Understanding and using the psychology of colours in branding

Do you want to make a strong emotional connection with your target audience? Your brand’s colour palette is important. Understanding the psychology of colours in branding will help inform your choices. We look at how colour and emotions are connected, and what you need to think about during brand development.

What we will cover

Colour and the power of association

The power of colour in branding is due to how the mind associates one thing with another.

Some of these associations are built in to our primal psyche. For example, the colours red, or the combination of yellow and black, signal danger to humans and many animals alike. In fact, the mind reacts measurably quicker to red than any other colour, and brands such as Coca-Cola and Ferrari have captured the attention of their customers for decades as a result.

One of the most widely understood effects on psychology of colours in branding is that of perceived temperature. Low frequency colours such as reds, oranges and yellows are thought of as warmer than higher frequency colours such as blue. This is likely to be because we associate colours towards the red end of the spectrum with sources of heat such as the sun or a roaring fire.

Beyond this, the picture is a little less clear with colour associations more nuanced.

A generic guide to the psychology of colours in branding

Below is a basic guide to some of the most widely accepted colour/emotion associations.

Always bear in mind that these are broad guidelines and not hard and fast rules. Different sources vary in the associations they make. People also vary in their response to colour due to personal experiences, culture, gender and the way they are wired.

Red – Passion, Power, Energy, Danger, Anger, Strength

Orange – Confidence, Friendliness, Warmth, Innovation, Frustration, Immaturity

Yellow – Happiness, Optimism, Intelligence, Creativity, Anxiety, Cowardice

Green – Eco-Friendly, Healthy, Balance, Stability, Wealth, Envy

Blue – Calmness, Trust, Logic, Coldness, Unfriendliness, Depression

Purple – Royalty, Spirituality, Innovation, Eccentricity, Extravagance, Decadence

Black – Luxury, Sophistication, Power, Authority, Oppression, Evil

White – Cleanliness, Clarity, Simplicity, Coldness, Sterility, Goodness

Some industries also tend to favour certain broad palettes. For example, restaurants often aim for homely oranges, yellows and browns, while healthcare brands gravitate towards crisp whites and blues. This is not to say that you need to follow convention; feel free to explore palettes that break the mould.

You should also consider aiming for a colour palette that is unique. The power of association works two ways, and if you find a colour that is not being used in your marketplace, that colour could come to signify your brand (Purple Bricks are a standout example in the real estate market).

Developing your brand colour palette

When considering the psychology of colours in branding, think beyond the hue itself to its various shades, tints and tones. These are achieved by adding different amounts of black, white or grey to the colour.

A light tint will make your brand feel lighter and more airy, while a dark shade will evoke a heavier, solid feel.

You will also need to think about colour combinations. Many brands use three to five main colours in their palette, and these might be complementary or contrasting. A colour wheel is invaluable for experimenting with brand palettes.

It is also important that you use your brand colours consistently throughout your business. Changing palettes between web pages, for example, can confuse your visitors.

Explore and develop your brand with a Vu expert

Whether you are looking to change up your brand, or are starting with a clean slate, Vu can help. Our two hour Branding Workshops are fun and powerful, helping you to clarify your ‘why’, refine your messaging and make powerful connections with new and existing customers.

Our team of brand specialists will answer your specific questions and fill in any knowledge gaps you have. Book your place today.

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