Color Psychology Marketing: How To Sell With Emotions

The power of colors and color psychology in marketing cannot be overestimated. Creating a successful brand and running an efficient online store definitely requires careful planning that includes a thorough selection of colors. Most people throughout the world will easily recollect the colors of such famous brands as Coca-Cola, McDonald's, or Canon.



Colors constitute a great part of visual perception and communicate information together with the text.

Even before reading and processing the text information on your website, visitors will get their first impression about your website from the colors you use.

Hence, colors can help you emphasize certain points, make customers see what you want them to see, and reveal your emotions.

Moreover, colors can influence usability, and inappropriately chosen colors will spoil the readability of the text and the impact of your message.

If you prepare your own online store, you often select colors randomly: you go for colors that you like and probably not too vivid. But this is far from enough.

During the past decades we all have had the opportunity to get a deeper understanding of color theory and color psychology that can help us determine the color combinations that work best, and also why they work best, in marketing and sales.

 

Simply put: It’s definitely worth having at least some basic knowledge about color psychology. That’s why you’re here…

 

In this post we are going to summarize what you definitely should know about using colors in the right way.

We are going to cover the following topics:

  • How much influence can colors have?
  • The basics: primary, secondary, and complementary colors
  • The meaning of different colors: Red / Orange / Yellow / Green / Blue / Purple / Pink / Brown / White / Black
  • Useful tips for maximizing your color psychology marketing effectiveness
  • Color use in practice

 

How much influence can colors have?

 

The first question: how important is color selection?

According to data from Kissmetrics, the shoppers are given a first impression of a product based on the influence of the following 3 key factors:

  • 1% – sound/smell,
  • 6% – texture,
  • 93% – visual appearance.

 

We cannot really deal with the first two as the shopper cannot hold the product in his hand, nor can he smell it.

So, here, even more emphasis is given to visuals: with colors you can “manipulate” your visitors in many ways.

 

tips Example: Just think of movies and the numerous color filters cinematographers and directors use to “set” us in a particular mood.

Black Hawk Down, Seven and The Matrix are excellent examples to see how carefully selected filters can take an effect on the mood of the audience, just like music can.

 

Colors influence our sense of security, danger, falseness etc.

Additionally, it is a fact that our mind can evoke memories better if they have been associated with a color first.

That’s why we often use highlighter pens when studying for an exam and that’s why a lot of people with Synaesthesia have amazing memorizing abilities.

 

Why should you study color theory and color psychology?

  • To show your products in a more convincing and more appealing way.
  • To improve user experience.
  • To set the customer in a mood desirable for us and to make a good impression.
  • To direct the shopper’s attention.

 

Now that we have made it clear what benefits proper, scientific color choice can have, let’s get into the details.

 

The basics: primary, secondary, tertiary, complementary, and analogous colors

 

Understanding the basics of color schemes will help you with your personal choice, so it is better to start from the very beginning, primary and secondary colors.

Primary colors are red, blue, and yellow, and they are used to make all other colors.

The next level of colors is called secondary colors, and they include  purple, green, and orange.

It can be easily understood that secondary colors are created from primary colors, that is, red and blue will make up purple, blue and yellow will give you green, and the combination of red and yellow will create orange.

When we go one step further and add more of one primary color than the other, we’ll create not a true secondary color, but  a tertiary color.

So, tertiary colors are such colors as red-purple, red-orange, yellow-green, etc. They are, in fact, closer to primary colors than to secondary colors.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, without the addition of white, black, or a third color, are known as pure (saturated) colors.

These untainted colors are bright and intense. Can you imagine cheerful children’s toys? These are the bright items that use pure colors.

Besides the notion of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, it is essential to know some information about tints, shades, and tones.  

Tints are colors that have a white color added to them. They are not as intense as pure colors; as they are lighter and paler, they are often referred to as pastel colors.

A similar principle is true for shades, but shades have a black color added to pure colors. Hence, shades are less bright and darker than pure colors.

Tones are achieved by adding gray to pure colors, so tones decrease the intensity of pure colors.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors with their tints, shades, and tones are usually presented as a color wheel.

Cool colors, in the blues and greens, are on the left side, and warm colors, in the yellows and reds, are on the right side of the wheel.

The color wheel or color circle shows us how different hues are organized and what relationships there are between them: similar, contrasting etc.

 

color wheel, color psychology marketing

The Color Wheel

 

Creating correct color contrast is crucial if you want to influence the audience.

High contrast, when colors easily stand apart from each other, is most often applied to achieve readability, because the text or object becomes distinguishable from the background.

Low contrast, when colors do not easily stand apart, looks more beautiful and can be applied for backgrounds, but it is not the best solution to achieve readability.

Generally, we can say that warm tones are “optimistic”, more energetic, while cool tones reflect a more relaxed, gloomy, serious mood.

Complementary (or opposite) colors are situated opposite each other on the color wheel. These are such colors as red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple.

Using complementary colors for contrast is the simplest way to emphasize something. Choose a primary color as your main color and accentuate it with a complementary color in about 7:3 proportion.

If you want to apply three colors on your page, pick your main color and split your complementary color, that is, choose two colors adjacent to the opposite of your main color.

Analogous colors are those that stand next to each other on the color wheel.

They create beautiful content and schemes, but they are not used to make objects stand out. Learning to combine analogous and complementary colors will give you a powerful tool to create magnificent designs and persuade them to take action.

 

Color psychology and design in practice

 

Designers usually combine the colors according to one of the following three methods:

  • 1) Triad colors: we draw a triangle on the color wheel and select the hues at the edges: this method results in a well-balanced color palette with well-defined contrasts.
  • 2) Complementary colors: we select colors of opposite sides and also choose neighbouring colors with each to get sharp contrasts. Using contrasting hues (e.g. blue-yellow, magenta-green) can have a very dynamic effect.
  • 3) Analogous colors: we select a given point in the spectrum as a basic corporate color and choose from the neighbouring colors.

 

color scheme, color wheel

 

Color Preferences and Associations

 

What influences our preferences and choice of colors? Do people’s favorite colors depend on their upbringing, experience, and culture, or is color choice just a matter of personal tastes?

Without a doubt, colors have some universal associations. It is with good reason that colors are divided into warm and cool ones.

Although it can be said that color perceptions cannot be universally translated into specific feelings, and personal associations play a more important part than generally accepted perceptions, colors do have some common associations and similar reactions by people.

 

Some color preference statistics:

Blue is the most popular color: 57% of men and 35% of women say it is their favorite color.

  • With men, other favorite colors include: green (14%), black (9%), grey (8%), red (7%) and orange (5%).
  • With women it is, of course, different: purple (23%), green (14%), red (9%), grey (8%) and black (6%).

 

Unfortunately, as these figures are too generic, we cannot make any serious conclusions based on them.

So let’s take a look at each color one after the other and examine how they influence our mind and feelings.

In the following sections we don’t make any guesses, but mention such statements and results that have been supported by a good number of scientific researches.

 

Red

 

What do we associate it with?

Excitement, energy, rush, love, passion, anger, aggression, power.

Just think about an approaching St Valentine’s Day, and you will easily recollect an unlimited amount of cards and various gifts in red. The red color is also regarded as a dominant, strong, and stimulating color.

The human body reacts to red in a clearly measurable way. Certain processes start in the brain that make your heart beat faster, induce increased adrenaline release, metabolism and more intensive breathing.

Just imagine being in a room painted and furnished completely red: most probably just the very thought of it makes you feel unpleasant.

We use red to highlight something. If we want to have something to be in focus, to draw attention to it, we usually color it red.

As for marketing, red is often applied to create urgency and to draw attention to sales.

Red works well if we want the customers to take action, to “rush” them to make a decision faster and direct them towards conversion.

We can use red numbers for example to show how many products are still available on stock or make the countdown clock red displaying how much time is left until a special deal expires.

Still, it is important not to overwhelm your page with red, as it can cause negative reactions, including aggression.

 

Orange

 

What do we associate it with?

Joy, energy, warmth, fun, enthusiasm, vitality.

Being less intense than red, orange is still identified as a color of excitement.

On the emotional spectrum it fits well between red and yellow: powerful yet friendly and warm. Generally it evokes positive feelings, makes us more excited.

Suitable for grabbing the attention of the user. As we often associate it with creativity, it serves those well who want to make themselves “different”.

If you want to use a somewhat “less aggressive” call to action color, but still having impact, orange is an ideal choice.

You can apply orange when you need to create motivation and enthusiasm.

 

Yellow

 

What do we associate it with?

Energy, optimism, happiness, playfulness, friendliness.

Ideal for “easy” or informal topics. If you would like to support a positive thought, convey some pleasant mood, yellow can be a nice tool for that. Used properly, it functions as a good motivator to lift somebody’s spirits.

But keep balance!

Too much yellow, especially the lighter tones, can be disturbing and can make the text hard to read. So use it with caution: too much of it can displease your visitors.

 

Green

 

What do we associate it with?

Naturalness, life, energy, wealth.

It is known as the color that calms you down, a symbol of peace and rest. With green, you get security and tenderness, balance and harmony.

Basically, green can direct us towards two fields of association:

On the one hand, it is the color of Mother Nature, therefore it can be a good choice for design elements of ecommerce stores that offer food products or cosmetics or any other products that are to be communicated as not artificial.

On the other hand, green can also represent prosperity, sustainable development and financial stability.

As green is a soothing color, it is often used in backgrounds to set a relaxing atmosphere.

 

Blue

 

What do we associate it with?

Calmness, coldness, reliability, intelligence, security.

Blue is related to logical thinking.

Additionally, blue is connected with water and has a soothing effect of tranquility. The color blue is widely liked both by men and by women around the world, so it is often applied by various companies.

Just take a look at the logos of insurance companies. How many of them use blue?

A good deal of them because blue can evoke a sense of trust and reliability.

By applying blue, we suggest that the visitor is in a good place when browsing our online store: we won’t deceive them, they can trust us, we are experts.

However, it can be a bad choice with food items since case studies mention that blue decreases appetite.

Too much blue can create a distant and unfriendly atmosphere, so do not overdo blue and try combining it with other colors.

 

Purple

 

What do we associate it with?

Degree, title, influence, power, strength, femininity, loyalty, calmness, luxury.

Usually referred to as a color of creativity and imagination, purple combines the power of red and the reliability of the blue.

Purple can be effectively used as a dominant color in an online shop that offers premium products for an elite group of customers.

We associate purple strongly with nobleness: purple is the aristocrat of colors.

There are some historical reasons for it, of course. Purple dye or Tyrian purple was one of the most expensive dyes in ancient times, only the wealthiest could afford it.

Its price by weight was the same as of silver, and as purple colored textiles became status symbols in Rome, their use was restricted by law. In Byzantium purple coloring was allowed only for imperial silks.

As for femininity, if you sell top quality, prestigious products for women, purple can be a great choice for one of the web design colors.

You can also use purple to intrigue your visitors and create some mystery, as this color stimulates suppositions and insight.

 

Pink

 

What do we associate it with?

Romance, love, femininity, tenderness, fragility, delicacy.

In Western cultures we regard it as the “young and lively” color of femininity, is often considered to be a romantic ‘girlish’ color.

It soothes and shows understanding, so it is widely used on different sites to appeal to women. You just have to be aware that too much pink can be identified as a sign of immaturity.

If you use it while your target audience is made up of men, it can bring awful results. An exception may be that you target men with a Valentine’s Day deal to buy their gifts for their girlfriends or wives.

 

Brown

 

What do we associate it with?

Security, structure, support, seriousness.

Employed in a correct context and amount, this color will promote reliability and support.

Though, if you have too much brown on your website, it may seem to be dull and cause gloominess.

Different shades and tints of brown are popular for creating websites with furniture, as furnishing is connected with wood, which is actually brown.

 

White

 

What do we associate it with?

Purity, cleanliness, innocence, effectiveness.

It can symbolize a new beginning and refreshment. This tender color is very often chosen as a color of a wedding gown as the sign of innocence, serenity, and happiness.

White is a firm and “straightforward” color that, in web design, can effectively play a supplementary role, to create an appropriate environment, to set the basis and ambience for other elements.

The proper use of white space or negative space can make a huge difference in design, for example when placing a CTA button or an important message on the page.

White also represents cleanliness and minimalism: it’s no wonder that Apple extensively uses it.

White can be effectively combined with other colors, and looks especially nice with black.

 

Black

 

What do we associate it with?

Power, luxury, elegance, sophistication, safety, independence.

Black is often the color of premium products. The color of the elite. It symbolizes power and strength, it is very impressive combined with silver, gold or purple.

Its meaning can vary according to what other colors you use it with. You can express assertive “messages” with it towards your shoppers, but excessive use of it can be depressing.

Being quite a controversial color and differing from culture to culture, black requires careful application, as it can also be the color of sadness and death.

In any case, black is a powerful tool used with other colors for contrast, that is why text’s readability will be best in black when the background is yellow or orange, for instance.

 

Color appropriateness is something that should be taken into consideration when choosing your company’s colors.

You should definitely think about your products, your target audience, and the context you are working with when you are choosing colors.

For instance, why is it said that green means calmness?

The answer is quite obvious, because green is one of the most widespread colors in nature and so in our minds it is linked with the grass and spring that evoke positive feelings of peacefulness.

Similarly, your products will evoke certain emotions and create some mood which will matter within a certain context.

 

Useful tips for maximizing your color psychology marketing effectiveness

 

After we have taken into account how different colors can influence the customers, it is time to have a look at how we can combine, use, and name them in the most appelaing way.

 

Apply different color combinations

 

It is difficult to imagine any online store that uses just one color.

Usually, several colors are involved in creating a store and presenting products. So, color coordination becomes an important issue for setting the correct mood and impressing your visitors.

Use no more than 5 colors on a single page. Too many colors can easily cause confusion and disturbance.

A webpage usually has a basic color and some accent colors that will strike your visitors’ eye and call to action.

Always make your CTA prominent. Use a contrast color compared to the background, use white spaces wisely so that you can make your customer notice it easily.

Keeping in mind what you have found out about colors, choose the color of the background that will set the mood, but will not distract your audience from the main information, such as the images of your products and their descriptions.

Remember that you can change the color of the text and even the color of the buttons if you need to draw attention to them.

The element that has to be noticed should stand out, i.e. it should not blend with the general palette of the page.

Random combinations are definitely not recommended: our mind finds some color combinations either nice or unpleasant based on clearly definable principles.

 

cool colors vs warm colors

Combining cool and warm colors gives a feeling of balance

 

Think about gender, age, and colors

 

Can we say that colors are a universal issue that is perceived equally by men and women?

Although personal preferences do not necessarily depend on gender, women tend to differentiate more shades, tints, and hues.

Usually, men are inclined to choose shades, while women prefer soft colors, or tints.

Thus, if your target audience is women, you should be more conscientious when picking colors and descriptions of your products.

As for the age of your audience, pure bright colors may be appropriate for children or teenagers’ online stores, both for images and for the text.

They will definitely be unbefitting if you use a lot of them for companies that deal with accounting, finances, legal advising and so on. Such colors should only be applied to the most important buttons or pieces of information.

Orange, black and blue work well with impulse shoppers. Dark blue and bluish green are attractive to customers who like saving money. Bright pink, sky blue and rose may work well with a more traditional or old-fashioned audience.

 

Color names

 

The names of colors are another important characteristic that you have to think of.

Basic names of colors, such as ‘red’, ‘green’, or ‘blue’ do not evoke such intense emotions as ‘crimson’, ’emerald’, or ‘azure’.

So, although a sweatshirt of a light green color will not differ much from a lime sweatshirt, people will tend to choose items with more unusual and unique color names.

If there are products of similar colors in your store, choosing appropriate color names becomes essential for their correct identification.

For instance, you can have dresses of navy, indigo, sapphire, or sky blue colors to show differences between them.

 

Always run tests

 

You may have found your main colors, but it does not at all guarantee that everything will go all right on your website.

To be able to define what hues perform well and exactly what purposes they serve best, you first need to describe your target group and define their needs and expectations.

Based on that, you can create a color scheme, but it’s worth running A/B tests as well.

Try changing the color of a button. Or try showing different colored T-shirts against different background colors on your product pages.

 

color test, color psychology marketing

 

Follow how this influences conversion, the time spent on the page and the bounce rate. Also try heatmap analyses and figure out how your “trigger zones” perform.

The best piece of advice we can give you here is this: don’t underestimate the power of colors.

Visual expression (apart from price) is the most important factor with online offers. Use it smartly.

 

Color psychology marketing in practice

 

Now, let us have a look at how colors can be used effectively, depending on a certain context on TemplateMonster’s themes examples.

If you want to create a website of a Healthy Food Store, you will opt for a webpage with lots of variants of green, because it is usually associated with nature.

Bright images of fruit and vegetables will look the same awesome as various photos restaurant dishes against a green background.

 

color psychology example food, color psychology marketing

 

Creating a stylish photography portfolio can involve choosing various colors.

A lot of photographers prefer the background of their website to stay clean and white, not to distract attention from the works presented on the site. Many other photographers love black, as it accentuates photos making them look more appealing.

 

color psychology photo portfolio, color psychology marketing

It is possible to create an impressive webpage just using black and white combinations.

In case you are not a fan of black, and the white color seems too simple to you, try gray and light blue colors to design your photographer portfolio.

Both gray and blue can come in a variety of shades and tints, so you will be able to set the color that best suits your themes and pictures.

 

color psychology images and colors, color psychology marketing

 

For a culinary or houseware items shop you may also choose gray and its shades to associate your website with stainless steel objects or silverware.

Your images will definitely stand out against a dark background, and you can freely experiment with bright colors when choosing text or button colors.

 

color psychology culinary, color psychology marketing

 

Summary

 

All in all, selecting appropriate colors that will promote your business by letting your customers feel your company can be a challenging business.

Taking into consideration information about general associations, remember that it is you who knows and feels your business, so it is you who imagines what colors should be applied.

Remember about your target audience, try to look at your webpage from their point of view, and feel free to experiment with colors to find those that appeal to you the most.

 

Moreover, if you want to explore more about colors try Template Monster’s free e-book about UI for Web Design enthusiasts:

 

Download Free

 

free e-book ui tips web design

 

 


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