The psychology of colour doesn’t sound like a particularly marketing-relevant field-but the experts suggest otherwise. Can something as simple as your colour scheme influence your customers to buy? It seems so- but the matter is a little more nuanced than ‘paint it black and customers will come’. Today, Zebra 360 digital marketing takes a closer look at the controversial marketing colour arena.

So, colour psychology means what, precisely?

Colour psychology is just a fancy name for the study of how colour influences our behaviour and perception. Combine it with marketing basics, and we’re looking at how our brand palette choices speak to our customers. Some plausible research suggests up to 90% of ‘snap’ decisions made on products is influenced by colour, so it’s a valuable approach to take.

You’ve doubtless seen ‘colour guides’ and pithy articles on why lavender is the new yellow and orange is the happiest colour of all, but these quick guides barely begin to scratch the surface of the matter. How we react to colour is not universal. Culture, personal preference, experience, association and even the context of the purchase all influence the matter.

There’s no ‘one for all’ interpretation of colours in our heads. Sometimes blue can be calming, for example, where at others we associate it with a sterile medical environment or the (hopefully) sturdy nature of our financial institution. Does that mean it’s not worth considering the impact of colour choices on your brand, however? Not at all!

Reaching beyond cookie-cutter templates

So, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer. How do you, then, make the right choice? The key is opting for colours the ephemeral public deem ‘appropriate’ for the nature of your brand. Surprisingly, getting this ‘right fit’ in perceptions is more important than the actual colour itself ever will be.

Colour and personality are linked in our minds. The great news is that you won’t be left adrift on a sea of possibilities. Despite the careful nuances that truly create a great brand personality, we can group the overall ‘moods’ into 5 distinct categories:

  • Sincere: Think down-to-earth, honest and reliable brands. They’re friendly, probably local and family focused. They keep it real and sincere, and love a wholesome, cheerful approach to life.
  • Exciting: These brands are spirited, hip, cool and young. They keep it trendy and get daring. Contemporary and independence are strong themes.
  • Competent: These reliable and hardworking brands are smart, technical and focus on a corporate atmosphere. Secure leaders of the field, they’re confident.
  • Sophisticated: Luxury and charm. Glamour and good looks. Maybe a feminine touch too. These brands are smooth operators.
  • Rugged: These brands head into the wide outdoors. They’re manly and tough. You can almost see the cowboy hat and boots as they talk.

Obviously, your brand will sometimes cross between several of these traits, but you can usually identify an overarching theme. Knowing your band’s personality (and keeping it consistent) is a key part of any marketing focus and choosing brand colours is no different.

Audience appeal

While we won’t go too in-depth here, it’s worth noting that science has determined that there are definite colour preference trends between the genders. Likewise, culture has a huge impact on how colours are perceived. Males tend to prefer bold colours, and females tend to look for softer nuance. Men also typically gravitate to shade (colours with black overlaying tones) and women to tints (colours with white overlays). It’s no excuse for boring gender stereotyping, but always bear ‘perceived appropriateness’ in mind. If it doesn’t resonate with your target audience, it won’t work.

Recognisability is a huge part of this. We like brands we can identify by sight. Just think of Coca Cola. Colour is a huge part of brand identity, and you don’t want to be easily confused with competitors. Likewise, clearly differential colours can be seen to influence action, as they fail to blend with the rest of the palette and draw the eye where you want to lead it. Even our perceptions of names for these colours can matter, with audiences proved to prefer different, unique names above boring descriptors. Paint titles explained? Perhaps- but it’s just as important for your marketing efforts, too.

Where this leaves the savvy marketer

So, there’s no easy answer to the question of which colours will be perfect for your specific brand. Perhaps those definitive answers don’t even exist. What will matter most to your brand, however, is that you always think critically about your use of colour. Measure what works and resonates with your audience. Let established norms guide you without confining you. And be willing to shed preconceived notions about colour if you’re keen for true marketing success. The world doesn’t need another pink product for women, but it does need your unique brand identity.

Keen to get busy crafting your brand persona? Why not let the digital whizz kids at Zebra 360 Digital Marketing help you strike the right balance with your audience first time, every time.