By Fran Johnson
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How to use colour psychology?

As consumers we make judgements around products and services in seconds - within 90 seconds to be precise! Part of this is to do with colour. Our subconscious reaction to colour plays an important role in the visual branding process. According to the Impact of color on marketing study 62‐90% of of our initial judgement is based on colour alone. Colour psychology (the study of hues as a determinant of human behaviour) has however been over simplified in the past.

You may have encountered a wheel like the one below before. Which colour should you choose for your logo to ensure your new start up is a success? It’s diagrams like this that feed into an over simplification around colour.

Colour psychology within branding - which colours tend to be be the most popular?

Red is for love, Green is for envy.

There have been countless studies on the significance of colour. Colour psychology is big business for a reason! I do however think our focus has been misplaced, whilst blue does usually provide a useful short hand for both healthcare and technology, and red seems very popular amongst cars, banks and fast food companies. It’s when you break colours down to their hues that it gets interesting.

We all have different cultural and environmental reactions to colour. Or, we may simply have a different response to a colour dependant on the time of day, or the context. After dinner, still slightly hungry you may link the colour brown with chocolate (warm and comforting) whereas on a rainy day, outside with you wellies on – mud is more likely to spring to mind (cold and messy).

Which sectors are popular with red logos? Cars, banks and fast food.
Which sectors are popular with green logos? Healthy food and cars.
Which sectors are popular with blue logos? Technology and health.
Which sectors are popular with black logos? Sports and high-end fashion.
Which sectors are popular with pink logos? Women’s magazines and make-up.

Companies therefore can’t make decisions on colour based on arbitrary thoughts, instead the emphasis needs to be with the colours supporting the personality the company needs to project rather than the colour phycology wheels of the 1990’s.

Jennifer Aaker, a professor at Stanford University, looks into brand personality linked to colour. Her paper titled Dimensions of Brand Personality focuses instead on five words within a brand personality framework; Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, and Ruggedness.

Focus on the hue

Often, personality can be better communicated by colour palettes than individual colours. I shall illustrate with some well known paint companies …

Farrow and Ball paint colours - a look into colour psychology

Farrow & Ball

Habitat paint colours - a look into colour psychology


A large number of those colours could be selected for a brand’s visual identity, with the bright colours of Habitat’s paint range working well for vibrant start-ups attracting a millennial workforce, and Farrow & Ball’s paint range chiming with middle class countryside dwellers! Whether a blue or a green was selected, the tone of the colour would match the indented personality of the brand.

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