In the preceding century, I earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology and one of my favorite courses was The Physiological Bases of Behavior. In the course, which was required for the major, we studied the perception and psychology of color. I am happy to return to this topic after so many years.
Some time ago, psychologists and marketers learned to recognize the power of color. Psychological and physiological research has demonstrated that color elicits an emotional experience in human beings that impacts moods and can influence decision-making. Marketers eventually introduced those findings to their advertising departments and agencies.
The scientific research of color continues, including in a recent investigation into the efficacy of chromo therapy, better known as color therapy, and its effects on the human body. A 2015 study of 200 patients led by Somia Gul, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pharmacy at Jinnah University for Women (Pakistan) that appeared in the American Research Journal of Pharmacy, color therapy administered as electromagnetic radiation within the color spectrum was successfully used as complementary therapy to traditional drug therapy in illnesses that included peptic ulcers (yellow light), hyperthyroidism (violet-blue light) and hypertension (blue light). Chromo therapy is therapeutically classified as complementary alternative medicine.
Color psychology experts in the branding and advertising sectors of marketing advise business owners and other self-employed professionals to take great care when selecting (in particular) the dominant color for the visual representation, i.e., the visual brand, of their venture, from business cards to website, the logo to the packaging. Branding and advertising pros attest that color is page one of the brand story and smart business owners use color to convey a positive and compelling subliminal message about their products and services.
Experts say that the choice of brand color can make or break a business. Color signals potential customers and tells them why they would want to do business with you. Use the wrong color in your marketing materials and you’ll drive customers away.
Color psychology research indicates that blue communicates intelligence, competence, trust and calm. Yellow makes us feel optimistic and cheerful. Pink conveys femininity and a hint of luxury. Brown is earthy, no-nonsense and associated with stability. Green is reassuring, restful and represents nature and renewal.
How can you know what color will work best for your enterprise? To determine the right dominant color to represent your business, you must first interpret your company’s brand personality. The brand personality is shaped by the products and services that the venture sells, the business value proposition and the target customers. Speaking of target customers, who they are and what they’re looking to experience, gain, or achieve when doing business with your organization, or your competitors, is also a factor.
Customers are drawn to brand personalities that blend well with their own, as you might expect. A well-defined brand personality is a cornerstone for customer targeting, determining marketing strategies and crafting marketing messages. The brand personality enables customer buying decisions. Here are questions that color psychology experts suggest business leaders ask:
- Gender: Is my company essentially masculine or feminine?
- Mood: Are my products and services fun or utilitarian?
- Class: Are my products and services affordable or luxurious?
- Style: Do I provide products and services that are hip and contemporary, or classic and conservative?
- Age: Do my products and services appeal to Generation Z or Baby Boomers?
Stanford University Professor of Psychology Jennifer Aaker, Ph.D., researched the subject of brand personality in 1997. Aaker defines the brand personality as “the set of human characteristics associated with the brand” and suggests five more questions that business owners can explore when looking to define the brand personality of a company:
- Sincerity: Down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful
- Excitement: Up-to-date, daring, spirited, imaginative
- Competence: Trustworthy, reliable, intelligent, successful
- Sophistication: Well educated, upper class, charming
- Ruggedness: outdoorsy, tough, plain-spoken
As noted above, color psychology research indicates that predicting customer perceptions of the appropriateness of the brand’s dominant color, or its misalignment, in relation to the product or service, outweighs the color itself. In other words camping equipment, items that are typically perceived as rugged and connected to nature, is more likely to be sold by companies that use green or brown in marketing materials and not pink.
But once again, the big question—how can you discern the ideal dominant brand color for your enterprise? Branding specialists are confident that discovering a company’s brand personality and the choice of colors associated with its product or service line is the answer. But psychologists recommend that the color you choose to represent your company should align with the brand personality that you, the business owner, want to portray to your customers.
Thanks for reading,
Painting: Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray and Blue (1921) Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1944) Courtesy of the Gemeentemuseum The Hague, Netherlands Dress: From the Fall 1965 couture collection of Yves Saint Laurent (1936 – 2008) Courtesy of La Musee Yves Saint Laurent, Paris