Pick A Color - Just Not Any Color, The Science Behind Color Psychology And Sales

Post by 
Stuart Musgrave
December 27, 2018

olor is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood, and even influence physiological reactions. Certain colors have been associated with increased blood pressure, increased metabolism, and effort.

The artist Pablo Picasso once said "Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions,"
90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visual information is processed 60,000 times faster than any other type.

Color also affects purchasing behaviour and plays an important role in how your brand is perceived, the color you use can have a significant impact on the mood of your customers. Getting the right mix of colors can mean the difference between a repeat customer and wasted ad spend. 

Color psychology can be used to help build a strong, relatable brand. In this article, we’ll explain what color psychology is and educate you on the color meanings for the most popular colors used. Color is the primary way we recognize brands. Using color in your branding increases brand recognition in 80% of consumers.

So how exactly does color work? How is color believed to impact mood and behavior?

In a placebo based trial researchers found Colors affect the perceived action of medicine and seem to influence the effectiveness of a drug. We’ve all heard the saying red cars go faster, maybe it just feels like they do, or maybe we drive them faster

By using colors strategically for your marketing efforts, you can get your audience to see what you want them to see and help them perceive you the way you aim to be perceived. This is why understanding color psychology can be so useful for your marketing efforts. 


Optimistic and youthful yellow revolves around sunshine. This color is often used to grab the attention of window shoppers. Yellow evokes of feelings of happiness, positivity, optimism, clarity and warmth and summer but also of deceit and warning.  

For example, IKEA and McDonalds both use yellow to make the buyer feel happiness when seeing and thinking of their brand. What does buying furniture have to do with happiness? Well, let’s look at who’s likely buying those products. Many people who’ve just bought their first home or are moving out for the first time, will head to Ikea to buy products to furnish their home. This milestone is usually filled with happiness and optimism for the new change making yellow a great color to associate with the brand.

Some brands choose to use a cheerful yellow color as the background or border for their website design. You can also choose to use yellow for your ‘free shipping’ bar at the top of your website if it matches the rest of your website’s design. A little touch of yellow can help your website visitors associate your store with something positive. However, it should be used in moderation because excessive use of yellow can turn customers off. 


In color psychology, white showcases purity, innocence, goodness, cleanliness, and humility. The color meaning for white can also have a negative side where it symbolizes sterility and cold. On an ecommerce website, white tends to be the most used color. You’ll likely use it as the background color for your product photo. Always include empty white space around your content so that customers don’t feel boxed in. Your pages will likely have a white background with a black font. This is because, black font on a white background is the best color combination for legibility.

On Adidas’ online store, the top navigation is black. The use of a white logo helps create contrast. Since their background is white, they’ve chosen to use grey as a background for product photos to add another tone to the mix. Many brands who have white as a central color tend to pair it with black or grey.


In color psychology, orange represents creativity, adventure, enthusiasm and success. The color orange adds a bit of fun to any picture, website, or marketing material it’s on. Orange is great for calls to action like subscribe, buy, or sell. At the same time, this makes a buyer feel confident. Despite it’s attractive color, it’s not as commanding as red, but many marketers still use it for call to actions or areas of a website that they want to draw the eye.

Orange’s meaning shines through in logos like Nickelodeon and Home Depot. Nickelodeon is a children’s channel and so the logo accurately represents the creativity and enthusiasm that a children’s show would need through their playful logo. Home Depot sells products to renovate homes or make adjustments. The orange logo here also represents creativity. Orange paired with cool shades of blue can give off a positive and exciting vibe. 


Red is a primal color that is associated with urgency and can capture attention, which is why it’s most often used with clearance sales. It also represents excitement energy, and action and is useful for spontaneous purchases and is bold when used with brands like Coca Cola and Target. Red taps into the deepest, most primal, emotions of shoppers.  You might’ve noticed that some brands use red for ‘order now’ buttons or for their packaging as a way to stand out on the shelf. In color psychology, red is the most intense color. And thus, can provoke the strongest emotions. 

Since red is usually associated with love, life, and confidence, it can convert potential buyers into lifelong customers if used correctly. But beware, too much red on a webpage can be visually overwhelming. If you add the color red to your website, save it for the call to action or sale icons if it’ll contrast well with your store design, using it for these buttons will help compel someone into action


Romantic and feminine: This is the color most frequently used to market to women and girls for its feminine playful appeal. It is used to create a feeling of softness and serenity. Even though pink is usually associated with femininity, it can appeal to males as well since it exudes kindheartedness, romance, and love. Pink has a soothing effect so it can be used to offset more aggressive colors like black, orange and red. Some brands have chosen to use the color pink for the product packaging especially for girl’s toys. Whereas other brands highlight the pink color in their logo, website design, or to highlight key messages.

It’s no surprise that brands like Victoria’s Secret and Barbie use the color so heavily. On the VS website they use a combination of pink and black to highlight key marketing details. Their logo and certain marketing messages also use the color pink. On Barbie’s website, CTA’s are in a bright pink color. Their top navigation and drop down menu also subtly use the color. And of course, their product packaging and logo reinforce the feminine pink color in their branding.


The color meaning for purple is connected to power, nobility, luxury, wisdom, and spirituality. Purple is used as a soothing color in shopping. This color is often the mark of creativity and imagination, which is especially effective for making the buyer feel that a product is luxurious or artistic. Intelligent use of this color can help the customer into making a positive purchase

But avoid using it too much as it can cause feelings of frustration. Some perceive its overuse as arrogant. You can add hints of purple to your website’s design such as on your free shipping bar, your logo, and as an accent color in your graphics.

Purple is a color brands like Hallmark and Yahoo use. When browsing both websites, you’ll notice that purple is an accent color. On Hallmark, the logo and the top navigation are purple but the rest of the website uses a variety of other colors. On Yahoo, the logo, top navigation words, and Yahoo icons like Mail use the color purple.


Dependable and strong blue reminds us of the sea and sky. Stability, harmony, peace, calm, trust and security are just some of the feelings your customer may feel about your brand when you integrate the color blue into your branding. This is the go-to color for many banks and businesses for this reason.

Conversely, blue can also carry some negative color meanings such as depression and can bring about a sense of coldness. Blue can be used in your website’s logo or on your website’s top navigation. Some retailers add their guarantee, trust certification or free shipping icons in a blue color to strengthen the trust aspect the color is known for.

Tech brands like Facebook, Twitter and Skype often use blue in their marketing. But retailers like Walmart and Oral B also use the color. The blue in the Walmart logo can help position the brand as trustworthy, reliable, and relaxing. Healthcare niches, like Oral B, typically use blue in their branding to help people associate the brand with a quality, reliable and safe product.


Green is actually the easiest for the eyes to process and is used to help calm a buyer. Green has a natural and organic aura, which is why it is considered peaceful and healthy and very easy on the eye. It is best to use when you want to be relaxing, and associated nature and health. When shoppers see green, they often relate the color to positivity, relaxation, safety, and harmony. It is also highly connected to money, growth, fertility and generosity. The color meaning for green also carries some negative associations such as envy. If you’re in the health or fitness niche, you might choose to add more green to your online store. For example, your homepage banner image or logo might include a green background.

The use of green is made popular by brands such as John Deere. The entire brand revolves around nature. Their product line centers around landscaping, agriculture, lawn care equipment and more. The color green is so ingrained into their branding that even their equipment is the same shade of green as their logo. That way, when someone sees that product, they’ll immediately know it’s a John Deere. Even if your products don’t necessarily tie to a niche, you can use color to help you attract a specific demographic by associating with the positive effects of that niche.


Brown is an earthy color and gives off an aura of comfort and confidence, if used in the right amounts, can help convert a potential customer. After all, it’s the color of earth, wood and stone. So naturally, the meaning for brown relates to comfort, security and a down to earth nature. In marketing, you’ll find that brown is often used for natural products and food. Brown is a color that shows up in logos, banner images, and sometimes even text due to its contrast on a white background.

UPS is an example of a brand who takes advantage of color meanings in their branding. On their website, the brown in their logo is emphasized in the navigation and drop down menus. You might also notice that complementary colors include yellow and green which all have natural elements to them. For example, yellow might represent the sun and green might represent nature. Altogether, it helps position UPS brand as a secure, reliable and down to earth company which is exactly what you’d want from a delivery service.


Gray is the color of balance and innovation, we see it when we think of technology and for good reason. This color is anything but bland and can be used effectively to symbolize neutrality, innovation, and knowledge. Its color meaning likely comes from being the shade between white and black. 

In color psychology, grey represents neutrality and balance. However, grey does carry some negative connotations, particularly when it comes to depression and loss. The right shades of grey can serve as a great backdrop for other more vibrant colors such as orange, red, and royal blue. Grey can be used for font color, headers, graphics, and even products to appeal to a mass audience.

Apple is an example of a brand who uses the color grey in their branding. After all, many of their laptops are in a grey or silver-tone as its neutral color doesn’t put anyone off. On their website, they use the color grey for their header to contrast against a white logo. However, throughout their branding, you’ll see a balance between white, black and grey used which can help maintain a clean, neutral look.


In color psychology, black’s color meaning is symbolic of mystery, power, elegance, and sophistication. Black can be a great color to use for E-commerce professionals looking to market towards luxury. This is a powerful color that can be used for a wide range of emotional responses. When used in ecommerce, it sends a confident message to potential customers. In contrast, the color meaning can also evoke emotions such as sadness and anger. Excessive use can give off a bland and gloomy ambience, so it should be used in moderation, along with other tranquil colors.

Many fashion retailers have used black in their logos. Black is also a popular color for text as it’s an easy color to read. Some brands choose to use black and white photos for lifestyle banner images or icons to create a certain tone or consistency on their website.

Chanel and Nike utilize black extensively in the ecommerce stores. Chanel uses black for their logo and has several black and white images on their website to maintain a consistent look. Noticeably, their call to actions are also black. Many retailers in the fashion niche, especially, use black call to actions that contrast well against a white background.


Color not only provokes certain emotions in customers, it can also attract certain types of customers. To attract impulse shoppers, a deep red-orange color should be used. Black and royal blue can also be used for these kinds of buyers. We see this the most typically in fast food, outlet malls, and in clearance sales.

To target shoppers on a budget, use navy blue to attract customers needing to feel secure and teal green for relaxation. This is seen typically in banks and larger department stores. 


Be careful though, feelings about color are often deeply personal and rooted in your own experience or culture. For example, while the color white is used in many Western countries to represent purity and innocence, it is seen as a symbol of mourning in many Eastern countries.


Just as brands use color to communicate to you, could the color of the products you purchase ever say something about your personality? For example, could the color of the car you buy somehow relate to some underlying personality traits or quirks?

Your color preferences might say something about the type of image you may be trying to project. From the clothes you wear to the car you drive, color choices can sometimes make a statement about how we want other people to perceive us. 

People often select objects in colors that evoke certain moods or feelings, such as selecting a car color that seems sporty, futuristic, sleek, or trustworthy.

They also influence the objects people choose to purchase, the clothes they wear, and the way they adorn their environments. Other factors such as age and gender can also influence the color choices we make.

So just for fun what do the colors we buy say?


As many of our readers can attest, the color white can feel fresh and clean. The color is often used to evoke a sense of youth and modernity. 


Customers often describe black as a "powerful" color, which might be the reason why black is the most popular color for luxury vehicles. People often describe the color as sexy, powerful, mysterious, and even ominous.


It's the third most popular color for vehicles and linked to a sense of innovation and modernity. High tech products are often silver, so the color is often linked to things that are new, modern, and cutting-edge.


Dreaming of a red vehicle? Red is a bold, attention-getting color, so preferring this type of car might mean you want to project an image of power, action, and confidence.


People often describe blue as the color of stability and safety. Driving a blue car or SUV might indicate that you are dependable and trustworthy.


According to the experts, driving a yellow vehicle might mean that you are a happy person in general and perhaps a bit more willing than the average person to take risks.


The experts suggest that people who drive gray cars don't want to stand out and instead prefer something a bit more subtle.

Of course, the color selections we make are often influenced by factors including price, selection, and other practical concerns. The personality of the buyer may be a motivating factor but buyers are often heavily influenced by factors such as price as well as availability.

Color can play an important role in conveying information, creating certain moods, and even influencing the decisions people make. 

Quick Tips Before You Start
  • Provide sufficient color contrast to make legibility easy and avoid causing eye fatigue
  • Project the appropriate mood or psychological effect for your brand and be appropriate for the audience and content.
  • Neutral to Start. Consider starting a design with shapes in a neutral palette, such as with shades and tints of gray or brown. Then begin to slowly add color where it is needed.
  • Color Context. Consider the effect of adjoining and background colors. We perceive colors based on adjacent colors.
  • Number of Colors. Creating a palette is easier when you have a small number of colors. Consider a palette of 3-5 colors: one or two main colors, a neutral and an accent.
  • Consistency. Try to be consistent with your palette. For example, when possible, use the same color for all highlights. Use the same color for all arrows.

Choose colors that represent what you want your brand to be about or what you want your customers to feel when browsing your online store. 

While using these tactics is a great idea, it’s never just a color game. There are several other factors that influence shoppers. When color is used in conjunction with design and powerful call-to-actions, it really packs a punch.

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