Color Psychology In Marketing: What Colors Mean and How to Use Them

Published by
Caitlin Lamb
10 min read

If you’ve ever walked into a room painted yellow and felt anxious, or gazed at a blue painting and felt calm, you aren’t imagining it.

Studies of color psychology tell us that each individual hue has the power to evoke emotions. The power of color isn’t limited to paint; different tones can also be used to set the stage for a brand’s style, and even to build brand awareness!

Whether you’re a new business owner looking to build a strong brand or a marketer hoping to learn how to leverage this tool, color psychology marketing can be an unexpected resource! 

In this article, we’ll take a look at what color psychology is and how it fits into a marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to use color psychology to build brand awareness.

And finally, the power of some of the most popular brand colors you might choose from.

What is Color Psychology?

Color psychology is the study of how colors affect human behavior and emotion.

It’s widely believed that the ability of colors to evoke certain emotions is linked to memories that we have of those specific tones from throughout our lives.

For instance, because most people find the ocean and other bodies of water calming, the color blue is often associated with feelings of tranquility and stability.

Where Does Color Psychology Fit Into Marketing?

The goal of effective marketing is to create an instant connection with an audience and to begin to build brand awareness and loyalty from the start. Color psychology plays a big role in accomplishing this!

While a strong logo and a carefully chosen company name can help connect with customers, the colors used to bring the logo and advertisements, websites, and other marketing tools to life send a subtle, yet powerful message. Without consciously recognizing it, customers are already making assumptions about the style and tone of a brand simply from the colors present.

For brands, this is a chance to utilize strategic placement and groupings of colors to connect with the audience and inspire them to action.

One or more primary colors can be used to convey the overall traits of the brand. In addition, secondary colors can be used to evoke even more emotion or spur an action, such as highlighting a button on a web page urging new customers to join a mailing list!

Understanding the psychology behind certain colors will allow you to build audiences and even drive sales.

📚Related Reading: Styling Your Brand with Seasonal Color Theory

Color Psychology Chart: Emotions and Effects Decoded

To help you begin to put the power of color psychology to work, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common colors and the emotions they may evoke.

📌Spoiler alert: You can Pin this infographic for reference later! 📌

Red Color Psychology

Red is one of the most popular colors used in marketing brands, and for good reason.

This powerful tone evokes a number of strong emotions and is used by brands to represent characteristics like:

  • Courage
  • Boldness
  • Action
  • Passion

The color red brings to mind the passion of Valentine’s Day, the joy of Christmas, and even signifies luck in Chinese culture. 

Brands looking to showcase these characteristics by using red in their logos include Netflix, YouTube, and Time magazine.

Studies have also shown that seeing red speeds up our blood flow, which in turn speeds our metabolism and makes us hungry.

So it should come as no surprise that brands like McDonald’s, KFC, and Coke utilize this tone.

Pink Color Psychology

While it hasn’t always been the case, the color pink has been associated with femininity for over a hundred years.

Today, brands utilize the tone when they want to express characteristics like:

  • Gentleness
  • Love
  • Immaturity
  • Affection

Brands looking to connect with female audiences and invoke youthful playfulness may use pink in their marketing.

Victoria’s Secret, and especially their sub-brand Pink, as well as Barbie both utilize pink. 

As the shift away from gender roles continues, other brands, like Lyft, Dunkin Donuts, and Instagram have also begun to utilize different hues of pink in an effort to connect with characteristics beyond feminity.

Orange Color Psychology

Orange is a color popularly used to represent characteristics such as:

  • Creativity
  • Adventure
  • Enthusiasm
  • Friendliness

Orange is known for capturing our attention, which is why it’s often used for road signs, especially in construction zones or for hazard warnings.

Brands that use orange to grab customers’ attention and inspire creativity or adventure include Harley Davidson, Home Depot, and JBL.

Yellow Color Psychology

While studies have shown that the hue can evoke feelings of frustration or even anger, when it comes to branding, yellow is more often seen as a cheerful color.

Companies may use yellow when they want to express feelings of:

  • Happiness
  • Positivity
  • Optimism
  • Summer

Brands that use yellow as a primary color in their marketing include McDonald’s, Ikea, and Snapchat.

Green Color Psychology

The many emotions evoked by the color green are usually attributed to our relationship with the natural world.

Much the same as a walk outdoors can make us feel calm, the color green in marketing can evoke a sense of:

  • Growth
  • Generosity
  • Health
  • Fertility

John Deere and Animal Planet both use green to signify their connection to nature.

Brands like Starbucks, Spotify, and Whole Foods use it to evoke other emotions. 

Blue Color Psychology

If you want to inspire loyalty and bring patrons back to your storefront, it’s better to paint the storefront blue instead of orange.

Research shows that customers are 15 percent more likely to return to a store when it’s painted in the cool hue rather than the harsher warm color.

Besides loyalty, other characteristics brands can express include with the color blue include:

  • Stability
  • Peace
  • Calm
  • Trust

A few brands that use blue to express these emotions include Ford, Facebook, and American Express.

And, of course, yours truly!

Purple Color Psychology

Long considered the color of royalty, purple continues to evoke regal vibes in modern marketing.

The color purple can be used to showcase brand characteristics like:

  • Luxury
  • Wisdom
  • Power
  • Spirituality

Brands putting this powerful color to work to evoke feelings of power and luxury include Yahoo, FedEx, and Roku.

Brown Color Psychology

Much like green, brown is a natural tone that evokes stability. Other characteristics brown can be used to express include:

  • Reliability
  • Strength
  • Dependability
  • Earthy

UPS is perhaps the best-known brand that utilizes the feelings of resilience and dependability that brown evokes. 

White Color Psychology

While often not included on the color wheel, white can still evoke plenty of emotion.

Often used to add drama to contrasting dark colors like black or blue, the absence of color may, in fact, make white one of the most powerful tones in marketing.

White may be used to evoke feelings of:

  • Purity
  • Innocence
  • Cleanliness
  • Humility

Some brands that use white to add drama to their logos and branding include Apple, Chanel, and Adidas. 

Gray Color Psychology

One color that has risen in popularity in recent years, in marketing, home decorating, and more, is gray.

In fact, Pantone named Ultimate Gray as one of their 2021 Colors of the Year.

With many shades that can take on many different meanings, some common characteristics that brands use gray to express include:

  • Neutrality
  • Solidarity
  • Luxury
  • Balance

The use of gray by major brands is still few and far between.

Though several major companies utilize the tone for other versions of their logo or in a secondary capacity include Toyota, Apple, and WordPress.

Black Color Psychology

Unlike gray, black is a popular choice among brands in a variety of industries.

Color psychology shows that the emotions black evoke largely depends on an individual’s personal preferences.

Brands lean into some of the most common characteristics that black is known for, including:

  • Power
  • Elegance
  • Sophistication
  • Authority
  • Confidence

The famous Nike swoosh is depicted in black.

Other brands that utilize the tone in their logos include Coach, BMW, Prada, and many more.

Where and How to Place Colors in Marketing

Using the psychology of color in marketing can help your brand send a message or evoke an emotion. But where these colors are placed is equally important. Utilizing certain colors in certain locations on your website, social media graphics, and other marketing materials can inspire your customers to take action or encourage interaction.

For instance, choosing bright, bold colors like yellow or red for action buttons can help increase clicks. White backgrounds with contrasting dark tones like black can draw the eye to certain features, such as your logo. Color’s impact on marketing is about combining placement with your choice of hues for maximum impact.

Conclusion: The Psychology of Color in Marketing

Color is at the center of marketing. From choosing a tone to make your logo pop to utilizing the right hue to inspire brand awareness and loyalty and inspire action, color psychology can help you maximize the subconscious effects of your marketing efforts.

To learn more about utilizing color, check out this article on creating your own custom Instagram color palette.

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Caitlin Lamb is a Content Marketer and Editor with a passion for helping businesses and individuals master social media and web marketing.

When she isn’t traveling around the world, you’ll find her at home in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and their spoiled rescue pup Briley.

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Published by
Caitlin Lamb

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