How to use colours in marketing and advertising

Have you ever wondered why you feel slightly alarmed when staring at a red stop sign and why the world has chosen red, green and yellow for traffic lights?  Those are just two of the many effects colour has on the human psyche. It’s all part of a study referred to as the psychology of colour.

Our brain uses the colours to recognise characters and properties about business, brands and products. Our brain understands that the colour palette that would feel suitable for an Italian restaurant is not appropriate for a real estate agency. This is colour psychology in marketing and advertising.

If you look at the commonly used colours in advertising for any industry, you can find many of the same colours repeated and used, again and again. It does not happen accidentally, and not just because the business owner likes this colour! These are the colours that connected the audience with their needs and expectations from brands in the industry.

The colour psychology in marketing and branding is what I am going to explore today to help you communicate your messages most effectively with your audience, so keep reading.

Why do colours matter in marketing and advertising?

Colours speak a language that is more efficient than words. Colours can communicate with us on an emotional level, so they can be more effective and persuasive.

With choosing the right colour you can convince your customers that your product is fresher than the same product with a different colour.

It is unbelievable, but colours can even make medication or placebos feel more effective. Medicine companies use the colour associations to make sleeping pills blue and motivation yellow and red because consumers associate the colours with their respective effects.

It seems like magic but I have found some data to support it. For 85% of customers colour is the primary reason for choosing which product to buy. Also up to 90% of impulse decisions about a product are based on the products’ colour.

Colour psychology researchers found 42% customers form their opinions of websites based on the web designs with colour contributing more to their opinions than other factors. And 52% of the time, bad colour choice sends users off a website and they never return.

How colours communicate with customers

Now you know that colours are important in marketing and advertising, but the real challenge is to use colour psychology to speak to your clients. Probably you know the basics of what some colours mean, like red indicates passion and white shows cleanliness, but that is just scratching the surface of colour psychology. The colours can influence how a customer thinks and feels about a brand and business.

According to researchers, there are links between specific colours and behaviours, like royal blue, red, black and orange which easily connect with impulse customers.

For example, the colour brown is not a good choice for fresh-food product packaging because it reminds us of rotting fruits and veggies. Otherwise red is a popular colour for fresh-food brands because it reminds us of the red fruits which are ripe and ready to eat, as well as fresh meat is always red.

We can look at nature and see what the colours mean, and in any design the best way is choosing colour according to nature’s rules.

Our feelings about a colour can depend on our culture and personal background, so we need to generalise the colours based on the colour psychology and combine science with target audience research and find what our consumers prefer.

What’s the effect of colours in advertising and marketing?

Each colour has its own effect on people that you can take advantage of in your advertising and branding materials.

Although the meaning and feeling of each colour depends on the colour saturation, opacity and the shade of that colour but here, I am going to explain the meaning of some basic colours to give you an idea of the best opportunities to use specific colours in your advertising and marketing.


Blue is a calming colour that is typically regarded as a masculine colour, but there is more to this colour.

Blue is for intelligence and responsibility. Also, it is cool and relaxing. Light blue is peaceful and evokes trust, honesty and loyalty, while dark blue can show depth and power.

According to this meaning, blue is a popular colour for banks, yoga studios and hospitals because with using the blue you can easily remind the audience subconsciously that they can trust the brand to protect them.


Green is a good colour for professional, calm and mature brands, and the popular colour for health and environment business.

Green represents growth, spring and rebirth as well.  Another meaning is “getting the green light” to go ahead, giving it an association with taking action.

Green reminds people of recycling through association, so is perfect for any brands that advertise as organic and eco friendly. Also, the colour green is a good choice for spa branding because it represents the soothing and renewing experience.


Purple is not a colour we see often in nature. Purple is royal, mystical, luxurious, wise, sensual and represents military honour. A light purple is associated with feminine energy.

Purple is often used for high quality brands. It is seen in examples such as Cadbury’s chocolate advertising or some women's cosmetics.


Red is the warm and physical colour that is associated with high energy, fire, anger, passion, love, danger and confidence. 

Red is a best choice for dating apps and businesses that have sexy services. Red also can catch the attention and increase appetite, so it is ideal for restaurant branding.

Globally, all the danger signs are red. If you use the red in a wrong application, it may show and create aggressiveness and anger.


Orange, just like red, is warm and high energy. Also friendly and cheerful. By using this colour you can show affordability, humour, vitality, youth and seasonal changes.

Orange is a great colour to use for kids products like trampoline to attract kids and teens for a bouncy, energetic good time.


Yellow represents energy, happiness, warmth, playfulness and youth as well. With using yellow colour in your brand you have the advantage of being both light and bold at the same time.

Just be aware that one of these associations is not like the others. For example, the dangerous meaning of yellow represents much like fire but the danger of red is negative. So considering what a brand needs, you have to choose the best colour.


Pink is more used for girls brands and products. Pink can be fun, sweet, romantic, girly, delicate and peaceful. Pink can be a good colour for candy and lolly shops because it represents sweet. It is also the colour for businesses that are feminine and proud of it. You can use hot pink graphics in your advertising if you want to teach women how to be bold and protect themselves.

How colour meanings vary by culture

Always acknowledge your target market audience’s cultural background before choosing a colour palette. Many colours have specific meanings in some cultures that are different in others.

For example, in Japan yellow represents courage whereas in parts of South America it can be a signal for cowardice. In some Latin American cultures, yellow shows death and mourning. In Germany they use yellow for envy.

The first step to design any marketing and advertising materials for your brand is researching your target audiences. Using a colour palette that doesn't fit with your target expectations can doom your brand before it reaches the market.

How to test your colour marketing strategy

Knowing colour psychology is necessary for designers to make informed design decisions in advertising and marketing. Your designer with their experience and knowledge can choose the best colour palette for your brand.

Designers test lots of colour palettes to find the most effective ones. They use the bracket tournament, which is to test one colour against another to see which garners a stronger positive response from the target audience. Then they put winners against each other again to determine the final colour palette that is more effective with the customers.

When they are correctly tested, you can confidently use the colour choices for each design, logo, website, packaging, flyers, etc.

Colours amplify your marketing message

Now you know that using colour strategically is more than choosing a beautiful colour that looks good to you. 

After all, maybe today you are walking around and think olive green and lemonade pink are a match made in heaven. For some businesses maybe they are (not really)!

Do you want to choose your colour palette confidently? Easy peasy! Give us a Buzz for a FREE Biz Boost Strategy Session! 60 minutes of FREE Marketing advice.

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