0 Quote
You have no items in your quote.

How to Improve Your Brand: The Psychology of Colour

Imagine Facebook without blue, Apple without white, and Orange without… well, orange.


That’s because colour plays a huge role in creating a successful brand, from physical products to online design.

Different colours mean different things to different people this article won’t promise you floods of ‘optimistic’ customers if you add a splash of yellow to your website. Because it’s just not that simple.

Instead, it will provide you with expert opinion on marketing and psychology.

This knowledge will empower you with the information to strengthen your brand through colour.

How Branding Affects the Brain

But what’s so hard about it?

As marketing professor Jonah Berger said, ‘at Google, colours aren’t just colours, they’re mathematical decisions.

Because branding is both a science and an art.

Marketing has shifted from surveying consumer behaviour, to understanding internal factors that influence it. And academia has been with it every step of the way.

According to neuroscientists, you don’t actually see colours with your eyes. Your brain does all the work through neutral processes. Signals zap around the primary visual cortex and a colour is born.

Then, and only then, does it gain personal significance.

From observing something, to assigning it meaning, the whole operation lasts less than 400 milliseconds.

Effective marketing knows and manipulates this process.

But let’s get specific: is picking the right shade of cyan really that important?


Jonah BergerAuthor and Marketing professor

At Google, colours aren’t just colours, they’re mathematical decisions.’


How Colour Affects Consumer Decisions

The influence of colour on consumers is huge.

93% of consumers base purchasing decisions on visuals, 85% cite colour as a main factor in buying a product, and 80% think that colour increases brand recognition.

Furthermore, we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text so its critical that you get it right.

Don’t worry, there are some cheats, depending on the nature of your business,,. If you want to appeal to impulse buyers, use black, royal blue or red-orange. If budget shoppers are your bag, stick to teal or navy. And you can draw in ‘traditional’ buyers with pink, sky blue and rose.

But largely the key to using colour effectively is to use it tactically.

In his role as a behavioural change therapist, Douglas Van Praet made an important observation.

He noted that we seek the same thing from brands as we seek from self-improvement: a more fulfilling life. Upon realising this, he used psychology and neuroscience to create a seven step process to change consumer behaviour.

While colour has a place in most of his steps, Step One ‘interrupt the pattern,’ is where colour can really have an impact.

For example, colouring a ‘call to action’ button in a way that contrasts the rest of your webpage (e.g. red on a neutral/green page) increases the likelihood of consumers clicking it.


And if all your competitors have orange logos, ‘interrupt the pattern’ by trying something different to make you stand out.

Jonah Berger claims that word of mouth accumulates around things that inspire ‘high-arousal emotion’ — both positive and negative. Feelings of awe, excitement, amusement, anger and anxiety fall into this category (as opposed to low-arousal emotions, such as sadness and contentment).

If you want to rock the boat and ‘arouse’ your customers, use bold colours. Generate an emotional response and get talked about.

But remember to always put appropriateness firstMany consumers rate a brand based on how suitable its colour scheme is.

(Imagine: you own a funeral home, do you want to shock with shocking pink? Do you want to shroud it in black, reminding every one of the impending darkness that hangs over us all? Or do you want to keep things pure white and professional grey?)

Appropriate colour choice is king.

Effective use of Colour in Branded Products

It’s impossible to make blanket statements on what each colour represents. Humans are individuals who (subconsciously or not) like being awkward and breaking rules.

But there are plenty of well-worn patterns in consumer colour perception.

If you’re mindful of context and style, you can take advantage of these psychological trends and get the most out of your branded products.

Here are three examples of a job well done:

1. Sainsbury's’ Basics

It’s not the most glamorous example, but (the clue is in the name) that’s not the point. Orange supposedly evokes confidence and warmth; its use in this context screams ‘cheap and cheerful.’ Which is what Sainsbury’s wants to convey: mission accomplished!

2. Livestrong Wristbands

Recognise this bracelet? Pretty much everyone had one in 2004 (over 80 million have been sold to date). The colour of this product plays a huge role in its success. The Livestrong Foundation is a nonprofit that supports people affected by cancer. It’s therefore bang-on that they chose yellow, a colour typically associated with optimism.

3. The British National Health Service (NHS)

Blue traditionally implies that a brand is caring, trustable and reliable. Of course, when you’re not too well and need patching up, this is exactly what you want from your medical provider. It’s reassuring. You did good, NHS!

Why Blue is the Most Popular Colour for Brands

The NHS is in good company; 30% of the top 100 global brands use blue.

The dominance of blue is a phenomenon, especially in financial/business and media/technology sectors. Just ask the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Skype, WordPress, Samsung and IBM.

It’s a self-proliferating thing. The more huge brands, capitalise on the power of blue, the more powerful it becomes. Like a snowball… or The Blob… or Netflix binges.

But it makes sense when you look at the numbers.

As part of his studies into colour, Joe Hallock conducted a survey on preferences. The results showed that 42% of people said that blue was their favourite colour(that’s 57% of men and 35% of women).

Hallock’s findings are not unique.

Amongst many others, a 2015 YouGov study demonstrated blue’s consistently outstanding popularity across 10 countries and 4 continents (despite the second favourites varying from culture to culture).

Also, more people can actually see blue. Red and green are the least visible colours, and blue is the most visible colour globally. (Fun fact: Mark Zuckerberg made Facebook blue because he, himself, is red-green colourblind).

Blue is the world’s favourite colour.

Now What? Using Colour to Strengthen Your Brand

Hold your horses!

Blue might be ‘the best colour,’ but it might not be the best for you.

Before you order 20 blue mugs, a blue company umbrella and matching blue pom-poms, you must ask your business an important question:

Do we know our customers, what they want, and what they want from us?

The key to your brand using colour effectively is to evoke the correct emotional response from your customers.

You can only do this well if your answer to the above question is a resounding ‘YES.’

Using that information, examine the five core tenets of Jennifer Aaker’s Dimensions of Brand Personality, to establish your own:

Once you have a grip on your brand ‘personality,’ you can consider context, culture and cognitive processes to choose the right colours and get the most out of your brand.


1. Establish a strong brand palette based on research (it must be appropriate).

2. Contrast it occasionally when issuing a call to action

3. Remain consistent across digital mediums and branded products

Optimise your brand visually, and your business will come through with flying colours!

Sign up for news