Psychology of Color in Branding

A common myth involving the psychology of color is that color evokes very specific emotions. Although this can be true, it is on a person-by-person basis as each individual experiences color differently due to experiences, cultural differences, personal preference, context and the amount of rods and cones in their eyes. Basically, you cannot try to pinpoint certain emotions by using certain colors. What you can do with color is use it to convey more generalized messages. Here are some ways that you can effectively use color in your brand.

How Does Color Fit Your Brand?

What the psychology of color really comes down to in terms of branding is context and the perceived appropriateness of the colors for the brand and what is being sold.

Consumers tend to prefer recognizable brands when choosing a product, which is where color can step in and differentiate one brand from its competition. A lot of fast food restaurants use red and yellow as the central colors in their brand and logo (think McDonald’s or Wendy’s). If you were opening a new fast food restaurant, it might be a good idea to choose a different color combination (think Taco Bell or Subway). However, standing out should not take away from the appropriateness of the color for the brand. For example, the use of green as a major color in fast food companies’ brands is rare, but it is appropriate for Subway because they market themselves as a healthy alternative to other fast food companies, and the green in their logo implies healthier ingredients.

Another aspect that affects purchasing decisions is the perception of the brand. Color can affect what consumers perceive the brand’s personality to be. Psychologist and marketing professor at Stanford University, Jennifer Aaker, identified five main categories of brand personality: ruggedness (outdoorsy, tough), sophistication (upper-class, charming, glamorous), competence (reliable, intelligent, successful), excitement (daring, spirited, imaginative) and sincerity (down-to-earth, wholesome, honest). When choosing colors for your brand, keep in mind these five categories and which colors could express those traits. For example, expensive designer brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucci are marketed as upper-class, sophisticated brands and they use the color black to help convey those traits, as black is commonly associated with sophistication and sleekness.

Although it is a very complex subject, understanding the psychology of color can add a tool to your belt when it comes to creating a brand. If you understand some basics of psychology of color, it can make the process of choosing colors for your brand feel more like a logical, informed decision rather than an impulsive personal preference. The bottom line is that context is key and is the most important factor in deciding on colors to fit a company’s traits.