July 21, 2017

A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Using Colors in Marketing


A Small Business Owner's Guide to Using Colors in Marketing

It’s easy to look at color as a small detail or nuance in the grand scheme of marketing. After all, color is simply meant to compliment or highlight certain elements, right? Well, not exactly. Color psychology actually has a huge impact on how people perceive your brand. If you aren’t respecting this fact, then you’re missing out.

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Using Colors in Marketing

What is Color Psychology?

“What is it about the rainbow that gives most people a sense of happiness? Sure, it signifies the calm after a storm, but the colors themselves have an effect on our minds,” ColorPsychology.com explains. “There is a reason why people prefer certain colors over others. This preference says volumes about our personalities, because each color has an association with a reaction our brain has when we internalize it.”

Color psychology is the study of colors and how the human brain responds to different shades and tones. While the research in this area of psychology is relatively shallow when compared to other niches, there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests artists, designers, and even businesses can leverage different colors to increase the likelihood of a particular emotional response in the viewer.

5 Things You Need to Know About Using Colors in Marketing

New studies, research and opinions are emerging on an ongoing basis, which can make it difficult to really nail down what’s proven and what’s merely theory, but you’d do well to understand the following concepts as they pertain to small business marketing.

Color and Emotional Responses

“The science behind our emotional connections to color is a complicated one,” designer Carrie Cousins says. “But it is becoming more clear through anecdotal knowledge and scientific experimentation.” Cousins points to five different hypotheses that she believes show scientific connections between color and emotions. Let’s examine a couple of them to further solidify the link:

  • Researchers at the University of British Columbia studied the colors red and blue to see whether the two distinct colors evoked different responses in professionals. What they discovered was that red is a color of stimulation and blue is seen as relaxing and calming.
  • In terms of marketing, logo color can directly impact consumer habits. This concept has been supported by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia who believe they’ve proved concrete connections between a logo’s primary color and customers’ views of the brand.

If you’re interested in learning more about the correlation between color and emotional responses, there are dozens of studies on the topic. You can apply the lessons you learn and see for yourself whether the theories hold true.

Color and Aesthetics

Color theories apply in virtually every area of life. It’s not just marketing. Take fashion for example. If you study fashion — even though it may seem wacky at times — you can learn a lot about the aesthetic nature of color combinations and how they influence views.



“As a general rule, most color combinations work if the colors are not fighting for first place,” explains Diamondere, a leading provider of colored gemstones. “If you allow one color to dominate while the others are placed as accents or provide support, you should be able to create a good look.”

In other words, you can’t just throw a bunch of colors together because they evoke specific emotional responses. You still have to think about the larger picture and how they fit together from an aesthetic design perspective. You always need one or two dominant colors leading the way. Other colors can then be used to accent or provide support.

Keep this idea in mind when designing websites. Too many primary colors and you’ll end up confusing your visitors and making them feel overwhelmed. Hone in on a simple scheme and you’ll see higher engagement and better user experience. Here are a few examples.

Color and Gender Preferences

Did you know that men and women see colors totally differently? Well, they at least get different things out of different colors.

“In a survey on color and gender, 35 percent of women said blue was their favorite color, followed by purple (23 percent) and green (14 percent). Thirty-three percent of women confessed that orange was their least favorite color, followed by brown (33 percent) and gray (17 percent),” Kissmetrics reports.

Men, on the other hand, prefer green, blue and black while disliking purple, orange and brown. As you can see, there are similarities between the two genders, but don’t automatically assume that both segments of your audience place the same value on certain colors.

Color and Trust

If trust is what you’re aiming for in your marketing and branding efforts, then there’s one color that reigns supreme: blue. This is why so many large companies, airlines, and hospitals use the color in their marketing and advertising materials.

As Color-Meanings.com notes, “Blue is sincere, reserved and quiet, and [does] not like to make a big deal out of things or attract too much attention. Blue hates confrontation and likes to do things its own way. From a color psychology perspective, the blue color is reliable and responsible and radiates security and trust.”

Color and Performance

It’s also important to point out that color can heavily influence performance within your marketing department. Multiple studies have shown that certain colors help and hurt performance. By painting your office walls colors that promote productivity and calmness, you can enhance output and avoid putting undue anxiety and pressure on employees.

To understand how important this concept is, consider this study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. In it, 71 college students were given a participant number colored either red, green or black. They then took a five-minute exam. The results showed that students given a red number prior to taking the test scored — on average — 20 percent lower than those presented with green or black numbers.

It’s easy to scoff at studies like these and chalk up the results to mere coincidence, but with each year comes new studies on the subject. They all seem to verify one underlying idea: Color has a very big impact on the way humans think, perceive and act.

Make Color a Marketing Priority

When it comes to marketing, color probably isn’t your biggest priority. You have bigger fish to fry — things like content, web design, logos and branding, and social media. But the truth is that color psychology directly influences each of these areas. Deny the significance of color theory and you may find yourself on the outside looking in.

“Interest in the subject of color psychology is growing, but there remain a number of unanswered questions,” says psychologist Kendra Cherry. “How do color associations develop? How powerful is the influence of these associations on real-world behavior?”

These are valid inquiries and we can expect more insights down the road. And while you may not know exactly why a specific color influences your customers, there’s enough data to show you how it impacts your target audience. If you want to take a step forward and modernize your marketing efforts, then keeping close tabs on color psychology will prove to be wildly beneficial down the road.

Color Psychology Photo via Shutterstock

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Larry Alton


Larry Alton Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

4 Reactions

  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Larry: Which is your favorite color? Have you heard about the different personal types, divided into colors, e.g., blue (blueprint), green (science), red (action), yellow (nurturing)?

  2. You address your writing to small businesses. Could you please explain then how a small business ‘ use of colours in marketing should be different from that of a larger company?

  3. Yes. For some marketers, a color is just something that could be picked off the top of the head and doesn’t really signify something. But for those who really invest a lot of brainwork on their business image, colors are something that helps define a brand’s reputation.

  4. Yes colours distinguish your business from the rest

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