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  • Vincent Bissette

How Colours Influence Consumers

Colours, as with the rest of the elements of design, need to communicate the values of the company and resonate with its intended target audience. Colours communicate a wealth of feelings, moods, and circumstances. It’s no accident that red and yellow are almost ubiquitously used in the branding of fast-food franchises, or that blue is so frequently associated with healthcare.

green packaging of Heinz's tomato ketchup that show how colours influence consumers on shop shelves

It is clear, from looking at fans of sports teams, that people develop long-term emotional relationships with colours associated with brands. Careful thought has been given to the effect these colours have on human imagination. By understanding the moods that colours can promote, a logo can become an effective ambassador for the nature and psychology of the entity it represents.

Corporate Colours

care village uk's logo designed by Propel Marketing & Design shows that blue is often associated with the healthcare industry

Although colours are highly subjective, there are certain colours and combinations that have come to represent particular attributes. For decades, it seems, blue has been the go-to colour for conservative corporate identities. RBS, HBOS, Standard Life, Zurich, NHS, BUPA, Ford, American Express, GAP, IBM, AOL and Dell are just a few of the most familiar examples of those who embrace blue as their hue of choice.

Blue is, by most accounts, the most universally appealing colour. It has a positive association with clear skies and open seas that lend it a calming, non-confrontational character.

Blue represents an image of stability, dignity and confidence, and suggests the strength of institutional power. Its associations with these venerable qualities have helped establish it as a non-controversial choice for corporate identity – especially in larger corporate structures where committee-based decision making guides corporate branding decisions.

Very often, startups will turn to blue as a means of instantly creating a feeling of establishment, safety and trustworthiness. The negative aspects can be when there is too much blue which can be seen as overcautious: holding on to what you’ve got rather than risk something new.

Exciting Colours

red is an exciting colour for logo design as Porsche's logo shows

Red, on the other hand, is associated with power. From propaganda posters to power ties, red has a way of capturing our attention. It burns with a fiery passion, and pulses with emotional intensity. It is the colour of desire and has long been associated with courage. It can also be associated with lust, danger, debt, anger and blood. Red is the go-to colour of choice for fast-food restaurants such as Mcdonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Chick Fil A, and the list goes on.

According to the "Ketchup and Mustard" theory red and yellow when used in tandem create the perfect emotional response of excitement and happiness to stimulate the appetite.

While tests show that colours like red actually increase blood pressure, blue has the opposite physiological effect. In the world of brands, red is a retail colour used to attract attention. Blue is a corporate colour used to communicate stability, for example, Coca-Cola red and IBM blue.

Keep in mind also that all colours are not created equal in the eye of the beholder. Colours on the red end of the spectrum are focused slightly in front of the retinas in your eyes. Therefore, a red colour appears to move toward your eyes while you’re looking at it. On the other hand, colours on the blue end of the spectrum are focused slightly behind the retinas in your eyes. A blue colour appears to move away from you.

Luxury Colours

Tom Ford's logo featuring black and white colours like so many other luxury brand identities

White is the colour for purity (as in a white wedding gown) and can be used to symbolise modern and sleek products such as Apple products. Whereas, black is the colour of luxury (as in Johnnie Walker Black Label).

When paired together they create a bold, confident and luxurious image. An example of effective black and white logo design would be Tom Ford. Black and white is the perfect colour scheme for this brand as it accurately translates to consumers the luxury price tag and articulates the brands bold confident and often sexual imagery.

Other colours that can translate a high price tag include purple that is the colour of royalty (purple robes worn by royalty and people of authority or high rank) or gold. However, gold is often representative of a more flashy and unsophisticated version of luxury but is still used effectively by brands such as Chanel.

The Growth of Green

a selection of green logos featuring Starbucks, Tropicana, Land Rover, Whole Foods Market, Spotify that shows how companies use green in their logos to represent health and nature

Green is the colour of the environment and health - think Greenpeace or The Green Party. As green is associated with nature, it is the go-to colour for representing natural and environmentally friendly products. Incorporating green into a logo is an easy and effective way for brands to promote themselves as a sustainable and responsible business.

In the last decade, emerging trends such as the concerns over climate change and the obesity epidemic affecting many first world countries resulted in green becoming more important as brands see value in positioning themselves as an alternative or a solution to these problems. With environmental and health concerns continuing to rise it is likely that we will see more green logos in response in the future.

A prominent example of effective use of green would be Holland and Barret as they use green in their logo and all over their branding to communicate the natural and healthy qualities of their products.

Consistency is Key

Colour consistency over the long term can help a brand burn its way into the mind. Look at what yellow has done for Caterpillar, brown for UPS, red for Coca-Cola and blue for IBM or orange for Easyjet. All areas of your marketing must be branded with the exact same hex code as an inconsistent or undisciplined approach to using colour is likely to send consumers mixed messages leaving them confused and less trusting towards your business.

The more you promote your business using a particular colour the more likely you are to reap the positive benefits of being associated with that colour such as increased brand recognition and recall.

However, before you ever see the positive benefits of being associated with a colour you must first ensure it reflects the key messages that the company want to communicate to the target audience. If you are a luxury brand using cheap colours such as yellow it is likely that your branding will do more harm than good. It should be noted that with the subjective nature of colour, what is individually pleasing to one person may elicit only a neutral response in another.

To learn more about how to increase sales with clean, contemporary packaging design, download our free guide!

Propel's packaging design help guide is free to download to improve your product packaging

Marketing Fuel:

Colours hold the power to create long-term emotional connections with consumers and the colours used when creating logos has a large effect in shaping consumers perceptions of a brand. It is common that colours are used to evoke particular associations from a consumer such as:

  • Blue - Corporate, trustworthy, calm, dignified

  • Red - Power, excitement, lust

  • Yellow - Happiness, cheap

  • Purple - Royalty, luxury

  • Black - Luxury, mysterious, bold

  • White - Purity, Cleanliness, modern

  • Green - Natural, healthy, sustainable, environmentally friendly

It is important that the colour chosen for a logo remains consistent throughout marketing practices in order to improve brand recall. The colour scheme of your identity should reflect the key messages that the company wish to communicate to its target audience.


About the author: Vincent Bissette is a freelance Brand Strategy and Design Consultant with over 30 years experience of branding and rebranding businesses and organisations, systematically, thoroughly and objectively. He has worked in major Design Consultancies as well as having run his own agency for 25 years, working with SMEs all over the UK to help them modernise their brand, grow their business, attract new customers, penetrate new markets and increase their sales, market share and profit. Throughout that time, there’s not much he hasn't done or many industries he hasn't worked in. He’s a creative, strategic thinker and problem solver with a wealth of experience in diagnosing trouble spots in brands and discovering their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Now based in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, he works throughout the entire UK.

Get in touch with him on Linkedin here

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