Hues to Use: Color Psychology in Marketing
June 22, 2018
How color can influence the relationship between consumer and brand
Around ten years ago, I was appalled when my favorite movie theater got a new coat of paint. The formerly pale blue exterior became a jarring red and yellow. I remember being confused and laughing, but I later realized they weren’t trying to improve the aesthetic beauty of their building. The colors red and yellow have a strong association with food and are said to stimulate hunger, so the theater was trying to increase its food sales. Companies like AMC Theaters intentionally use colors in their logos and interior design to evoke specific feelings in their consumers. One scientific study found that in the 90 seconds it takes for a consumer to form an opinion on a product, 62-90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone. Of course, one color may have many meanings depending on its shade, but let’s look at a few basic colors and their hidden messages in the marketing world...
Red is a bold color and causes the greatest psychological response of all colors. It relays passion, fury, aggression, and excitement. According to WebpageFX, it boosts our heart rates and increases spontaneous decision-making (think clearance sale tags). It also tends to increase our appetites, and it’s the main color used by most fast food restaurants (ex. McDonald’s, Cane’s, Wendy’s, Popeye’s, Chick-fil-A, and so on). It causes a sense of urgency in consumers and is useful for companies that boast products typically considered impulse buys (ex. Coca-Cola, Target, Kellogg’s, Pinterest). Companies that use red want to stand out.
Green is an ultimately positive color, associated with money, the best type of traffic light, and a lush, fertile environment. Green logos make us feel that a company is ethical and concerned with our health and the environment (ex. Whole Foods, Animal Planet, Subway). Associated with nature, it also evokes peacefulness. The forest green incorporated into the logo and interior design of Starbuck’s sets the stage for the relaxing environment in which consumers drink coffee and complete work. Brands that use lime green—such as XBOX, Spotify, and Monster Energy—communicate the exciting and pleasurable nature of their products.
The color of the sky conveys stability, serenity, and trustworthiness. Law enforcement uniforms are blue, which we often associate with reliability and loyalty. Most airlines incorporate blue into their branding, and every plane I’ve ever been on has had blue seats. Blue is the most popular favorite color in the world, so more people may have a positive preconception of a company based on its blue logo. Several companies that convey trust with blue logos are Chase, PayPal, Skype, WebMD, Ford, and Dell. Relaxation is communicated through blue in the logos of companies such as Royal Caribbean and Hilton.
Pink is feminine, warm, and playful. It’s regularly used by companies that target female audiences (ex. Mary Kay, Victoria’s Secret, Cosmopolitan), but brands such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins use pink to indicate the sweetness of the food products they offer. It has a longstanding association with “girliness” and is used by Barbie, Justice, Hello Kitty—popular children’s brands. Outside of the food industry and companies that target females, pink communicates a fun attitude and enjoyment (ex. Lyft, LG, T-Mobile).
Yellow is associated with warmth, energy, and optimism. It’s psychologically the happiest color, and Ignyte Brands states that it’s proven to grab your eye quicker than any other color. Companies such as McDonald’s (“The Golden Arches”), Subway, Sonic, Shell, and BP use yellow to grab the attention of drivers, and it delivers the message that a consumer will be happier with your product (ex. Lay’s, Sun Chips, Cheerio’s). Yellow is also used to indicate brands that boast cost-conscious products (ex. Forever 21, IKEA, Best Buy, Wal-Mart). It’s a color that indicates caution and is often used by companies offering construction equipment and machinery (ex. Caterpillar, JCB, John Deere).
Alex Ellis is an Intern at Bond Moroch.