You may understand the basic of colour psychology – green means growth, blue is calm, red is love, etc. – but there is a lot more to understand about how colour can affect your customers, and help to create your brand.
The colours you use in your branding don’t just grab attention and look pretty, they give everyone who sees them an experience and a feeling. The colour also gives your audience an expectation of who you are and what you do.
Using colour correctly can bring the right people in, and also let those people who you aren’t right for know to keep looking elsewhere.
Studies have shown that blue street lights can reduce crime in the area, that wearing a black jersey can make you more likely to get a penalty from the umpire, or that if you are wearing a red shirt you might run faster in a race.
Another study showed that a red Call to Action button created 21% more responses than when the same button was green. Nothing else on the page was changed and such a huge difference was made! (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/psychology-of-color)
Colour not only affects how your customers feel, but it can also change their mood and even help to direct their decision-making and their behaviour.
How Does Colour Make Your Customers Feel?
Different colours and colour combinations have a psychological effect on people. Seeing certain colours makes people feel a certain way, whether they consciously realise it or not.
Warm colours create a different range of feelings to cool colours, while bright and bold colours also create different feelings to muted tones. It isn’t just the colour, it’s the specific shade and depth of that colour as well. A very dark blue, for example, can invoke feelings of seriousness or sadness, while a light blue could feel calm and relaxing.
Some of the most common colour effects and associations include:
Red: happiness, love, energy, optimism, hunger, intensity, attention, excitement, adventure
Orange: happiness, alertness, danger, vitality, call to action, enthusiasm, attention
Yellow: alertness, energy, hope, spontaneity, cheerful, warmth, anxiety
Pink: kindness, happiness, love, romance, playful
Purple: creativity, luxury, mystery, wealthy, wisdom
Blue: calm, peace, sadness, security, trust
Green: health, organic, energy, refreshed, wealthy, possibility, envy
Brown: organic, stability, established, strength
Black: power, luxury, sophistication, mystery, sadness, seriousness
White: cleanliness, purity, relaxation, innocence, youth, modernity
Grey: responsibility, conservative, safe, reliable
These aren’t rules, just guidelines. But in general terms, your customers will follow the emotional patterns of response listed above.
You can see that the same colour can evoke completely different feelings – this will depend on shades and depth of colour, as well as what other colours you combine it with.
Yellow, for example, can make some people feel warm while making others feel anxious. Red and blue can both be very effective and powerful colours, but if you use the completely wrong shade, you can create the opposite effect to what you were going for.
Colours won’t make everybody feel exactly the same way because they are subjective. Your customer’s past experience with the colour will affect their response, as can their age and gender. People may also choose colours based on what they want others to think of them, rather than how they feel about themselves.
Colours may give different effects in different parts of the world and across cultures as well. As an example, some Asian cultures view white, red and black quite differently to Western cultures – so be aware of who and where your audience is.
This fantastic graphic from Iconic Fox gives more detail about the effect of each colour, including on characteristics like gender.
Getting The Colours Right For YOU
You created this business to meet your passion, and to be happy and fulfilled every day in your work. Choosing colours for your visual branding needs to feel right for you, as well as right for your customers.
You are communicating how you and your customers are matched, so don’t choose colours that don’t fit with your purpose. Don’t choose colours just to please clients, choose colours that honestly let them know who you are. This allows you to reach the customers that are the ideal ones for you.
How Many Colours?
Many marketing experts will recommend using no more than 2-3 colours in your palette, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
You need to be happy with your choices, and you may need more than three to get the right message to your clients.
Do what feels right for you – but remember that every colour in your brand needs to add important value. Don’t just add more to look brighter as it just ends being busy, confusing and forgettable.
Choose Evergreen Colours
No, I don’t mean choose the colour green – I mean choose colours that won’t change with trends and that won’t quickly date.
Choose colours that connect with your customers in ways that don’t often change (such as connecting with their underlying aspirations rather than their immediate needs or current trends), as well as that fit with your passion and what your business to feel like long-term.
The ways you connect with clients, such as specific ad campaigns or timely social media posts and hashtags can be tailored to current needs and trends.
But your use of colour in your brand needs to aim longer-term than this. This isn’t something you want to have to pay to change if you get tired of it, or if you find it’s not reaching the right customers.
It can be an expensive thing to get wrong.
Using Colour Consistently
Branding is all about repetition and consistency. You are trying to get people to like you, trust you and remember you across different interactions because they are unlikely to buy from you on the very first one.
Once you have chosen your colours, you need to apply them consistently across all of your communications and platforms. It helps your audience to know they have come to the right place when they follow links, and it also helps them to remember you and start to get a familiar feeling from you.
Colour and Branding: Where Do You Go Now?
If I have inspired you to find your own unique business colour palette – what can you do now to get started?
It can help to create a visual mood board, or a collection of images, colours, patterns and words that you feel most align with your brand. Instead of following strict rules like ‘blue means calm’, choose the shades of blue that connect with your passion.
Consider the personality of your brand, and the aspirations of your customers. In general, most brands fit predominantly into one of the following personality categories:
- Sincerity – down-to-earth, honest, cheerful or wholesome
- Excitement – spirited, daring, young, modern, imaginative, unique
- Competence – reliable, successful, confident, intelligent, secure
- Sophistication – glamorous, feminine, attractive
- Ruggedness – masculine, tough, outdoorsy
It may help you to work out what personality your brand has, and then work on a colour palette that communicates this personality.
A Few Basic Rules About Colour
The colours you choose for your brand need to fit with your product and service, as well as bring out the right feelings in your customers. If you choose a palette that doesn’t fit with your business, customers will feel this disparity.
Colours influence what personality people will attribute to your business. For example, using pink as your main colour gives it a far different personality to if you chose black.
It can be difficult to predict how specific colours which make each individual client react, because much of their reaction is based in their background and psychological experience of the colour.
But you can try to define the overall aspirations that your target market has (for more help on this, see my article on customer aspirations) and then work out which colours, hues and combination are most likely to connect with those aspirations.
It might be better if you focus on the personality of your business and then connect that to colours which will bring that personality across and let it shine. I love this example of a brand using colour to the max! www.wonderlass.com
Branding and Colour: Final Thoughts
There are lots of studies and articles that say specific colours make people react in a certain way, but remember these are general patterns not rules about specific individuals. How colour affects each person will differ depending on their own history with the colour.
Don’t follow strict rules about colours, but look at shades and tones of colour and how they affect you. Create a colour palette for your brand that aligns with you, that communicates your brand’s personality and that connects with who your customers aspire to be.
And if you are still very confused about where to start, give me a call!