Companies pick certain colours for a reason.
A great amount of thought and research will be put into the colour scheme a company uses for their brand, whether that's on the their logo or on their website.
Much of the research into the psychology still isn't fully developed. The effects of colour on the brain is deeply subconscious and so very difficult to accurately study. While humans have evolved to have certain predictable reactions to certain colours, cultural and environmental factors also play a part.
Studies have shown that reactions to colour are different depending on you cultural background.
Also, if for instance you were hit by a bright yellow truck when you were 5 years old, this may have some impact on how you view the colour yellow. (And you're probably not reading this article. Because you're dead.)
The best way to demonstrate how important colour is in advertising is to see what happens when you do it wrong:
The colour scheme of this made up logo is almost sci-fi. It almost gives off the impression that the food in Burger King is not made with natural ingredients and full of artificial ingredients. Not something you want people thinking about your food products. This colour scheme would be more suited on an energy drink however.
Would you trust your bank with your money? If you still would, that's the typography and logo doing it's job. The colour pink doesn't exactly come across as partciularly serious or trustworthy.
Let's look at each colour of the goddamn rainbow and explore how advertisers manipulate colour to make you buy shit. And let's also try to understand the potential evolutionary reasons for our psychological and physiological reactions to many of these colours.
A number of studies suggest that the colour red increases appetite. Fast food business seem to have taken these studies and run with them.
While the research is not conclusive, it seems to be working rather well for these guys. And you can be sure they've looked over every inch of research on the subject. You will also see this colour across chocolate bars, sweets and crisps.
If you think that colour can't possibly have any impact on your appetite, just imagine if Burger King used gray as the primary colour in their logo.
The colour grey suppresses appetite. As does sky blue and black.
Red Is also excellent at creating urgency, which is great for clearance sales as well as call-to-action buttons on websites. Most "BUY NOW" and "SUBSCRIBE" buttons are red. Just think of the subscribe button on Youtube.
Ever see a dark brown subscribe button? Me neither.
There are also studies to show that red increases heart rate and blood pressure. This is why dating experts tell women to wear red dresses and this is why the logo for Tinder is red. This is also why the number of Facebook notifications you have are in the colour red.
Red is a very important colour evolutionary speaking. Red is the colour of blood. And it's obviously a good mechanism for our brain to increase our heart rate and attention after seeing blood. Of course, red is also a sign of arousal. Which is why men generally love red lipstick on a woman. Red is also often the colour of fruit. Its no wonder our brain see's red and makes you hungry.
Something you may have noticed taking a look the images of fast food logos up there is that they also contain tons of yellow. Well it makes perfect sense considering the colour yellow increases serotonin (The happy chemical) in the brain. A perfect reaction for fast food companies to ensure their customers associate their food with a happy feeling.
Snapchat have gone with yellow for the very same reason.
In fact the perfect example of this is the evolution of the Walmart logo from 1992 (Left) to 2008 (Right):
As research into the psychology of colour became more advanced, Walmart add a cheeky little yellow sun to their logo. No coincidence. Especially the "live better" message to go along with it. Producing increases in serotonin in all who see it.
Unlike red, this colour has a potential of negative effects on customers. An overabundance of the colour yellow can cause agitation, nervousness and anxiety. Mostly its best used as a secondary colour rather than the primary colour.
So why does the colour yellow increase serotonin in the brain? The answer is dead obvious.
Being exposed to sunlight increases serotonin in the brain. It seems just the colour alone also has an effect on us.
The tech industry loves blue. Think Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Tumblr Shazam,Instagram, Linkedin, Intel, Dell, HP, Samsung, Windows, Paypal.
They can't get enough of it.
Blue is associated with reliability and loyalty. Exactly what you want from technology.
Generally, blue is the go-to colour for any business looking to focus on invoking trust in their brand. When you're using technology you're handing over personal information. Would you, having never heard of Paypal before, trust them with your money if their logo was bright pink? If you were spending $4000 on a high-end laptop and were choosing between two brands, would you choose the one with the sky blue logo or the orange logo?
Insurance companies also tend to use blue across the board for the same reason.
Blue trumps all other colours in terms of reliability.
There are two major uses of this colour. The environment and energy. The connection to the environment is painfully obvious. Oftentimes, companies that aren't particularly environmentally friendly will use green to send a subconcious message of a company that's good to the planet.
Of the three logos above, one business is ACTUALLY environmentally conscious, while the other two are pretending to be.
The colour green can also invoke in people a sense of tranquility and peace. An excellent colour for coffee shops and hotels.
Interestingly enough, if you turn up the brightness on the shade of green. it can now be associated with energy and vitality. Energy drinks are the perfect example of this. Also, many of the tech products that don't have any particular need to come across as trustworthy will use an electric green. Think Spotify.
While a mild grey is relatively rare in advertising due to its dullness and associtating with old age(Advertising's worst enemy), silver is often used in it's place. Silver brings with is a feeling of simple prestige and simply being a cut above the rest. The Macbook is a great example.
Silver is perfect for jewellery, fragrance and technology.
Ever see silver/grey in a food commercial? Me neither.
This colour is a mix of red's stimulation and blue's calm. Purple is incredibly good at adding value to a product. This is why it's often used with luxury products and services like jewellery, fragrances and high class hotels. Purple is another colour that is used far less often than the primary colours of red, blue, yellow and green. So businesses will use purple to show consumers that they are "a cut above the rest" to out compete their competition.
Interestingly enough, chocolate brands such as Cadbury will use this colour to give the impression that they're selling a luxury product.
The reason for this link between luxury and the colour purple is very likely to be a cultural one rather than a purely biological one. Back in the good 'ol days when we all bowed down to the royal family, Queen Elizabeth I forbade anybody other then members of the royal family to wear it. The cost of purple dye was extremely expensive, which made it a rare colour to see.
This idea seems to have been passed down, to the modern world, even while the colour purple is easy to produce. Weird.
Orange lies between red and yellow. It has the stimulating effect of red but slightly more subdued. And it has the eye-catching effect of yellow, but not quite as in your face. That's why orange can easily be heavily used without too much danger of overwhelming the audience, unlike yellow which needs to be treated more carefully.
Orange tends to be associated with youth, creativity, energy and activity.
That's why the mobile phone network Orange decided to base their whole brand around the colour.
Mobile phones are primarily a product aimed at young people. This business have utilized the power of the colour orange to make millions of dollers.
The TV network Nickelodeon also make good use of this colour to target kids.
Orange is also associated with low cost items. Think Amazon. Think Jetstar Airways. You won't see orange used to market a high-end hotel.
The main down-side of orange is that it doesn't come across as particularly reliable or trustworthy. It's rare that you'll see orange used to market anything worth over $100.
Of course white always needs to be accompanied with other colours. A white logo is always place in front of a background of another colour, often black.
We associate white with purity, but more importantly, simplicity.
White is perfect for minimalist marketing. Minimalist marketing has become increasingly popular over the last few years as a way for brands to uncluttered themselves from their competition. Apple is the most famous user of this.
White can be used effectively in tech products for this exact reason. Many people find technology confusing and frustrating. A simple product that's easy to use is exactly what they're looking for. Talk about knowing your target audience. Kudos, Apple.
Black is authoritative, mysterious and also elegant if used in the right way. This makes it very useful when dealing with products that have a sexual nature.
It's serious in nature, which is why you'll rarely see it used to advertise to children. You will never see it adverting any product that's high energy.
It's reserved for products that can improve it's image by surrounding them by a bit of mystery and elegance. Eg. fragrences, high end clothing brands and watches.
While these are the basic rules for colour psychology, these rules can be broken to great effect. Colour psychology comes down to both biological and cultural factors. The potential cultural and environmental factors makes it impossible to guarantee that a colour will have the desired effect on everyone. Its certainly not a perfect science.
Either way, colours are having an effect on your buying decisions, make no doubt about it.