Colour psychology in marketing – your choice of colour matters

1980s colour based stay at home playlist

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Snapshot : Your choice of colour impacts how consumers perceive your brand and your activity every day. But colour psychology in marketing is rarely top of mind. As we update our guide to the use of colour in marketing, we share some specific examples of how you can use colour to grow the impact of your brand.

Your choice of colours says a lot about you and your brand.

When you see a colour, your brain makes a link to associations you already have with those colours. Colour acts as a signal to specific associations and meanings.

You can use these associations or signals as a short-cut to link your brand to what those colours represent for your consumers. 

Want to make your brand look natural and healthy? Choose a green-focussed colour palette. Want to make your brand look calm and trustworthy/ Choose a blue colour palette. 

Creatives, designers and printers learn and know about these types of colour signals. But, most marketers don’t give it a lot of thought. That’s a missed opportunity.

Because even a basic understanding of colour psychology in marketing can put you ahead of the competition. 

As we’ve just updated our skill guide to colour in marketing, it’s been very top of mind for us this week. Your choice of colour has major implications on your brand identity, your packaging, your advertising and your website. If you understand colour psychology in marketing, you can use it to improve the impact of your brand activation

As part of our research into colour signals and associations, we came across this great article on colour. It set out to define decades by colour. Because some colours have strong associations with certain periods of time. They signal very specific times for people. 

And it’s weird thing, when you can just look at a set of coloured boxes. And say, oh yeah, that’s the 1960s or the 1980s. Because when you look at some of the colours, you make the association with different decades. 

Lockdown playlist social media fun

Inspired by the article, we had some fun with it posting a bunch of social media posts like the one above.

We put our top 10 tunes, based on the decade and the colour choice. But tunes that had a specific resonance to being in lockdown. 

In this example, we used the colours Natural and Harvest Gold (Hex references #c9a87d and #f7a141). These colours are very resonant of that dusty, beach, California free love vibe. If you’ve seen Tarantino’s latest Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it’s full of this sort of colour palette.

But compare that to the eye-watering Pacman and Powersuit (Hex references#c8ff00 and #ff00ff) from the 1980s playlist at the top of the page. Those connotations are aerobic leotards and leg warmers, and vibrant music videos on MTV.

Very different, huh?

But the different associations and signals, are all generated just by the choice of colour. And that is something that marketers should take the time to learn more about. 

Colour in marketing – where to start

As we outline in our newly updated guide, there’s a lot of practical things you can learn and use from colour  in marketing. 

To start with, to make sure everyone is talking about the same thing, it’s important to learn the different ways to name and describe colours. This can be as simple as the basic colour wheel of the 12 primary, secondary and tertiary colours. 

But obviously, there are more than 12 colours to choose from. So, it’s important to be able to name and describe colours specifically, so that you get the same colour used consistently in everything you do. 

So, for this, there’s the different ways colours can be described. And the FIVE, yes FIVE different colour systems you can choose from – RGB, HSB, Hex, CMYK and Pantone.

We don’t know of a single marketing course that trains you in these systems. You usually end up hearing about them from designers or printers, and having to wing it, that you actually understand these systems. 

Colour wheel with primary, secondary and tertiary (hue) colours

It’s almost like the understanding of colour has to be picked up by some sort of osmosis.

Check out our guide for the fuller explanation of these colour systems. But, the short version to remember for now is that RGB and HSB are mainly for screens. Hex is for websites. And CMYK and Pantones are for printing.

But naming colours to describe them accurately is only the first step when you learn about colour for marketing. 

Colour psychology in marketing

Because, more importantly then is how you apply colours in your marketing activity to your advantage. And for us, we see a big knowledge gap in most businesses about this. 

Because, there’s a lot of great information out there about the psychological impact of colour.

But we reckon most marketers have little to no idea about this. They rely on designers and agencies to advise them.

It’s a missed opportunity. Because the way people connect with colours is an insight you can use to drive growth.

The mental associations and signals mean that colour psychology in marketing should be part of your marketing toolkit. 

Colours help create quicker and stronger brand associations, They reinforce what it stands for. 

So for example, we’re thinking of three brands we know well.

If we just describe them, without giving you the brand name, see if you can pick up what colour you think the packaging would be. 

Answers at the end of the article.

Colour psychology - an applied use of colour in marketing

Brand A

So Brand A is a brand that plays in the world of healthy nutrition. It has strong claimed health benefits. It spends a lot of time with healthcare professionals to build up scientific research to back up these health claims. This clinical, scientific approach comes through in its packaging, website and promotional materials. It’s target audience like it because it gives them confidence that it knows what it is doing. 

Brand B

Brand B is an alcohol brand that’s mostly drunk in cocktails on fun nights out. It’s energetic and vibrant. It has roots that pull together its funky product origins, it’s stimulating product ingredients and a history of big night out advertising. You’d expect to see groups of younger drinkers necking this brand after midnight in a darkened nightclub. It’s all about a big night out.

Brand C

Brand C is in the snack business, and its main product is luxurious and indulgent. It leads the way in its market, and is see as the “go to” brand in its category. It’s mainly consumed later in the day as an indulgent treat. The brand frequently launches new flavour extensions based on the latest food trends. 

Spend time thinking about your choice of colour

Marketing is challenging enough already. A good knowledge of how and where to use colour and colour psychology in marketing can take your whole brand game up a level. 

If your product is in the supermarket, as we point out in our guide to packaging development, colour is one of the key ways you can make your brand stand out from the 40,000 other products that you’ll find in there. It signals what your product is, and what your brand stands for. 

As we cover in our guides to advertising and media, repetition driven by frequency is a key part of building awareness and recognition of your brand. And when you can repeat the use of a colour in your advertising, it helps strengthen the mental connection between that colour and the brand.

For example, Check out Coca-Cola’s Christmas advertising and how they link the red and white colours into everything they do. 

The repetition and consistency helps consumers remember your brand and associate it with specific colours. 

And if website design is your thing, then a consistent use of colour is a critical part of the user experience. So much so that usability.gov has an entire guide on how to use colour to improve the user experience.

Conclusion – Your choice of colour matters

So, we hope our little push to learn more about why your choice of colour matters hasn’t made you blue. We hope when you read this guide it made you think about how often or how little you actually think about colour. And talking of read, or red, even, that’s probably our hue, sorry cue to close this post off. 

Check out our guide to colour in marketing to learn a lot more about this topic. Or contact us if you’d like to add a better understanding of colour into your marketing skillset. 

ANSWERS to brand colour test 

A – BLUE.

B – ORANGE.

C – PURPLE. 

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