Have you noticed that most social networking sites have blue branding? The reason sites like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter buy into blue is because we think of blue as an authoritative and trustworthy colour. It is calming and comes across as intelligent. Some of you will be reading along and nodding your head, “yes, insightful. So true,” or “I’d never realised that,” whereas others may not be on board just yet.
The psychology of colour is well documented and is often used within marketing for branding purposes. Creatives use colour to set the scene, playing on our subconscious understanding of what colours represent. Spiritual people may be aware of the semiotics too, as the connotations to each colour correspond with the colours of the chakra.
Rather than an individual, subjective interpretation, society has a collective understanding of what different colours represent. So, for instance, green is often thought to be nurturing and healthy because we associate it with nature.
When branding your business, colour plays a fundamental role in getting across the right message and attracting people to your brand. By understanding the general associations with a colour, you can influence how people see you.
‘Good’ associations: passion, love, action, strength
‘Bad’ associations: danger, anger, stop
Red is typically used for bold, exciting products and many household brands such as coca cola, cannon, Toyota and MacDonald’s use red as their primary colour. By pairing red with another colour such as green, negative aspects such as anger and a need to stop can be counteracted by associations of peace and a ‘fresh start’.
‘Good’ associations: energy, excitement, creativity, playful
‘Bad’ associations: caution, distrust
Orange is a cheerful colour that gives off a lot of confidence, but it can also come across as brash and reckless. Orange is often combined with blue or teal to show imagination, creativity and communication.
‘Good’ associations: happiness, hope, warmth, awareness
‘Bad’ associations: hazards, weakness, irritability
Yellow is full of happiness, warmth and energy, but can become sickly in large amounts. Yellow lighting can contribute to depression and yellow walls can make people more irritable. The recent trend of mustard yellow with navy blue brings the warmth and attention of yellow to the trust and sincerity of navy, making a combined association of respectability and sincerity.
‘Good’ associations: health, nature, luck, youth
‘Bad’ associations: jealousy, greed, disgust
Green brings about youthful new life, due in large part to the colour of leaves and plants. On the other hand, we talk about jealousy (the green-eyed monster) and nausea. Green is often paired with blue to emphasise the earthly associations.
‘Good’ associations: calm, trustworthy, responsible
‘Bad’ associations: depression, sadness
Blue is a calming colour. Blue streetlights have shown to reduce loutish behaviour after drinking and can make time seem to pass more slowly. Unfortunately, this calm colour can see you swept away with the tide or stagnating in a well of sadness. It is often paired with bright, happy colours such as yellow to reduce the association with negative concepts.
‘Good’ associations: magic, faith, authority, wisdom
‘Bad’ associations: sorrow, exaggeration
Purple is often considered to show higher thought, wisdom and authority. It’s a magical colour and through links with royalty can come across as indulgent and elite. By coupling purple with other indulgent and powerful colours such as black or silver brands can position themselves as a luxurious authority.
‘Good’ associations: feminine, flirty, sweet, delicate
‘Bad’ associations: fragility, weakness
Pink is typically a feminine colour, even though baby boys used to wear it not so long ago. Pale and dainty, light pink is often associated with sweetness, whereas hot pink is like a ‘watered-down’ red. The main issue with marketing pink is that macho people think pink is too ‘girly’. It is not often used in branding unless specifically targeting women; however, it can be coupled with black to create a more mature image.
‘Good’ associations: natural, comfortable, concentrated, honest
‘Bad’ associations: dirty, poverty
Brown is the colour of soil and is very natural. Brown’s muted hue makes it seem dependable and comfortable, but context is very important. Because of the association with dirt, brown can also be dirty. Pairing it with a clean and natural colour such as green, blue or even white can help emphasise the good qualities.
‘Good’ associations: power, formality, sophistication, sexy
‘Bad’ associations: death, overpowering, evil
People often think of black as an absence of light, but when mixing paint all other pigments are found within it. It is a very powerful colour and gives off a sense of authority. Black can be combined with colours to bring forward an assertiveness and is a good background if you are looking for something simple with an impact.
‘Good’ associations: good, pure, innocent, clean, transparent
‘Bad’ associations: boring, unfriendly, empty
The good guys always wear white, right? Okay, that trope is often inverted nowadays, but the association of white with purity and virtue remains strong. Although white is considered clean, it can also become sinister and clinical under certain conditions, which can be avoided by pairing it with a bold colour.
So now you know a little more about colour psychology, you can plan your branding with it in mind. Just be careful – we often see the difference between Western and Eastern cultures. If you’re using you brand overseas – or within certain communities – you may find colours have different associations, so make sure you understand your target audience.