Different colours have an incredible impact on our perceptions. They have the power to trigger deep emotional responses within us, making us think and feel a certain way. 

Because of that emotional response, colours play an important role in branding. The right colour can have a profound effect on your customers, so knowing what different emotions are triggered by each colour is an essential part of building your brand. 

In this guide, we’ll be helping you find your style by explaining what colours mean in branding. Specifically, we’ll be talking about:

  • Colour psychology
  • Consumer reactions to colours

It’s important to note, straight off the bat, that the same colour can have different meanings in different cultures. So, when we talk about the emotional responses to each colour, we’re really coming at it from a western point of view. 

What is colour psychology?

Colour psychology studies human responses when presented with certain colours. It’s an interesting question, do certain colours affect our behaviour? Branding in particular is very concerned with this question, as certain colours could subtly influence customer decisions. The overwhelming opinion is, yes, colours definitely have an impact on our feelings. 

In fact, most scientists agree that the evolution of our colour vision was a key part of human survival. We learned to recognise ripe fruits and vegetables by their bright, attractive colours, so our reaction to colours is deep in our DNA. 

That said, it’s still not clear precisely how different colours affect us, and it can vary wildly depending on our culture, upbringing, and life experiences. 

Yellow, for example, is generally seen as a friendly, optimistic colour. The colour of sunshine and sunflowers. But, at the same time, yellow and black together is often used as a warning, like bees, and warning labels for chemicals. 

Consumer reactions to colours

Like we’ve mentioned above, colour psychology is not an exact science. There’s still a huge amount of debate and study into the matter. 

Even so, we can make some broad statements about consumer reactions to certain colours. So let’s go through each colour individually, look at how they’re perceived, and see how some bigger brands have used those colours. 

Red

Unsurprisingly, red captures people’s attention. It’s generally seen as the colour of excitement, passion, danger, and energy. 

As such, it’s definitely the most attention-drawing colour. Brands often use this to stand out on the shelf or encourage excitement in customers. 

Think of coca-cola, for example. Their famously red logo is often partnered with this idea of energy and fun. Youtube also uses red effectively for their logo and for their actual play button. It inspires the feeling of suspense from literally hitting the big red button. 

Orange

Orange has a similar energy to red, but it tends to come across as less intense. It makes people think of creativity, warmth, fun, and adventure. 

It’s a naturally eye-catching colour, particularly when contrasted with more relaxing blues. Brands like Firefox and Mastercard balance this contrast well in their branding. 

Yellow 

Like we mentioned up top, yellow can make people feel happiness, positivity, and optimism. But it should be used sparingly. Too much yellow, like too much of any nice thing, can be overwhelming or even a bit garish. 

McDonald’s uses yellow in its main logo. It’s just enough to stand out from a distance, works well with their family-friendly, optimistic brand image. 

Pink

Pink tones stir feelings of playfulness, sweetness, and affection. Because of this, pink is most often used for brands that are more feminine in their branding. 

For example, Barbie, Victoria’s Secret, and Cosmopolitan are all famously pink logos. That said, as attitudes toward gender are changing in general, it’s more common now to see brands embracing pink regardless of their target audience’s gender. 

Green 

Green is the colour of money, nature, fertility, freshness, and growth. That’s why you see brands like Holland and Barret or Starbucks with bold green logos. 

On the flip side, green can also make people think of greed, sickness, and envy. It’s a fine line to walk, but context is everything. For example, you’ll very rarely see a bank with a green logo, because their existing connection with money might imply greed. 

Blue

The colour of the sky and the seas, it’s no wonder most people relate blue to feelings of peace, harmony, and stability. It can have a calming effect on customers, making them feel more at ease. 

A lot of banks, like Halifax and RBS, and tech companies, like Facebook, Twitter, and Skype use blue in their branding because it makes us feel relaxed and trusting. 

It can also be used to soothe more aggressive oranges and reds as we mentioned earlier. 

Purple

Purple tends to make people think of luxury and extravagance. So, when it is used in branding, it’s used very sparingly. An overload of purple can make a brand appear arrogant and pretentious. 

White

White is another interesting colour in terms of psychology. It can stir up feelings of goodness and cleanliness, so it’s a popular choice for toothpaste branding. 

On the other hand, it can also symbolise something more cold and sterile. You’ll rarely see white on its own for this reason, but also because it’s just a great background colour for any other colour. It acts as a great contrast, making text and logos easier to see. 

Black 

Black tends to give the impression of elegance, sophistication, and power. It’s often used to represent mystery and intrigue. 

As such, it’s often used by sporty companies like Adidas and Nike, as well as up-market brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Gucci. 

Grey

Often seen as a boring colour, grey makes us think of neutrality. For that reason, it’s not often used in marketing because it doesn’t cause any kind of strong reaction in consumers.

Brown

The colour of earth and wood, brown is often a comforting colour that makes us think about security and relaxation. You’ll probably notice a lot of brown in cafes and bars to promote a relaxing environment, like Costa coffee.

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