Whether you realize it or not, color plays an integral role in your world. We’ve formed opinions on color primarily through our cultural backgrounds. As color amplifies our emotions, it’s no surprise that the psychology behind it is really interesting.

Understanding color is important, because it affects marketing in many ways. It influences our behavior and decisions, and impacts the way consumers perceive a brand. At times colors affect on us is almost subconscious, as we make a purchase based on our heart, not our head. Most of us have heard that people make real estate purchases based on their emotions…. And this is the biggest purchase of your life!

Here’s a color guide (based on the rainbow ROYGBIV) and the logic behind it:

RED– is an intense color to the eye. It’d associated with energy, fighting, danger, strength, power, drive, passion, desire, and love. With all that emotion, it’s a no-brainer that people have a strong reaction to it! It increases your breathing, and raises blood pressure.

Interesting fact about red – A bullfighter will use a red cape to create an illusion of rage as the bull charges toward him, conjuring up thoughts in our mind of aggression; however, bulls and cattle are color blind to red. Despite this, the red cape and their matador’s colorful outfit work together to create a powerful, compelling and very dramatic brand.

Color connotation in business – The positive: Red is an awesome color for “click here” buttons. It’s perfect as a call to action. It is used for important things like stop signs, traffic lights, and dangerous equipment. The negative: People often feel it is too intense and shy away from it in business. Some people think it is a bad link color indicating, “stop”.

Red around the world – In the Western world, red makes people feel anger, aggression, guilt, and think of images of hell and the devil when it comes to mind! It also conjures up feelings of love, romance, energy, and passion. In Asian cultures red embodies good luck, prosperity, happiness, and longevity. The Chinese used to think they were descendants of the Sun God. Red is the color of the Sun God. In India, it’s common for brides to wear red. It is a happy ceremonious color. In Russia red is tied to communism.

How to use Red in marketing – Use red as a secondary color and as an accent to avoid intense feelings. To create awareness, use red full on in all its glory (or rage).

Brands that use Red
– Target, Coca-Cola, Jello, KFC, CNN, Cannon, American Red Cross, Red Hat, Verizon, Comcast, Lenovo.

ORANGE – Orange represents joy, sunshine; the glass is half full. Think enthusiasm, euphoria, creativity, determination, attraction, success, and positivity. Orange gives the sensation of warmth. It stimulates the brain, providing an invigorating feeling.

Interesting fact about orange – Canaries orange color isn’t natural. The birds were originally greenish-brown, but cross breeding made them yellow. Eating a special diet of red colored food created the orange canary. Similar to how flamingos eat shrimp and appear pink as a result.

Color connotation in business – The positive: It’s more subdued than red and thus more widely accepted in business. It’s great for getting people’s attention. The negative: Superficial, insincere, over-bearing, self-indulgent, and sometimes viewed as inexpensive (aka cheap).

Orange around the world – In the United States orange is often associated with autumn, Halloween and the beginning of the holiday season. In Northern Ireland the Protestants take ownership of the color orange and in the Netherlands it’s the color of royalty. In the Eastern world, Buddhist monks’ robes are often orange. Saffron orange is sacred in India, and in areas with large Hindu or Buddhist populations.

How to use orange in marketing – Orange is a great alternative to red and can be used as more of a primary color in marketing.

Brands that use Orange – MasterCard, Amazon, Nickelodeon, Fanta, Public Storage, Home Depot.

YELLOW – This color makes us feel happy and cheerful; it’s uplifting, optimistic and gives us energy. Like orange we think sunshine, flowers and positivity when we see yellow. Imagine lying on a beach in the warm sun, or in a field of sunflowers on a hammock (my personal favorite). It is believed to influence the left side of our brain.

Interesting fact about yellow – Post-it Notes were originally created to be yellow because they just happened to have some scrap yellow paper lying around.

Color connotation in business – The positive: It promotes wisdom, proficiency and inspires creativity. It helps with analytical thinking, our logical reasoning, and decision-making. The Negative: Too much yellow can make your message illegible, especially lighter shades of the color, which are also associated with weakness and cowardice.

Yellow around the world – In Germany, yellow represents envy, while in Egypt, it conveys happiness and prosperity. Yellow in the United States has been associated with cowardice. Hey there “yellow belly”! In China yellow is the Imperial color to worship. In Japan, it is a royal color that represents courage and prosperity. In Thailand, it is considered a lucky color associated with the deceased King Bhumibol.

How to use yellow in marketing – It is best used in conjunction with a darker color combination. Use yellow as an accent color on logos, websites and in advertising. Yellow is great for attracting attention when used as a caution sign. Examples – “Danger Electrical Hazard” and “Caution Wet Floor”.

Brands that use Yellow – Best Buy, McDonalds, Hertz, Yellow Pages, Century 21.

GREEN – Go outside into a forest or a green field and you feel at one with nature. It conveys growth, vitality, freshness, environmental awareness, clarity of the mind, health, and healing. In psychology, green relates to the balance of harmony, the mind and emotions. It assists in the decision-making process by promoting clarity.

Interesting fact about green – Prior to the 1950’s Santa’s suit was originally green. Then Coca-Cola bought him out & changed his attire to red. To this day, Santa sports a red suit and hat.

Color connotation in business – The positive: Green is the color of money and associated with prestige, reliability, and dependability in the western world. It works well for companies that promote well being, health, and vitality. The negative: Materialistic, envious, and greedy.

Green around the world – In the Western world, the expression “green with envy” connotes jealousy. It also makes us think of good luck because of its association with four-leaf clovers, and leper cons in Ireland. In China green signifies infidelity. In other Eastern cultures green symbolizes youth, fertility, and new life. It is the traditional color of Islam.

How to use green in marketing – Green is great as part of the primary color scheme, or as an accent depending upon the shade. Dark green can certainly be a staple color in your visual identity’s palette.

Brands that use Green – Starbucks, Girlscouts, British Petroleum, Animal Planet, Spotify, Tic Tac, Land Rover.

BLUE – We look up into the sky and see blue. It has a calming effect, a feeling of freedom, spirituality, stability, loyalty, reliability, trust, integrity, and safety. Blue is a stress reducer, creating a sense of calmness. It also slows our metabolism.

Interesting fact about blue – Studies show weight lifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue It was also noted people are more productive in blue rooms.

Color connotation in business – The positive: In the corporate world, blue is often associated with conservative companies that are in the financial realm. It is the favorite color of the business world due to the stable and reliable feeling it conveys. The negative: Cold, sad, depressed, and too conservative.

Blue around the world – In the United States blue is an integral part of the country flag. The white stars in a blue field represent a new constellation symbolized their union. Blue in Italy symbolizes royalty, as it relates to the days of the royal family. Blue means good health in the Ukraine. In Hinduism blue is strongly associated with Krishna, who embodies love and divine joy. Have you ever heard of the evil eye? Blue eye-shaped amulets are believed to protect against the evil eye, which are common sights in Turkey, Greece, Iran, Afghanistan, and Albania. Blue in China is considered a feminine color, opposite of blue in the western world

How to use blue in marketing – Blue is very effective as part of the primary color palette. Overall, blue works well with many color combinations and people feel it’s a safe choice so you may use it liberally.

Brands that use Blue – Dell, IBM. Lowes, Coldwell Banker, Paypal, GE, Skype, Facebook, Twitter.

PURPLE (aka violet/indigo) – Purple is associated with wealth, royalty, wisdom, enlightenment, and aiding in problem solving, as well as creativity. We often think of purple as the funky, unique, artsy color choice. Think of Prince and his album Purple Rain.

Interesting fact about purple – The color purple was originally derived from the mucus glands of a tropical sea snail known as murex. The murex’s Latin name is purpura, which we changed to purple as a name for the color.

Color connotation in business – The positive: In the corporate world, purple often conveys a premium service or product. Creative fields including design, beauty, and cosmetic, as well as academic institutions, women, and younger demographics are attracted to purple. The negative: Purple can be perceived as immature, impractical, and silly.

Purple around the word – In the United States, the Purple Heart is the oldest military award given to injured military. It represents honor. Royalty, wealth, and fame are also associated with purple, as well as piety and faith in Catholicism; however, in some areas of Europe it is connected with death. In Thailand purple is the color of mourning. Historically in Japan only the highest ranked Buddhist monks wore purple robes.

How to use purple in marketing – Purple works well with other colors like yellow, green, deep red, and orange. Using it with other colors helps to create a contemporary look and feel, while using it alone creates a more regal aesthetic. At times it is hard for the human eye to distinguish purple from blue, therefore, it can be utilized in many ways as a predominant color in marketing.

Brands that use Purple – FedEx, Cadbury chocolate, Hallmark, Yahoo!, NYU, E*Trade.

My experience with color in business
When I was a recent college grad I worked for Larami, a division of Hasbro Toys (the makers of the Super Soaker and Nerf guns). The packaging we created for the toys was brightly colored, because that fun color palette was appealing to their target demographic of children.

The big boss we reported to in China did not like the color green. At the time I didn’t understand why. In Western cultures green represents good luck, new life, freshness, environmental awareness, and of course money. But in China, green is taboo. It is associated with wives who have committed adultery!

Take Away
Emotions are inherently tied to colors, even if it’s subliminal. Understanding the psychology behind color, as it pertains to consumer purchasing and decision making worldwide, is key to marketing your business effectively. While a particular color connotation may be favorable in your culture, it could have a different or even negative, meaning somewhere else in the world. It would not be wise to create your marketing around the color blue for men in China, when it is viewed as a feminine color. Do your color homework before you embark on the best marketing campaign of your life.