What is your favorite color? Do you choose one product over the other based on how the color of the packaging makes you feel? Recently, our team had a conversation about color psychology and branding.

According to recent studies, blue is the color most selected by men and women alike, across many cultures and countries. Even in countries where red signifies strength, passion and energy, blue ranks top. It only makes sense. Blue is the color of our sky, of our oceans and even our everyday jeans. Blue is trustworthy and calm, and signifies harmony with nature — and it’s neutral, complementing most colors it’s paired with. Blue is also the most popular color with companies when branding. 

What does it say about the person who chooses another color as their favorite? What does it mean when a company selects green or even yellow for their branding? Today, the color green is often about health and the environment. Green is wholesome and balanced. A green logo portrays a company as ethical and compassionate. Using yellow in branding is stimulating, evoking youthfulness and optimism. The selection of color in marketing is not about picking a favorite from the color wheel. There is a science behind the rainbow of options, and it’s based on consumer judgment and the power of suggestion.

Imagine a fruit company choosing the color brown for their logo. Brown is the color of rotting fruit. Subconsciously, the consumer may choose the banana with the bright yellow and green logo over the brown branded product because it reminds them of fresh and healthy. The bananas were the same, but the colors they were branded with trigger a response associated with a memory or experience learned early on in age. 

The same could be said for consumer selections in a beverage company. Water products are typically branded in blues and greens, whereas highly caffeinated carbonated beverages are branded with bright and bold colors. If a consumer is presented with two options for a late-night energy drink — one branded with a serene blue logo, the other with a flashy lime green and silver look, the choice is more likely to be the latter. 

In the world of marketing, one color tends to break all the rules. Black — more of a non-color — can be a powerful choice. Choosing black for a company logo can portray a variety of messages, from a strong and authoritative message of stability to sophistication or even simplicity. Luxury companies that choose black are trying to send a message of elegance and mystery. A rock band may select black to appear alternative and rebellious — a symbol of anarchy and non-conformity. 

The narrative a company brand provides through color selection should be deliberate and calculating. According to WebPageFx, “The psychology of color directly plays into consumer behavior. Nearly 85% of consumers name color as the primary reason that they purchase a particular product. 93% look at visual appearance when they buy a product and color improves comprehension, learning, and readability.” Their infographic “Psychology of Color” shows that 84.7% of consumers cite color as the primary reason they buy a particular product, and 80% think color increases brand recognition.

Companies that color outside the lines 

While many companies use color psychology to brand their product, others throw that theory out the window. Bank of America’s use of blue (trustworthy) and red (a color of wealth) is an example of traditional color branding. But Dutch company, ING uses a contemporary orange and purple to portray their “forward banking” campaign. The effect is head-turning and easily recognizable for the online company — the bank doesn’t have any physical branches. 

Burger King recently rebranded back to their roots. It follows a trend right now to embrace all things retro and nostalgia. And while the design returns back to their classic and most effective look, the colors of the rebrand are equally as important. The old colors of red, yellow and blue were introduced at a time where brands felt they needed to shout at you to look at them (think taco bell and mountain dew). The colors were vibrant and attention grabbing, but feel artificial. The return to their classic look brings a warmth to the brand that was missing. The blue is removed and the yellow and red are now a warmer and softer tone. This is paired with an off white and brownish color palette which not only feels vintage/nostalgic, it feels natural and comforting which people are far more conscious of while we all strive to be healthier.

Color and Photography 

Photography is a completely different beast when it comes to marketing. Getting the consumer to pay attention to details, while not overwhelming their senses, is key. In both color and black and white photography-based ads, keeping it simple is important. Phys.org says, “Black-and-white images can lead consumers to focus on the abstract, essential, and defining components of a product. In contrast, color images can draw attention to the concrete, sometimes unimportant and idiosyncratic features of the product.”

Imagine a black and white ad for a real estate development — the image is of a young couple enjoying coffee on their couch in their new living room. The consumer gets a feel for the moment — a relaxing morning in their new home. Now add color. What is prevalent to the eye? It’s the décor of the living room, the paint on the walls, and the accents that bring the living room to life. The consumer is no longer being presented the possibility of a comfortable home, but of a smartly decorated and detailed living environment; aspects they may not have been looking for, but now cannot imagine doing without.

On the flip side, a black and white photographic ad selling a custom engagement ring could add drama and luxury to the brand, whereas a color version of the same ad could cheapen the effect, producing a generic marketing piece that gets lost in the magazine pages. 

Color psychology is a fluid practice with trends, life experiences, personal preference and even gender dictating the individual choice. Purchasing power is inevitably the decision of the consumer, based on loyalty, and how well the brand is produced — using a combination of imagery and words, and of course, color.

84.7% of consumers cite color as the primary reason they buy a particular product. Is it your primary reason?