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Color Psychology: How Color Influences Opinions About Your Brand

Cecile Bennett

Whether we realize it or not, color plays a critical role in our lives. It tells us when to hit the gas, pump the brake, or proceed with caution. It turns our stomachs and makes our mouths water. It can even make us happier. Color is more than what we see with our eyes. It is a powerful tool that silently communicates and influences behavior. From how an office is decorated to increase productivity or inspire creativity, to selling a new car model through a TV commercial, color is used to stimulate our brains. Studies have shown that people decide whether or not they like a product in 90 seconds or less. Around 90% of that decision is based solely on color. Additionally, an individual’s reaction to a color can be deeply personal and rooted in their own experience. So, it’s important that a brand selects the right color to communicate their message to a specific audience, using color psychology to their advantage.

Heinz Ketchup made a bold move in 2000 when they traded their traditional brand red for green, purple, and blue. Their new EZ Squirt colored ketchup product was specifically targeted toward children and caused quite the stir in grocery stores across the country. Many U.S. adults were repulsed. In their previous experience, red has always been associated with savory and appetizing (maybe even a little spicy) food products, while cooler colors tend to skew more toward cleaning products. Kids, however, who are more likely to associate bright, quirky colors with sweet treats like candy, leapt at the chance to “play with their food.” Heinz sold 25 million bottles before the novelty wore off and the product was pulled from shelves in 2006. With a simple change of color, Heinz’s brand was able to shock their audience and capture an all-time high of 60% of the U.S. ketchup market.

With those kinds of results, it’s safe to say that color psychology matters. Color psychology in logos is also a powerful way in which brands encapsulate and communicate their messaging. Check out this list of familiar brands, like Amazon and Facebook, and why their logo was chosen to be a specific color.

Look at the color list below to dive deeper into each color’s meaning and what story your brand may be telling:

Red evokes intense emotions like passion or anger. Brands often use it to build excitement and encourage audiences to act. It creates a sense of urgency and physically stimulates the human body by raising blood pressure and heart rate. It can be sexy and romantic. Red also encourages appetite and is associated with risk, movement, and high energy.

Orange is an active color. It increases the sense of competition and makes us feel physically stronger. It is cheery, warm, and rejuvenates us with positivity. Some find it to be overwhelminga warning sign. It draws our attention which is why brands often use it to appeal to impulsive shoppers. In some cultures, the color orange is associated with royalty and spirituality.

Yellow stands for optimism, joy, and enlightenment. It can improve analytical thinking and create a positive atmosphere in a business setting. If used correctly, yellow makes target audiences feel accepted; but in larger amounts, yellow is stressful on the eye. This is why babies tend to cry more in yellow rooms. It can also lead to feelings of frustration, betrayal, and anger.

Green symbolizes growth, renewal, and harmony. It is the most relaxing color for the human eye and reduces anxiety. In business, green is associated with prosperity, security, and the environment. Green is also used to promote a healthier lifestyle and fresh products. In many cultures, it can also represent good luck, sickness, endurance, or jealousy.

Blue promotes trust in a brand. It is non-confrontational, professional, and calm. It slows down your heart rate allowing the body to relax. Research has shown that people are more productive in blue rooms. It also lowers appetite which is why it is commonly associated with weight loss programs. Blue can also be considered conservative, clean, spiritual, sad, and somber.

Purple inspires creativity and has been commonly associated with royalty throughout history. It is brave, graceful, mysterious, and curious. Purple has a calming effect on the mind and body, and in some cultures, it indicates spirituality and death. It also stimulates the problem-solving area of the brain and has become an indicator of wisdom and respect. Due to its rare occurrence in nature, it can also be viewed as exotic or artificial.

Pink is one of the gentlest and yet most contradictory colors out there. It’s effect varies greatly depending on context. Pink, being such a calming and non-threatening color, represents tenderness, vulnerability, youth, and love. It can be used to represent positive aspects of traditional femininity like nurture and kindness, but is also linked to childhood innocence, appearing to be naïve or silly.

The bottom line is, every person is different and can have different emotions attached to different colors, so the universal significance of colors may or may not always work as intended. Color psychology is an interesting part of the complexity of the human brain. With so many unanswered questions and differences in cultural attachments to colors, we can take some of this research with a grain of salt based on the observations of how color has influenced the brain over the years. But if you have the opportunity to connect with your audience through color, why not take a chance?

Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

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Cecile Bennett
Senior Art Director