Colour theory and how it impacts marketing

- Posted by Dominic Smith in Marketing

The ancient Egyptians thought the colour blue was intrinsically linked to life. It was the colour of the Nile. 

They believed the white sky represented the Duat, the Egyptians’ after-life, and that yellow represented gold, wealth, power – and violence. 

This is all to say that connotations behind colours have been around in some form for millennia. 

Today, it’s still prominent but pervasive. It can be seen in any one of the hundreds of ads we glance our eyes over on our timelines, feeds, and in bus stop posters every day. 

Colour psychology has become a topic researched in depth by many psychologists reviewing many hypotheses and reaching many of the same conclusions supporting the fact that colour is crucial to our decision-making processes. 

For example, according to a study called ‘The impact of colour on marketing’, up to 90% of snap judgements on adverts are based on colour alone, and when we only look at each advert for a fraction of a second, this snap judgement counts. 

The same study found that a prudent use of colours had a strong ability to influence moods and feelings both positively and negatively, which therefore affects the audiences’ attitudes to different products. 

Red, for example, is bold and communicates excitement and youthfulness. Think Kellogg’s, Nintendo, Coca-cola, and Lego. 

Yellow on the other hand is used by brands like McDonalds, IKEA, and National Geographic to signify optimism, enthusiasm, and warmth. 

And blue connotes strongly to reliability, strength, and trust. Brands that use blue are known for these qualities such as Cartwright Communications. 

Purple is regal, green is natural, silver is clean and futuristic. All colours symbolise something. 

Therefore, if colours convey so much, and consumers make their decisions quickly, its imperative companies utilise them accordingly. 

Ultimately, choosing the right colour for your brand has the benefits of grabbing the consumer’s attention, pre-disposing them towards your messaging, and creating a context around that colour as being in tandem with your brand. 

Some businesses have gone so far as to even copyright their specific colour, showing just how important they consider it to be. 

One instance is Cadburys purple which, up until two years ago, couldn’t be used by other chocolate related brands. 

Even without the trademark, however, brands often become so synonymous with their particular colour any copy-cat would only be doing harm to themselves. 

Understanding colour is also necessary to use designs that incorporate multiple colours at once to signify multiple values. 

Complicated formations of shapes can easily become an eye sore if clashing colours are used that strain against one another but can easily become much more palatable and inviting when colours are paired with co-ordinated or accenting ones. 

Therefore, any images that want to communicate a story or idea on visuals alone require colour psychology to support it from behind the scenes. 

On the colour wheel results are best met when opposing or adjacent colours are used.  

Consider the difference between these two images:

Colour theory and marketing

Getting this area wrong sets the brand up to have difficulty getting their message across. Some parts of their audience may miss it all together. 

Find out what other topics we can offer our expertise on at  



Singh, S. (2006), “Impact of color on marketing”, Management Decision, Vol. 44 No. 6, pp. 783-789. 

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