Believe it or not, you can design the perfect product, support it with advertising, place it in every distribution channel known to man and then fail because you packaged it in a color your customers don't like. That's the power of color psychology.
Color has the power to influence what people buy and why.
The feelings and impressions individuals have about color vary widely, based on their experiences, culture, personal preference, the context and more. However, there appear to be some universal or common notions about what different colors represent, which can be used by businesses in the selection of appropriate corporate colors for branding and marketing materials.
Common Color Associations
The color emotion guide developed by The Logo Company presents the following general associations with primary and secondary colors, along with examples of companies that use each prominently:
- Yellow: optimism, warmth and clarity. Best Buy, Hertz and Subway use yellow or gold in their logos.
- Orange: friendly, cheerful and confident. Gulf, Harley-Davidson and Mozilla have a strong orange presence in their logos.
- Red: exciting, youthful and bold. Coca-Cola, Target and Nintendo feature red in their logos.
- Purple: creative, imaginative and wise. Yahoo!, Hallmark and Welch's use purple in their logos.
- Blue: trustworthy, dependable and strong. Facebook, Oral-B and American Express have primarily blue logos.
- Green: peace, growth and health. John Deere, Whole Foods and Starbucks have green in their logos.
- Grayscale: balanced, neutral and calm. Apple, Nike and Honda use shades of gray in their logos.
If you want your brand to be perceived in a certain way, it helps to keep these associations in mind as you explore ways to represent your company's values and personality and appeal to key demographics.
Making Color Choices for Your Business
"Color is essential in conveying the right message to your clients," says Susan Sullivan, owner and designer with Sumy Designs, LLC. "Deciding and choosing a color palette is often the most difficult part of the design process."
Given that some corporations may be strongly associated with certain colors thanks to their logos, a smart approach for small businesses to take is to dare to be different. "Uniqueness is always a good idea for small-business color palettes," confirms Sullivan.
She advises small-business owners to ask themselves a few questions to help zero in on the colors that best fit the business. These questions include:
- Who are your customers?
- What type of business are you in?
- Should your customers feel energized or calm from doing business with you?
- What mood do you want associated with your company?
Once you have a general sense of the mood you want to set for your clients, you can start to choose a color palette that matches customer expectations. That's color psychology at work.
For example, red wouldn't be the first choice, generally, for an upscale spa, as spas generally aim to be soothing and relaxing. Green and blue would be natural choices. Likewise, a daycare might consider brighter colors more commonly associated with learning and creativity, such as purple or orange. A personal trainer might gravitate toward red and yellow to suggest energy and activity.
Companies should choose two to three main colors to use throughout all of their marketing materials, from logo design to brochures, postcards, business cards and signage. Repeating colors across several promotional pieces can also aid in awareness and familiarity.
"If used effectively, color is a powerful tool in design," says Sullivan.