The Definitive Guide to the psychology of color in branding and Marketing
Color psychology is defined as the study of how colors can affect human behavior. It helps us to get an idea of how colors can affect the daily purchasing behavior of the customers. Whether the customer is planning to buy a dress, or planning to switch brands because their colors are more suitable to their taste, color is the first thing that a customer interacts with.
Rudrasish Chakraborty

Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions

― Pablo Picasso

Very little research has been conducted to date on the influence of color over the psychological functioning of the human brain and yet colors play a very important role in how a brand is perceived among its peers. From long ago, marketing and psychology have remained synonymous with each other and to go even deeper the most important feature of marketing psychology is color psychology. Colors can make you stand out from your competition and also enables you to dictate the feelings you want your customers to feel about your brand. It is the colors that make the customers see your brand, feel about your brand, and organically connect with your brand. Thus using the right colors can help you build a strong and relatable brand for your customers to follow.

What is Color Psychology?

Color Psychology

Color psychology is defined as the study of how colors can affect human behavior. It helps us to get an idea of how colors can affect the daily purchasing behavior of the customers. Whether the customer is planning to buy a dress, or buy a guitar or are planning to switch brands because their colors are more suitable to their taste, color is the first thing that a customer interacts with and hence understanding the psychology behind colors is the most important aspect of branding psychology. Although, we know that colors have a huge impact on the decision making aspect of the customer, the why part is an area that still requires a little bit more research and understanding, as people perceive colors very differently from different countries, different cities, different towns, and different cultures. To understand this in a little bit more detail let's begin by understanding the basics of the color theory.

Color Theory

Color theory is a set of rules and guidelines that designers use to communicate with users by using attractive color schemes in a visual interface. To choose the best colors possible, a designer takes help from the color wheel and uses the gathered knowledge of human optical ability, psychology, and culture.

“Red, Blue, and Yellow” - are the three primary colors that make all the other colors possible. Combining these primary colors helps us to create colors such as purple, green, and orange which are called secondary colors, and finally, tertiary colors are created by combining both primary and secondary colors.

The two name colors such as - ‘red-purple, red-orange, yellow-green’ are all called tertiary colors.

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colors are all pure colors as they are intense, bright, saturated, and cheerful colors. If you add the color white to these pure colors what you get is called a tint. They are less intense than a pure color and are generally referred to as pastel colors. On the other hand, if you add black to these pure colors you create shade or a shadow. It dulls the brightness of pure colors. If both black and white, i.e, gray is added to these pure colors what you get is called tones.

Pure colors are often used to attract an audience that is more youthful and energetic, whereas tints are considered more feminine. Shades are effective in communicating mysterious, dark, evil, or dangerous moods.

The Color Wheel

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There are basically twelve main colors on the color wheel. These twelve colors are a combination of primary, secondary and tertiary colors with their tints, shades, and tones. On the left-hand side of this color wheel, you have the colors green and blue representing the cool colors and on the right-hand side, you have the colors yellow and red representing the bright and the warm colors. With the help of this color wheel, a designer decides which colors to use while designing a product depending upon what kind of customers they are choosing to attract.

Color Contrast

Blue Lemon

Contrast is what makes a color unique. People often assume that it is the difference of color that creates the contrast, but it is not true. You can use two different colors like yellow and orange but their contrast will be low since their tone is similar. Usually, colors with different tones actually create high contrast. High contrast is usually used while highlighting content that is important whereas low contrast is used to make things look beautiful. To understand the difference between high and low contrast it would be wise to compare it in grayscale for a better understanding of color contrast.

Color trends for men and women

Colored doors

The color trends between men and women are quite different from each other. There is an obvious bias among the color trends across gender and it is generally considered that men are attracted to bold colors while women are usually attracted to cooler colors. It is also considered that men are usually receptive to shades of colors (colors with black added in it) whereas women are receptive to colors with a tint(colors with white added in it). But this can only be considered as a stereotype, not as a rule, as the choice of colors varies across geographical boundaries, religion, and culture. Cultural upbringing actually plays a very important part in how colors are perceived among genders. Although blue and pink colors are usually associated with men and women respectively, the reverse was actually true once upon a time. Thus brands should absolutely break the stereotype and experiment with other colors.

Choosing the right color for your brand

Color is actually one of the most important aspects of branding as it dictates how a brand is perceived among its followers and it greatly affects the purchasing intent of the customer. Thus choosing the right color for your brand is of utmost importance to really connect with the customers. Although some colors are broadly connected to a trait ( e.g, brown to ruggedness ), it is the personality of the brand that matters. Customers connect to a brand for its personality rather than traits. Thus colors that compliment the personality of the brand will make the brand more successful rather than stereotypical colors that are associated with traits. It is the feeling, the mood, and the image that your brand is trying to create dictates what colors should be used. Generally, there are five core dimensions that play into a brand's personality.

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Brands usually associate themselves with one or two of the dimensions of brand personality and are mostly dominated by one.

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The right color differentiates your brand

Color of brands

Our brain easily recognizes brands that make color an important element of their brand identity. The psychological principle is known as the ‘isolation effect’ states that products that stand out from the rest are more likely to be remembered. Thus with the help of colors brands should create such an image that is easily distinguishable and stand out from its competitors. Various studies on color combination looking at consumer preference reveal that while some of them are attracted to similar hues, they are also in favor of high contrast. Thereby creating a visual structure consisting of base analogous colors and contrasting them with accent complementary (or tertiary) colors. This concept plays a big role in marketing too.

A guide to find the right color

Color and book

Although color psychology has been studied and analyzed over time, the effect of colors on the psychology of people is still very subjective. However, there are a few generalities about how people react to different colors. Let's have a look at the psychology of various colors.

Color Psychology of Red

The color red represents passion and drama. This is the most attractive color as it has the longest wavelength and is associated with emotions such as love and anger. Depending on the context it can portray emotions such as friendliness and strength, but can also be demanding and show aggression. If this color is overused it can also awaken extreme negative reactions.

Color Psychology of Yellow

The color yellow represents optimism. It is the happiest of colors and conveys youthful and fresh energy. It stimulates the left side of the brain and helps in clear thinking and quick decision making. If this color is overused it can also cause fear, self-esteem to collapse.

Color Psychology of Orange

The color orange is a combination of the color yellow and red. It represents excitement, warmth, and enthusiasm. It combines the powerful energy of red with the friendliness and fun of yellow. Orange is a motivating and encouraging color that attracts younger people. There are also some negative traits that are associated with the color orange as it can be superficial and insincere.

Color Psychology of Green

The color green represents balance and harmony. From the perspective of color psychology, it creates a balance between the heart and the emotion. Green occupies more space in the visible spectrum than any other color. It evokes feelings of abundance and a plentiful environment while providing a restful and secure feeling. Green has more positive than negative aspects than any other color.

Color Psychology of Blue

The color blue represents trust. It is seen as the color which is trustworthy, dependable, and committed. Unlike red, which affects us physically, blue affects us mentally. Strong blues can stimulate thoughts that are clean and lighter blues can calm the mind and improve concentration. The negative aspects of the color blue are that it can create detachment, unfriendliness, and lack of emotion.

Color Psychology of Purple

Purple represents the powerful energy of red and the calmness of blue. It is long associated with spirituality and is usually associated with royalty, quality, and luxury. Much like red, purple can be overpowering. Thus it should be used sparingly. Over usage of the color, purple can evoke gloomy and sad feelings.

Color Psychology of Pink

Pink is the softer and less intense version of red. It is the color of sensitivity and can be created by adding white to the color red, thereby creating a tint. The color pink is associated with tenderness and nurturing and it also conveys a sense of safety and vulnerability. Sometimes the color can also represent physical weakness, emotional claustrophobia, and inhibition which are the negative aspects of this color. Overall, pink can be a great counter-option to the color red when used appropriately.

Color Psychology of Black

The color black is authoritative and powerful. It represents positive traits such as protection, comfort, strong, sophisticated, mysterious, and seductive. It can represent the beginning and the end. The color black can evoke strong emotion and too much of it can be overwhelming. The color black also represents some negative traits such as depression, sadness, and negativity.

Color Psychology of White

The color white represents purity and completeness. It also represents innocence and can be a symbol of peace, comfort, and hope. Just as black is total absorption, white is total reflection. White can present a fresh start and inspire new ideas. Since white has an equal balance of all the colors, it can reflect multiple values. The negative aspects of the color white are that it can be cold, unfriendly, and empty.

Color Psychology of Brown

Brown is the color of security, protection, and material wealth and it usually represents traits such as ruggedness, wholesome, approachable, quality, and protection. The color is related to the things that are natural and simple. It is the color of the earth. Many people can find the color brown dull, boring, frugal, lack of humor, and stingy.

Color Psychology of Gold

Gold is the color of wealth, fame, and status. It is often associated with prestige, influence, and prosperity and can also be a generous and compassionate color. Although the color gold can be friendly but too much usage of the color gold can seem egotistical, proud, and self-righteous. Gold should be used sparingly and should only be used while highlighting instead of becoming the main attraction.

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