When it comes to scientific data, the facts about color science are difficult to pin down. As an article in Entrepreneur states, “Most of today’s conversations on colors and persuasion consist of hunches, anecdotal evidence and advertisers blowing smoke about “colors and the mind….” and are “backed by little research.” When all is said and done, personal preference has the final say about colors and the emotions they invoke.
While it’s true that cultural norms and mother nature play a role in how we respond to color – red means stop or pay attention, while green is a symbol of life and energy – your company’s best bet is to test, test and test again. Learn all you can about your niche market’s color preference, and then put those results to work in your signage, advertisements and promotional materials.
Big Brands Still Adhere to Color Psychology When Making Marketing Decisions
Even though colors and their meanings aren’t as concrete (evidence-based) as marketing experts would like to promote, there is no doubt that big business still adheres to the tenets of color science when working with branding and logos.
Here are some current thoughts about colors and what they invoke, along with examples of well-known brands that have adopted them as their own.
What Do Different Colors Mean?
- RED. Power, caution and pay attention. It’s also said to whet viewers’ appetites. Red is a bold color that invokes powerful feelings. Thus, it’s used by Kellog’s, Target, Pinterest, Coca-Cola, Canon and Netflix. It’s negative connotations include anger, danger or pain.
- ORANGE. Emotional warmth, brightness and autumn or earthy connotations. This color is used by Amazon, Firefox, Nickelodeon, Mastercard (their blend of red and yellow – smart!) and Harley-Davidson. It’s negative connotations include frustration, ignorance or lack of energy.
- YELLOW. Like orange, there is an essence of warmth and the cheer (references to the sun), positive emotions and an attention getter. It’s also a very powerful beacon against a dark background or contrast. Yellow has been the telltale branding color for McDonalds, BestBuy, Hertz and Post-It, as well as Shell and IMBD. It’s negative connotations include caution, fear and anxiety.
- GREEN. Life, new energy, health, nature, growth (or growing) and eco-friendly. Green is more than a color now; it’s also a movement. Thus, it’s no surprise that it’s used by brands that promote sustainability or who want to be associated with the Green is the color used to brand Whole Foods, John Deere, Animal Planet, Perrier and Starbucks. Its negative connotations include envy, blandness or boredom.
- BLUE. Calm, spaciousness and serenity. Blue is also associated with strength or steadfastness/trust. Like green, and probably due to its representation of water or the ocean, blue also has sustainable or earth-friendly associations. Examples of brand’s taking on blue hues are Facebook, Visa, Intel, Nivea, Ford and PayPal. Blue’s negative connotations include coldness or frozen as well as unfriendly or unappetizing.
- PURPLE. Historically, purple is the color of royalty, so it’s no surprise that it’s associated with feelings of power or prestige, as well as extravagance, wealth and sophistication. Brand’s associated with purple are Yahoo!, Cadbury, Hallmark (Crown as their symbol!), FedEx (along with orange) and Taco Bell. The negative emotions invoked by purple can include decadence, suppression and moodiness.
- BLACK. Luxury, power and a level of sophistication and security. Brands that capitalize on the color’s stalwart impression include Nike, BOSS, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, and Puma. The negative side of black emotion is oppression, evil, mourning and heaviness.
- Silver/White. Modernity, sleek and clean, wisdom. Brands that utilize white or silver/gray motifs include Adidas, Lexus, PRADA, SONY, and Tesla. The negative connotations associated with silver or white include boring, empty, distant or sterile.
Odds are, you came across some of the above color psychology connotations with thoughts of, “I don’t feel that at all,” which is a prime example of how subjective it all is.
What Colors Make Your Target Audience Think, Feel, Engage or Respond?
If you enjoy learning more about color psychology, we recommend reading HubSpot’s post, Color Psychology in Marketing. In addition to some of the information we’ve cited above, they include a fantastic infographic with data-driven analytics about the colors listed above and how they’re viewed by different genders, the percentages of people who claim the color as their most or least favorite, and other fun tidbits worth reviewing.
In the meantime, the best advice we can give you about color psychology and your audience is review the information out there, and then test and re-test colors with existing, prospective and niche target markets. For example, according to HubSpot’s infographic, only 1% of male survey responders like pink or purple, so you may want to forgo those colors if males comprise the majority of your target for particular conference, tradeshow or marketing campaign. On the flip side, women seem to respond to purple, as well as yellow – but don’t seem to be as fond of white/silver or….pink!
When HubSpot tested colors for CTA buttons, they found red CTA’s outperformed green CTA’s by more than 20%, which is worth noting. This indicates that the “what” of the color’s use matters. While red imagery or graphics may not be as compelling in certain applications, red does seem to be successful desiring click-thrus for marketing campaigns.
Does your small or medium-sized business need assistance choosing colors or graphics for signage, promotional materials, or your next big event table? Contact us here at SpeedPro East Bay. Our graphic designers have loads of experience, and we put color psychology to work in all the ways that matter. We’ll help bring your designs and ideas to actionable life.