Using Colour Psychology in your Marketing Strategy

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“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” – Will Rogers

Starting a business – or “remodeling” a old one – is a daunting undertaking. Unlike the old days when your business’ competition consisted of whoever was local or in nearby towns, the internet has made it possible for your business to face overwhelming competition virtually from anywhere- even worldwide.  While the internet opens up the opportunity to have many more potential customers, it also makes it even more imperative to stand out from your competitors quickly and effectively since you are unlikely to be the only business of your type to show up in a Google search.  You get that one momentary opportunity to create a positive impact before your potential customer clicks on to the next posting.

Besides the actual name of your business – which in itself is extremely important – how a business presents itself in its logo, packaging and/or informational material creates a preconceived opinion of your product or service.  Does the business seem to be a “winner” in its category with a competent website and smart, contemporary logos or packaging (if that applies)?  Studies have shown that when choosing between two equivalent products or services the vast majority are swayed by the more appealing presentation.  Large corporations spend a fortune on consumer studies to develop logos, packaging and ads to create a winning image.  This pays off in big dividends.  Many studies have shown that more than 90% of the public were influenced by at least one of these factors in deciding who they want to do business with.

However, one important consideration that is frequently overlooked by smaller businesses is the impact of colour in creating a positive image for their company.

Consider this from the University of Winnipeg:

  • Users form an opinion about a product within 90 seconds. People base that assessment mostly on its colour.
  • The logo colour is the first thing a customer will notice when they see a brand.

Colour in brands we know

The marketing professionals at large corporations, however, have known for decades the influence of colour in developing their brand and product recognition.  Think Coca-Cola’s red, or Tide laundry detergent’s orange.  These colours were not chosen randomly by these companies, but because they know that colour subconsciously affects us all- in positive or negative ways – depending on its application.  Just like when we see “pink” we automatically think “little girl” (and all the imagery that conjures up) we can play word association games with all the colours.  And marketing pros know they can make this work to their business’ advantage.  Red is associated (among other things) with energy and fun – hence Coca-Cola’s colour pick.   And orange is often associated with power/strength so one would assume you will get a deep clean with Tide.  Would you imagine that you’d get a deep clean with Tide if the bottle was brown? No, because that is the colour of dirt. But brown is often the right colour to appeal to those wanting all natural or organic products precisely because of the earthy colour. Would Coca-Cola seem to be for fun party times if the logo was primarily in grey?  Not likely.  But grey is a dignified, subdued colour suitable to represent many types of professional services.

How a business could get colour wrong

Think how very wrong a colour could be for certain types of business.  A butcher shop logo in bright red (blood – ugh), a nursery school logo in olive green (not much fun happening there), a yoga studio logo in bright primary colors (not seeing relaxation).  See the logic in picking colours singularly or in combinations to reflect the image you want to create?

Colours and their conscious and subconscious associations

Although there may be some cultural and personal differences with what attributes an individual might relate with particular colour, most associations are universals (blue is for coolness or water, yellow is for warmth or sun etc. Remember subdued shades of each colour will create a different response than the bright, saturated ones. The proportion of each colour will also affect its impact.  A logo mostly in red and black will seem very powerful/aggressive. But with black and a lot of white in the logo, a touch of red will create a dash of excitement.

 

Below is a list of colours and what most people associate subconsciously (or even consciously) with that colour.

RED
– A sense of urgency, hot, confident, bold, excitement, fun, passion, sex, high-energy, driven, assertive, courage, strength, power, action.
Possible negative connotations
– Warning, hazard, blood/violence, angry, aggressive, rebellious, ruthless, quick-tempered, domineering, promiscuity

GREEN
– Health, harmony, tranquility, nature, natural/organic, earthly, balance, relaxation, sanctuary, wholesomeness, inviting, fresh, growth, soothing, safety/well-being, goodwill,  wealth.
Possible negative connotations
– Stagnation, boredom, envy, materialism

PURPLE
– Royalty, wisdom, problem-solving, creativity, calm, beauty, elegance, prestige, wealth, status, mystical, imagination, respect, spirituality.
Possible negative connotations
– Moodiness, suppression, pompous, impractical, delusional

BLUE
– Reliability, loyalty, honesty, conservative, security, stability, intelligence, water/refreshing, communication, trustworthiness, peace, safe, tranquility, calm, cold/cool, economical, sea and sky
Possible negative connotations
– Appetite suppression, depression, rigid, weak, self-righteous

ORANGE
– Energy/power, cheerful, creativity, optimism, strength, excitement, friendly/social, informal, thrift/affordability, retro.
Possible negative connotations
– Caustic, caution, anxiety/uneasiness, immaturity, discount or low-end brand

YELLOW
– Happiness/fun, playful, uplifting, creativity, confidence, warmth, sunshine, brightness, excitement, intellect, optimism, enthusiasm, youthfulness, summer.
Possible negative connotations
– Fear, caution, hazard, warning, agitation, cowardly

BLACK
– Authority, power, confidence, tradition, dominance, strength, intelligence, stability, sexy, elegance, sophistication, formality, luxury, mystery, classic, magical
Possible negative connotations
– Gloomy, negativity, oppression, mourning, darkness, coldness, evil, secretiveness, menacing, unapproachable

GRAY
– Wisdom, intelligence, dignity, luxury, maturity, modesty, refined, professional, innovation, stability, balance, technology, calm, classical.
Possible negative connotations
– Old age, depression, death/loss, rigid, melancholy

WHITE
– Cleanliness, innocence, goodness, simplicity, efficiency, organization, proficiency, humility, purity, safety, open possibilities, creativity
Possible negative connotations
– Sterility, coldness, disinterest, detachment, stark

BROWN
– Reliability, supportive, reassuring, solid, strength, sophistication, durability, quality, comfort, security, down-to-earth, stability, relaxing, wood/stone/leather, natural/organic products
Possible negative connotations
– Sadness, isolation, dull, heaviness

PINK
– Femininity, compassion, sweet, love, youthful, romantic, caring, sensitive, playfulness, frivolous, luxury, friendship, inner peace, harmony, softness, sentimental
Possible negative connotations
– Female only, impulsive, rebelliousness, immaturity, over-emotional

In summary

Think about the most beneficial adjectives you would choose to convey the personality, culture and image of your business’s product or service.  See how you can effortlessly boost that compelling “first impression” with the effective use of colour – without having to say a word!

Gail Sternberg is a retired Allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers, and has also studied advertising and print marketing.  You can read her interior design blog over at https://www.lipanel.com/design

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