Most marketers understand that the consistent use of color in advertising and marketing plays a huge role in memory recall. For example, most of us understand that the persistent use of red in advertising for Coca-Cola® is done in hopes that whenever the color red is seen it will remind us of the soft drink.
However, colors are often associated with moods and meanings, and can instantly convey a message like no other communication medium. They can have different meanings depending on culture, situation or industry, and are perceived at a subliminal level, i.e., most people do not consciously think about the associations, but their perceptions of a company are often influenced by them.
Many times not enough consideration is given to the selection of color. Perhaps your company’s color was selected because it is the owner’s favorite, or a designer’s. Since color associations are processed on a subliminal level, it is important to know and understand what those associations are so that you can select colors that will send the right message.
Ultimately, you should select colors based on the emotion and image you want to evoke in each target market throughout the world. The following color descriptions generally hold true for the U.S., but colors have strong cultural associations and inferences that may differ widely from one place to another globally. Make sure you research and understand this when advertising and marketing for each location.
Warm colors include red, yellow, orange and all their variations. They are the colors of the sun and fire, and generally evoke power, energy and passion.
Red is the color of energy. It can increase your heart rate, cause you to breathe faster and raise blood pressure. This physical response often associates red with passion and aggression. It is highly visible and as such is often used to represent danger. It symbolizes energy, action, courage, passion, vitality, danger and indebtedness. Use red when you want to catch attention, add energy, inspire action, or evoke confidence and protection.
Orange is the color of enthusiasm. Combined from fiery red and cheerful yellow, orange is said to be a healing color and is often used in lighter shades (peach) in the healthcare industry. It symbolizes vitality, endurance, fun, creativity, luck, curiosity and exploration. Use orange to spice things up, to increase creativity or add fun and whimsy.
Yellow is the color of happiness. As the color of sunshine, yellow symbolizes warmth, energy, light, optimism, wisdom and joy. Bright yellow is the easiest color to see, so is often used as an attention getter. Historically, yellow has been used to indicate honor and loyalty. But, be cautious when using yellow, it also has a history of representing cowardice, caution, sickness and jealousy. Use yellow when you want to increase clarity, promote sharper concentration or evoke happiness and joy.
Cool colors include purple, blue, green and all their variations. They are the colors of water and nature and generally thought of as more conservative.
Purple is the color of royalty. Combined from passionate red and tranquil blue, purple is representative of balance. It symbolizes sophistication, spirituality, peace, magic, mystery, nobility, luxury and royalty. Purple is often a favorite of children and creative people. Use purple when you want to evoke imagination, balance, importance, romance, nostalgia and calm.
Blue is the color of trust. Associated with the color of the sky and sea, blue symbolizes serenity, dependability, security and strength. Blue is often a favorite of conservative people and financial institutions as it has a calming effect and inspires trust. Use blue when you want to evoke calm, relaxation, communication, solitude and peace. Avoid blue when promoting food as it suppresses the appetite.
Green is the color of nature. It is associated with growth, freshness and fertility. Its meaning can vary depending on the shade with deep greens associated with wealth and prestige and lighter greens associated with healing and calm. Green symbolizes life, learning, growth, balance and harmony. Use green when you want to evoke balance, growth, prosperity, safety, wealth and money.
Neutral colors include brown, black, white and all their variations. They are often used as the backdrop in design and their meanings affected by the colors that surround them.
Brown is the color of the earth. While associated with simplicity, durability and stability you must be cautious when using brown as it can be perceived as dirty. Some shades of brown, such as taupe and beige can have an upscale look and are often used in home interiors. Brown gives a feeling of solidity, however too much brown can be dull and boring. Use brown when you want to evoke warmth, comfort, wholesomeness, stability and dependability.
Black is the serious color. Strictly speaking, black is the absence of color and represents emptiness. Used as a negative, black is associated with death, fear and uncertainty. As a positive it is associated with mystery, formality, sophistication and power and is often chosen to represent expensive products. Use black when you want to create drama, be bold, evoke emptiness or the unknown.
White is the color of purity. Strictly speaking, white is the presence of all color and represents wholeness, completeness, openness and truth. White is considered to be the color of perfection and is often used to represent cleanliness. It is frequently used in healthcare, scientific and charitable organizations. Use white when you want to evoke clarity, organization, new beginnings, freshness and purity.