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Last Updated On: 20/05/2019

The Psychology of Colour in Marketing

By The Campus Digital

Rest assured: colour is still a major factor for your business, and it won’t likely change soon.


The use of colour influences how people feel, even though we might not register it at all the time.

Picking the right combination on any form of visual communication can make or break the deal and is therefore an interesting resource. Colours will help you shape your message and when done right it will definitely affect your sales (in a good way).

Choosing the wrong colours on your website, for instance, will lead people to ignore your precious content and maybe even worse: completely ignore your call to action.

Though dependent on the race, gender, educational background etc. a lot of research has been done to carve out some rules. Lucky us!

Are you ready to learn more?

Getting To Know The Colours

Do you remember when we were taught the basic colours? When we learned that red, blue and yellow are the determining ones and when combined in a certain amount can create new colours?

Well, unless you were in designer school at an early age, you will probably not have learned the difference in colour patterns and models. Here are commonly used patterns:

Model RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue)

The basic model, often used in painting and consists of red, yellow and blue. You can create secondary colours like orange, purple and green.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue)

The RGB model is a well-known colour model for its use in early computer screens. The red, blue and green create 2nd-level colours like yellow, blue and purple.

CMYK Model (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)

Widely used in the printing industry: they are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (which is referred to as the Key). These three colours create the secondary as following:

  • Red = Magenta + Yellow
  • Green = Yellow + Blue
  • Blue = Blue + Magenta

The Complementary Colours


In addition to the primary and secondary colours, we also have tertiary ones. These are created by a combination of the former two. But even those are influenced by:

  • Shade
  • Intensity
  • Saturation
  • Brightness
  • Tones
  • Tints
  • Shadows
  • Hue

When you look at the colour circle below, you can identify complementary colours but picking one and see which one is on the opposite of it.

For example, marine blue and orange go well together (does any business or logo pop into your head right now? That is the effect of colour marketing).

These colours usually create contradictions. This will prove useful for your marketing, as you will often have to choose a colour that is different from the rest of the artwork for a certain effect (more info on that later). Use this amazing tool to help you find your complimentary colours.

And now the good part…

The Effect of Colours On Consumers

Colour affects the way we think and behave. The colour directs our eye on where to look, what to do and how to interpret something. It puts the content in context and helps us decide what is important and what is not. In a study titled “Impact of Colour in Marketing”, researchers have found that 90% of consumers' instant decisions about products are based on colours alone!

Concerning the role of branding, studies have shown the relationship between brands and colours highly depend on whether the public perceives them relatable (coffee and brown? Yes!)

What about the role in branding? Studies (such as this one) have shown that the success of a brand and its colours are highly connected to whether the public perceives them relevant to one and other (for instance, which colour would you choose for a water bottling company?).

The research “Exciting Red and Competent Blue” details how the purchase intention is closely associated with the colours of the brand. As consumers prefer to buy from recognisable brands choosing the right colour is obviously an extremely important factor.


Colours and their association:

  • The colours yellow, orange and red are considered hot, bright and vibrant colours that attract and stand out. You can find these colours on banners and call-to-action button.
  • Silver, blue and lilac feel like bright and colder colours, depicting freshness, innovation and professionalism.
  • Green, violet and turquoise are darker colours. They provide stability and quality. Though not attention seekers, they focus on content and are therefore used in science, automotive and computer products.
  • Gold, purple and brown are considered hot and dark colours expressing tradition, relaxation and luxury. Combined with cold colours they give the impression of new and innovation. You can find them in finance, consulting and architecture.
  • White, grey and black are neutral colours, which help in creating a contrast by combining them with other colours.

Following are the colour-associated feelings of mainly American and British surveys:


Red = Urgent

 Emotions: love, passion, energy, power, heat and desire.

 Negative feelings: anger, danger and warning.

  • Red is the colour of power and passion. It attracts and keeps the attention, explaining its popularity in marketing.
  • It creates a sense of urgency, which is positive for sales.
  • It stimulates the appetite (and is often used by fast-food chains), stimulates the body, increases blood pressure and heartbeats and is related to mobility, excitement and passion.


Blue = Trust

 Emotions: peace, security, integrity, peace, devotion, trust and intelligence.

 Feelings: cold, fear and manhood.

  • Blue, favoured by men, usually has a sense of security, dealing with a trust-worthy company.
  • Used by banks, social networks and businesses. It is associated with serenity, reliability and water, stimulating productivity.


Yellow = Optimism

 Emotions: brightness, energy, warmth, happiness, joy, liveliness and hunger.

 Feelings: irresponsibility, instability, anxiety, anger and warning.

  • Yellow is a strong colour but can also become a dangerous one. It is the most joyful of colours, but when overused it can cause stress.
  • It is often used to attract the attention of people without a buyer intention.


Green = Nature

 Emotions: peace, freshness, nature, environment, new, money, wealth, fertility and health.

 Feelings: jealousy and guilt.

  • Green is a versatile colour. It is warm, welcoming and produces pleasant feelings.
  • It also means health, calmness, money and wealth (mainly in the US due to the green colour used in banknotes).
  • It’s associated with environment and nature, which is why it relaxes people. Green stimulates harmony and balance.


Purple = Fine

 Emotions: luxury, courtesy, nobility, elegance, relaxation, elegance, spirituality, ambition, wealth, wisdom and respect.

 Feelings: peculiarity and mystery.

  • Purple helps in associating elegance to your company, products and message.
  • It is related to problem solving and creativity. Widely used by beauty, cosmetics and anti-aging brands.


Orange = Energy

 Emotions: self-confidence, friendliness, success, energy and courage.

 Feelings: ignorance, dullness and attention.

  • Energising, it is pleasant and entertaining. Associated with pioneering companies.
  • Like yellow, it is an optimistic colour, but it can also act as a warning.
  • Used for call-to-action buttons.


Pink = Womanhood

 Emotions: sweetness, playfulness, compassion, femininity, romance, politeness, love, tenderness and optimism.

  Feelings: femininity, immaturity and weakness.

  • Pink soothes the nerves and creates noble emotions, romance and love.
  • If your buyer persona is a younger lady, then pink is your colour. Romantic and maybe even girly it is often used for products and by companies that want to appeal to women or young girls.


Grey = Balance

 Emotions: neutrality, practicality, grace, glamor, technology, science, prosperity, responsibility, modern and patience.

 Feelings: indecision, impersonal, cold and pessimism.

  • Grey (or silver) symbolises practicality, older age and solidarity. When overused it can cause feelings of depression and pessimism.
  • Some shades are related to old age, death and taxes. Silver gives a sense of help and a strong character.


White = Purity

 Emotions: Goodness, innocence, purity, freshness, ease and cleanliness.

Feelings: isolation, antiquity and emptiness.

  • White symbolises purity, cleanliness and security. It can be used to portray the neutrality or the absence of colour and stimulate creativity.


Keywords and their colours:

In a survey requested by some people to choose a colour for specific words. Below the basic results.

  • Confidence: Most chose blue (34%), white (21%) and green (11%).
  • Security: Blue came first (28%), followed by black (16%) and green (12%).
  • Speed: Red was overwhelmingly their favorite (76%).
  • Low prices: Orange came first (26%), followed by yellow (22%) and brown (13%).
  • High quality: Black was the clear winner (43%) and followed by blue (20%).
  • High technology: The first choice was black (26%), followed by blue and gray (both 23%).
  • Reliability: Blue was the top choice (43%), followed by black (24%).
  • Courage: Most preferred purple (29%), then red (28%) and blue (22%).
  • Fear: Red came first (41%), followed by black (38%).
  • Amusement: Orange was the top choice (28%), then yellow (26%) and purple (17%).


Colour Preference By Gender


Men and women perceive and prefer colours differently. Woman tend to see more colours than men and can distinguish their nuances better. Baby pink, bobbon, sugarplum, salmon etc. are often perceived as ”just pink” by men.

The former Kissmetrics blog (now owned by Neil Patel) made a study where you can find an infographic on gender-preferred colours. Here are a few things to help you pick the right colour for you audience:

  • Blue is favoured both by men (57%) and women (35%).
  • Men don’t like brown (27%), while women don’t like orange (33%).
  • Less preferred colours were associated with cheapness.
  • Women prefer shades while men prefer pure colours.
  • The majority of men (56%) and women (76%) prefer cold colours.
  • Both aging genders tend to dislike orange more and more.
  • Women prefer pale colours, while men prefer bright ones.

How Colours Are Applied in Marketing

The way people perceive colours have a direct impact on your conversions or sales. Will they read your banner, will they click your banner or will they subscribe to your newsletter?

Website visitors will decide about the content in less than 90 seconds and 90% of this decision is based on colours alone! Without a doubt this makes picking the right colour an important strategy for any business!

Unfortunately, there is no magic button that works all the time. Time and cultures changes, so these results will differ as well.

Also, though blue is a preferred colour by many, a Facebook ad will probably not perform so well, because it is already the predominant colour on the platform. When you look at the complimentary colour, orange will do much better.

On this website they have used a green and a red button. Red had an increase of 21% in clicks. Does that mean that red is more effective in general?

Looking closely you can see that the company uses a green colour for their company logo. Red being the complimentary colour or green, stands out much, resulting in more clicks.

Be careful though: do not use 50% blue and 50% orange for your design, because that will hurt the eyes of your visitors.

Use all the information above when choosing the colours for your online advertisement. The best colour is neither green or red, but something you have split-tested yourself.

Do you need help in creating better online ads? Feel free to contact us.


You might also like:

  1. 7 Things To Keep In Mind Creating Your Logo
  2. How To Bring Customers Back Into Your Business
  3. How To Write Engaging Content For Your Website
  4. Promoting Yourself Online: 9 Ways To Actually Deliver
  5. The Buying Cycle Explained (And Why You Should Know)


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