Joe MerkleyColor Psychology: Color roles in marketing and how it impacts customer engagement.

Joe Merkley:
Your Marketing Maven


The idea of influencing as it relates to the psychology of color is one of the most intriguing–and profoundly controversial–perspectives of marketing.

The reason: Current discussions relating to colors and influence consist of hasty, anecdotal evidence and advertisers bloviating about “colors and the mind.”

To mitigate this direction and allot competent treatment to a truly captivating characteristic of human behavior, I am going to present a selection of the most credible research on color theory and influence.

The Importance of Colors in Your Branding

To start off, let’s focus on branding, which is one of the most critical issues relevant to color perception and the area where many articles are problematic with regards to relating color to branding.

Myriad attempts have tried to relegate consumer responses to different individual colors:

Color emotion guide

… but the fact of the issue is that color is too conditional on individual experiences to be translated to specific feelings across the board.

There are broader messaging schemes to be found in color psychology. Example, colors are a significant factor in consumer purchases and branding.

In an appropriately titled study called Impact of Color in Marketing, researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on color alone (depending on the product).

The Study Purpose: Color is ubiquitous and is a source of information. People make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone. So, prudent use of colors can contribute not only to differentiating products from competitors, but also to influencing moods and feelings – positively or negatively – and therefore, to attitude towards certain products. Given that our moods and feelings are unstable and that colors play roles in forming attitude, it is important that managers understand the importance of colors in marketing. The study is designed to contribute to the debate.

The function that color psychology plays in branding, results from studies such as The Interactive Effects of Colors illustrate that the correlation between brands and color depends on the perceived suitability of the color being used for a specific brand (in other words, is the color “applicable to” what is being sold).

The study “Exciting Red and Competent Blue” also substantiates that purchasing intent is greatly influenced by colors due to the impact they have on how a brand is perceived. Colors influence how consumers view the “personality” of the brand in question (after all, who would want to buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle if they didn’t get the feeling that Harleys were rugged and hip?).

Additional studies have disclosed that our brain’s preference is recognizable brands, which makes color critically relevant when creating a brand identity. Color Research & Application suggest that it is paramount for new brands to particularly target logo colors that ensure contradistinguish from competitors (if the competition all uses blue, you’ll stand out by using purple).

When it comes to choosing the “appropriate” color, research has established that prognosticating consumer reaction to color appropriateness in relation to the product is far more relevant than the individual color itself. So, if truck owners buy trucks in order to feel rugged, you could assume that the pink + glitter edition wouldn’t sell all that well.

Psychologist and Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker has conducted studies on this very topic via research on Dimensions of Brand Personality, and her studies have found five core dimensions that play a role in a brand’s personality:

Brand Personality Charts

(Brands can sometimes cross between two traits, but they are mostly dominated by one. High fashion clothing feels sophisticated, camping gear feels rugged.)

Additional research has shown that there is a real connection between the use of colors and customers’ perceptions of a brand’s personality.

Certain colors DO considerably align with precise traits (e.g., brown with ruggedness, purple with sophistication, and red with excitement). Almost every academic study on colors and branding will tell you that it’s far more paramount for your brand’s colors to strengthen the personality you want to define instead of trying to align with cliché color associations.

Ponder the misinterpretation of broad statements such as “green means calm.” The context is missing; sometimes green is used to brand environmental issues such as Timberland’s G.R.E.E.N standard, but other times it’s meant to brand financial spaces such as Mint.com.

Brown may be useful for a rugged appeal (think Saddleback Leather), when positioned in another context brown can be utilized to create a warm, inviting feeling (Thanksgiving) or to stir your appetite (every chocolate commercial you’ve ever seen).

The take away: I can’t present you a simple, clear-cut set of guidelines for choosing your brand’s colors, but I can guarantee you that the environment of your organization/business is of paramount consideration.

It’s the perception, ambience, and visual that your brand creates that play a role in influence. Grasp that colors only come into play when they can be used to match a brand’s desired personality (i.e., the use of white to communicate Apple’s love of clean, simple design).

Without this consideration, choosing one color over another doesn’t make much sense, and there is very little evidence to support that ‘orange’ will universally make people purchase a product more often than ‘silver’.

NEXT BLOG:
Color Preferences by Gender