Marketing with Color Psychology

Marketing with Color Psychology

Color is a visual reinforcer. It affects our perception, influences our behavior, and helps shape our buying decisions. Enterprise businesses spend millions of dollars on research just to understand consumer preferences on a deeper level.

McDonald’s, for example, changed the way America advertises when it changed its color logo to red and yellow after a university study confirmed that these colors agitate customers the most. During the 1950s, diners had so much trouble asking customers to leave after consuming their meals. Studies have also shown that red and yellow are the first two colors that are easily processed and noticed by the human eye, thus revealing that such color combination makes for an ideal drive-thru signage.

Color Psychology is known as the most vital and expressive element of design. Our response to colors is influenced by several factors which include the following:

Learned Response

People and experiences from our past may influence our preferences with certain colors. A childhood friend who always wears a bright yellow shirt, for example, might stimulate your appreciation for yellow. A terror teacher in brown dress who keeps scolding you in class, might trigger your dislike for the color brown.


The basic colors of the house/place where you grew up influence your color preference. If you grew up in a place surrounded by lush foliage, then green could bring back memories of warmth, comfort, and relaxation for you.

Presence/Absence of Light

The amount of light present as you look at colors has a direct effect on how you perceive it. Try strolling by the beach in the morning when the sun shines brightest and notice how your thoughts and mood change as you walk along the same area at sunset. This is the same reason why changing climates affect the way we perceive color.


As we gain more life experiences, our color preferences change. Your favorite color 10 years ago could be different from your preferred colors today.

To give you a basic idea about the power of color on human perception, here’s a list of some of the basic colors commonly used in marketing including the meanings and range of emotions commonly associated with them:

  • Red commands strength, passion, eroticism, driving forces, risk, and violence. It’s useful for brands that promote adrenaline rush like cars, contact sports, and high-energy games. It stimulates metabolism, increases respiration rate, perspiration, blood pressure, and appetite. Red makes objects appear larger and closer than it actually is.
  • Green is associated with money, nature, life, rebirth, health, freshness, environment, and healing. Green lowers blood pressure, relaxes the nervous system, soothes the mind, and is known as an appetite suppressant. It’s useful for marketing organic products and anything that’s related to health.
  • Yellow is reminiscent of light, accelerated learning, logical imagination, social energy, cheerfulness, optimism, clarity, wisdom, uncertainty, restlessness, jealousy, and enlightenment. Yellow is the color most visible to the human eye. Babies tend to cry more in a yellow-painted room. Yellow is not recommended when marketing expensive items and must not be used if your product aims to signify safety and stability.
  • Black evokes sexuality, power, evil, anonymity, unhappiness, depth, style, bad luck, formality, reservedness, modern music, space, elegance, secrecy, fear, emptiness, sophistication, authority, strength of character, prestige, grief, seriousness, and anger. It’s a preferred color of websites that promote art and photography to help other colors stand out.
  • Blue is indicative of communication, protection, spiritual inspiration, reassurance, fluidity, higher thoughts, mystery, travel, progress, inner strength, devotion, acceptance, piety, security, cleanliness order, harmony, precision, sadness, unity, and truth. Like green, blue is believed to slow down metabolism and suppress the appetite. Blue doesn’t require the eye to focus, thus images tend to move away when placed in blue backgrounds.
  • Gold signifies wealth, winning, safety, masculine power, happiness, playfulness, humor, prestige, love of spirit, meaning, purpose, awe, attainment, and concentration. Gold and blue are the best combination for selling to men and second best color combination when selling to women.
  • White is associated with spirituality, peace, higher self, purity, reverence, simplicity, cleanliness, innocence, youth, sterility, coldness, positivity, charity, union, self-sacrifice, holiness, and positivity. White is perceived by the eye as a brilliant color. It indicates simplicity among high tech products and gadgets, and safety and cleanliness with medical items.
  • Purple denotes psychic ability, spiritual power, self assurance, hidden knowledge, dignity, high aspirations, royalty, spirituality, nobility, arrogance, extravagance, magic, creativity, ego, ambition, fame, majesty, telepathy. It is said that 75% of pre-adolescent children prefer purple, making bright purple an effective color for promotion children’s products. Purple is a polarizing color, people either hate it or love it.
  • Silver is often tied with glamour, industrial growth, graceful aging, clairvoyance, intuition, astral energies, ornate riches, sleekness, modernity. Silver works well with gold and white when promoting a feeling of control and power. It’s a strong eye attractor and are associated with life-giving water.
  • Brown suggests friendships, special events, passivity, fertility, generosity, practicality, hard work, comfort, longevity, intimacy, tranquility, masculine nurturing, inexpensive, endurance, home, outdoors, reliability. Beige and tans seem to conceal emotion, while copper signifies passion, money goals, professional growth, and career moves.

Colors are indicative of human emotions and state of mind, it affects us the same way we attach meaning to specific words. Human reactions to colors are often instinctive, yet one shouldn’t ignore its cultural, experiential, and racial value. While a hefty budget on research and development will go a long way in helping you understand consumer preferences, nothing beats the wisdom that comes with truly knowing who your target audiences are.

Such familiarity can only be achieved by building and nurturing genuine relationships with them. Sounds like social media marketing? Well, that deserves a totally different blog post.

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