still, research has demonstrated that the way colors are used by brands does impact the perception of a product or service – as much as 90 percent of off-the-cuff judgements about a brand are based on color.
Whether the impact of color is rooted in Jung’s collective unconscious and tens of thousands of years of exposure to color associations, or it is just our cultural conditioning, color is always worth considering in marketing. Here are vivid branding examples from every color of the rainbow.
Purple is associated with the things we connect with royalty – luxury, the finer things in life, assumed power – making it a popular choice in the luxury and beauty industries. It’s also connected with both spirituality and imagination, which is where you’ll also see a lot of brands in the creative industries turning to purple to tell their story.
Asprey is the quintessential purple brand. The company has been selling luxury items, customized jewelery, and high-end accessories since the 18th century. They even have a line of luxury personal care products called ‘Purple Water,’ so consumers can immerse themselves in the brand’s purpleness:
“Purple water is the distillation of the rich and creative past of Asprey and its exciting and luxurious present.”
And so why is Yahoo purple? The brand’s electric plum shade doesn’t exactly suit the more egalitarian concept behind the web services provider. Yahoo’s color choice was actually the result of chance. The story goes that one of the company’s founders went out to buy gray point to color the office walls. When it dried, it turned out to be lavender. Unlike most purple brands, Yahoo is one that fell into its purpledom.
Blue is wholesome, small-town dependable, and trustworthy. A lot of financial industry companies use blue (Allstate, JP Morgan, Progressive, American Express), a color also associated with financial stability.
German-based international skin care brand Nivea has gone so far as to trademark their specific shade of navy blue, making it one of the few protected color marks in the world. A company known for its simple, clean products, the unobtrusive blue hints at the ‘snow white’ product inside. (Nivea is rooted in the Latin word, niveus, which means ‘snow white’).
Facebook’s use of blue makes sense. What could be more appropriate for a brand that has connected the whole world into one massive small-town? The use of color fits well with the sincere, and very solid image the social media network projects. Yet, like Yahoo, the blue branding wasn’t as thought out as it appears. In an interview with The New Yorker, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg explained that blue is the color he can see the best. He’s red-green color blind.
Red is pure, raw energy. It’s the most inspiring of colors – passionate, exciting and stimulating. This is the attention-getter of the color wheel.
Coca Cola has been using red since the 1890s. The brand’s particular shade of bright, bold cherry red contrasted with white has become iconic. It also perfectly reflects the confidence and zest for life that this brand uses in its marketing, even 120 years later.
Target is another brand that is known for its bright red branding. Their logo started out as the red bull’s eye with the brand name in the center of the target. As people became to associate the symbol with the store, they no longer needed to use the text. What’s interesting about Target’s marketing is they keep the ‘red’ tempo, staying true to the upbeat, lust-for-life persona throughout their campaigns.
Yellow is a fun, warming, optimistic color. This cheerful color is great for those brands that can live up to the sunny disposition, like Ikea, Subway and Snapchat.
The yellow Best Buy logo has served this electronics retailer well. The company introduced the current version in 1992. Simple block font black lettering over a yellow price tag says so much about the brand’s values – good customer service and a fun showroom. The color helps to create the association of a positive shopping experience, and it works. Best Buy is a household name.
Amazon is another customer service oriented brand that uses yellow in the logo to get the positive, welcoming message across. The Amazon logo uses a yellow arrow to move from the letter a to z, hinting at their, ‘we sell everything’ persona. And the smile shape made by the yellow arrow even further demonstrates the happy image this company is going for. Amazon is a very yellow brand.
The Marketer’s Key to the Color Wheel
The key to mastering color psychology in marketing is to use color to support your already existing brand personality, rather than dictating your brand persona based on the color association you want to choose. Using bright yellows all over your branding isn’t going to magically make people feel optimistic about your business, especially if you are marketing for insurance. You can’t dress a candy company in green and convince consumers your sugary treats are good for them, nor will choosing lipstick red for your logo inspire passion around your efficient, but appropriately unsexy accounting software.
The brands that use the psychological impact of color to their advantage are those that choose the right colors to further communicate who they already are. Dell computers are dependable. Lowe’s is for consumers who value self-reliance. Blue works. Cadbury chocolate is known for being luxurious. Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey was created as a gift for royalty. Purple works.
Know your brand story and you can come up with the perfect color to tell it with.