The Powerful Psychology of Color in Advertising

Ellen Gregory

In the world of marketing and branding, the psychology of color is a powerful tool. Humans are visual creatures, which is exactly why it’s beneficial to understand and utilize the science of colors in marketing. 

In particular, research and studies about the psychology of color in advertising has found color influences our behavior and decision-making. In fact, studies have found that color alone can be the sole reason someone purchases a product.

Surveys found 93 percent of buyers focus on the visual appearance when they are considering a product, and over 80 percent cited that color is a primary reason that they purchase a particular product. Colors have the capacity to evoke an emotional bond, but each color will evoke different reactions and emotions within them. Needless to say, tapping into the psychology of color and knowing how to select the right colors is imperative to your success. As a designer, knowing the power of colors and marketing will help you make better decisions. So let’s get ready to dive into the colorful world of the science of colors in marketing!

science of colors in marketing
The psychology of color in advertising has a tremendous impact on our users.


The psychology of color 

Choosing the appropriate color or colors is vital to your success, as it impacts what a potential user sees, how they feel, and it directly influences their decision. This is exactly why understanding the psychology of color in marketing is so important. Choosing the right color will evoke a positive reaction, but a poor color choice can negatively impact your success. Getting it wrong may mean a superb product or design is dismissed or ignored. 

Whether you are choosing a color for designing a product, designing a website, or applying color elsewhere, the psychology of color in advertising has a tremendous impact on our user. Subconsciously, we associate different colors with a different set of emotions and reactions, which we have outlined below:

the psychology of color in advertising
The psychology of color in advertising has found color influences our behavior and decision-making.


Red 

If you want to create a powerful presence or get someone's attention quickly, red does an excellent job.

Red physically stimulates the body, raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, stimulates appetite, and is often associated with movement, excitement, and passion. It is a powerful and dynamic color that evokes a sense of urgency. It is frequently used by fast-food chains, for clearance sales, safety products, and designs meant to symbolize love or passion.

When implemented well, it is an energizing color that portrays friendliness and strength. Depending on the context, it can also be demanding and show aggression. To avoid negative reactions, use it sparingly. 

Blue 

According to the psychology of color in marketing, blue is typically the preferred color of men. Unlike red, blue evokes a mental reaction as opposed to a physical reaction. Blue is associated with peace, tranquility, and reliability. It brings to mind a sense of security, curbs appetite, and stimulates productivity. 

While it is commonly used by brands to promote trust in their products, it is one of the last colors to be seen. It can also be perceived as distant, cold, or unfriendly if overused. When used well, blue is a well-liked color that creates a sense of calmness and trust when building relationships. 

Green  

Green is associated with health, tranquility, power, and nature. It stimulates harmony in your brain as it reflects life, rest, and peace. It is also a sign of growth, whether that’s physical with plants or in our income and sense of wealth.

It encourages a sense of balance, logically and emotionally, which promotes a clear sense of right from wrong and decisiveness. When it comes to colors and marketing, green is successful in stores, designs and products that intend to relax users and promote environmental issues. 

If the intention behind your design is to portray health, rest, or to relieve stress, the science of colors in marketing points to using green. Keep in mind that overusing green can have a negative impact. When overused, it can evoke a sense of materialism and greed.

Purple 

Purple is commonly associated with royalty, luxury, wisdom, loyalty, respect, courage, magic, mystery, imagination, and spirituality. It evokes a sense of intrigue, as it both soothes and presents space for mystery and new ideas. Since purple is a blend of red and blue, it perfectly balances the energy and power of red with the stability and reliability of blue. You might notice that it is frequently used to promote beauty and anti-aging products.

While purple stimulates problem-solving and creativity, too much can create too much introspection or distraction as thoughts begin to wonder.

Yellow 

Yellow represents the epitome of joy, happiness, cheerfulness, optimism. Anything that is meant to evoke a sense of happiness, to lift someone's spirits, increase their confidence, or provide inspiration, yellow is the ideal color to use. The psychology of color has found the long wavelength of yellow causes a powerful impact and causes it to be the easiest color to visibly see. 

On the flip side, overusing yellow can cause an increase in critical self-esteem issues, fear, or anxiety. Finding the right balance of yellow will increase a sense of motivation, not bring others down.

the psychology of color yellow
Yellow represents joy, happiness, cheerfulness, and optimism. Source: Paul Green

Orange

Much like yellow, orange is another cheerful color that promotes optimism, but can also be used to trigger a sense of caution. Its sense of anxiety often draws in impulsive buyers and window shoppers. The psychology of color in advertising has found orange has a profound effect on users as it combines red's power and energy with yellow's friendliness and optimism. 

This combination makes for a superb representation of physical comfort in our warmth, food, and shelter, it also is perfect for promoting motivation, a positive attitude, and general enthusiasm for life. 

Black  

When researching colors and marketing, studies have found black is best associated with authority, power, stability, and strength. It is often used to symbolize intelligence, sophistication, seriousness, control, and independence. 

Since black is a very powerful color, it can become overwhelming if used too frequently as it is also associated with evil, mystery, depression, and even death. Use it sparingly and in the text, opposed to the visuals itself, is typically recommended. 

White  

While black likes to stay hidden, in control, and separate from others, white is associated with feelings of purity, cleanliness, innocence, peace, and safety. White space is often used to spark creativity as it represents new beginnings, and is perceived as a clean and pure state that gives refreshment for new ideas. White is recommended for simplicity, cleanliness, and idea creation, but too much white may cause feelings of isolation, loneliness, and emptiness. 

Since white has an equal balance of all the colors, it can be used effectively to exemplify several meanings, with equality outweighing them all. White is a great color for simplicity, cleanliness, and idea creation; however, avoid using too much white as it can cause isolation, loneliness, and emptiness.

colors and marketing
We associate different colors with a different set of emotions and reactions.


It’s important to note that not all users will react the same way to colors. Previous experiences with colors from significant events, cultures, people, and memories may influence users to associate colors differently. The above information on the psychology of color is a generalization of how people respond to color, but a good benchmark to use. 

Implementing color and marketing into your designs

So we’ve outlined the psychology of color in advertising for each color, but how do we properly implement and use the color theory?  

Color directs our attention. It influences where to look, what to do, and how to interpret something. Ultimately, it helps us decipher what's important, and what's not important. Contrasts will reduce eyestrain and allow readers to focus their attention on specific items. Vibrancy, on the other hand, dictates an emotional response. Using contrast in your design helps makes text or objects more noticeable. You may want to use high contrast, so colors easily stand apart from each other, or a low contrast for a less subtle variation. It’s often assumed that the difference in color is what creates contrast. On the contrary, it’s all about the tone. Test out your color contrast, by turning them into grayscale and reviewing their contrast.

Consider selecting brighter colors to promote energetic users, thus evoking better responses and reactions. If your product, design, or website is information-intensive, it may be beneficial to use darker color themes to ensure users can process all your data.

the psychology of color in advertising 
Most people prefer simple color combinations.


The psychology of color combinations & complementary colors

Using the color wheel to choose the best color combinations will help make your call to action buttons, text, or key elements stand out and appeal visually to users. A study conducted by the University of Toronto found a majority of people using Adobe Kuler prefer simple color combinations based on 2 to 3 favorite colors. Users prefer simplicity. Too many colors detract from your message, and can make your design more confusing. 

With that in mind, it’s often beneficial to choose complementary color combinations, or “opposite” colors, to make things stand out. When you look at a color wheel, you may notice that blue is the opposite of orange, red is the opposite of green, and yellow is the opposite of purple. Consider this, when we view a design that is predominantly various shades of greens with a bit of red, the red stands out amazingly well. The eye detects the red as a visual break from all the green. 

The science of colors in marketing suggests that using complementary colors will help your message and brand stand out. However, you don't want 50% of both complementary colors, as it causes distress to the eyes when it isn’t clear which color to focus on. For the best results, select a primary color as your main color. Then accent the primary with its complementary color with approximately a 7:3 ratio. This makes for a visually appealing color pairing and gives your eyes a break. 

The science of colors in marketing and complementary colors
Complementary colors will help your message and brand stand out.


Testing the science of colors in marketing

If you’ve made this far with me, you probably agree that the psychology of color in advertising is fascinating. Both the psychology of color and the color theory provide a wealth of knowledge and captivating insight into a user’s behavior. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it has been considered and reconsidered again and again, and the best results come from testing your design

Testing is intended to find out if your design or product is successful. It’s all about trial and error, which means it’s an ongoing process that may need revising. The best way to learn how your audience will respond to your colors is with thoughtful A/B tests. A/B tests provide the perfect opportunity to determine which color combinations and placements generate the most leads and traffic in your content.


Instantly testing your design with others and getting invaluable insight based on direct input and real user interaction with CloudApp. Comparing slightly tweaked variations is one of the best ways to design the most optimal form and get concrete data on which variation attracts more customers. Simple changes can help you analyze different results and optimize accordingly.

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