How to Use Color Psychology In Marketing Design To Drive Conversions
March 7, 2023
As an ecommerce manager, you are up to your eyeballs in things that demand your attention. And when it comes to your online store, there’s so much to think about—the design, user experience, product selection and how you feature products, and, of course, your digital marketing strategy.
There’s one often overlooked component of successful ecommerce brands that can make or break a brand: Color psychology.
Color psychology is the study of how color impacts human emotions and behaviors—things that are mission-critical to a profitable ecommerce business.
Choosing the right colors for your brand isn’t always easy, which is where color psychology marketing comes into play.
Today, you’ll learn:
- Color theory basics
- What color psychology is
- The psychology of each color
- How to find the right colors for your brand
- Tips for using color psychology in your site design
But before we jump into how your ecommerce brand can leverage color psychology in your marketing, buckle in for a super quick color lesson.
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Color theory 101 🎨
Primary colors are colors you cannot create by mixing two or more colors. Think of them as the “default” colors of our universe or the ones that trace back to any color imaginable.
There are three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.
Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors.
- Red + Yellow = Orange
- Yellow + Blue = Green
- Blue + Red = Green
These colors can only be achieved when mixing the purest hue of each primary color. More on hues in a bit!
Finally, we have tertiary colors. These colors are created when you mix a primary color with—you guessed it—a secondary color.
This is where things get a little spicy. Not every primary color complements every secondary color.
For example, if you were to mix red and green, you’d get a brownish color, which may or may not be what you’re after for your brand color palette.
Tertiary colors are made when a primary color is mixed with a secondary color next to it on the color wheel:
With the color wheel, you can see how colors relate to each other, which can help you choose your color palette. Some versions of the color wheel include more in-depth color variations involving hue, tint, tone, and shade.
So, looking at the color wheel, you can mix blue and purple to get blue-purple (violet) or yellow and green to get yellow-green (chartreuse).
We’ve got our base colors down, now let’s get into the nuances (if you will) of color.
Hues are a color in its purest form; they are colors with the least amount of other colors in them.
For example, if you mix the hues of yellow and blue (primary colors) together, you’ll get the hue of green (secondary color).
But, if you mixed yellow and blue that carry other tints, tones, and shades (or not the true hues of yellow and blue), you’re adding more than just two colors together.
A color tint combines a hue with white (the presence of all color).
If you combine red and white, you’d get the tint of red—commonly referred to as pink.
A color shade combines a hue with black (the absence of all color).
For a darker shade, you’d add more black to a hue, and vice versa to get a lighter shade.
A color’s tone (also called saturation) is when you add both black and white to a hue. These colors result in a grey-ish version of the original hue.
For example, mixing green with black and white gives you a grey-green color.
What is color psychology?
Now that you’ve got color basics down, let’s get into color psychology and why it’s so impactful.
To put it simply: Color psychology is the study of how colors influence perception and behavior.
Colors—whether we realize it or not—have a profound effect on our actions. For example, one study found that color can increase or decrease or appetite, change our mood, reduce perception of waiting time, and more.
Warm and cool colors have different effects on people.
Colors with long wavelengths, are considered “arousing or warm” (hence the name “warm colors”), while colors with shorter wavelengths are considered “relaxing and cool” (inspiring the name “cool colors”).
Pretty wild! 🤯
So how does this impact ecommerce marketing and your brand?
In an ecommerce setting, color psychology marketing focuses on how color impacts a customer’s perception of a brand, and how that perception affects their willingness to purchase.
Color is a huge part of a brand’s look and feel, and ultimately plays a major role in how that brand is received.
The role of color across cultures
Color has been linked to different components of the human experience for centuries.
Like the seven chakras derrived from ancient Indian scriptures called the Vedas, for example.
Each chakra—or portal to human energy—is linked to a color, which is tied to a specific meaning:
However, colors tend to carry different meanings in different cultures:
Brown signals practicality and stability in Western cultures but mourning in Indian culture—quite the juxtaposition!
It’s important to know how color is perceived in different cultures when determining which colors are best for your brand.
Color influences our behavior, ideas, emotions, and understanding of, well, everything. Color also provides context, educates us, and helps us decide the importance of things.
The psychology of color in ecommerce marketing
In some cases, color can be life-saving. Like different color flags to signal tide conditions to keep beachgoers safe.
But in a business context, it’s interesting to see the color choices by some of the biggest companies in the world to evoke or tie themselves to certain emotions—like Whole Foods with green, and Lowe’s with blue.
Businesses use color psychology to craft their brand’s identity and influence customer perceptions.
The chart below highlights several popular brands and the color psychology associated with them:
However, even with helpful charts like these, it’s clear that color psychology isn’t an exact science. It’s largely fluid; colors signify different things to different people and their experiences—both shared and independent.
So what does this mean for your brand?
You can be strategic about which colors you choose to represent your brand, evoke your values, and touch on different emotions in your customers.
That said, let’s look at the psychological significance behind each color.
The psychology of the color red
Stop signs. Romance. Warning.
The color red holds several meanings that vary depending on the context. But one thing is for certain, it’s a powerful color.
One study found that the color red is linked to attracting emotional attention—both in a negative (e.g., blood, fire, danger) and positive light (e.g., food, relationships).
In other words, red can be used by a variety of brands.
That’s likely why Target, Virgin, and Topo Designs chose red—it evokes excitement, boldness, and passion.
The psychology of the color orange
Love it or hate it, orange is a very stimulating color. It’s often regarded as a friendly color—blending red’s boldness and yellow’s fun.
Orange can be motivating (hello, OrangeTheory Fitness), yet it can be found among brands that trend on the playful or adventurous side, like Nickelodeon, Crush Soda, and several sports teams.
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The psychology of the color yellow
Sunshine, bananas, and the McDonald’s arches. All yellow.
Yellow is associated with positivity, adventure, happiness, and food that tastes good.
A study found that yellow holds the strongest psychological connection to playfulness, happiness, and humor.
A few popular brands that use yellow in their branding are National Geographic, Subway, and Best Buy.
The psychology of the color green
The color green is often associated with health, wellness, growth, and safety. It’s also frequently found in nature, of course.
Studies show that the color green is relaxing, which is why green pops up so much in public spaces.
Brands like Whole Foods, Starbucks, and grocery store chain Publix use green in their branding to inspire emotions tied to these values.
The psychology of the color blue
Blue is the most popular “favorite” color, and for good reason. Like green, blue is a cool color often associated with relaxation, trust, dependability, and life.
And because it’s such a popular color, it’s mostly viewed as non-threatening and evokes feelings of calmness, security, and peace.
However, blue is also associated with sadness and depression—as per the expression “feeling blue.”
Blue is used by brands like Lowe’s and Ford to suggest dependability and trust. It’s also used by Nuun to speak to the brand’s product—a hydration supplement.
Blue is popular in branding because of its versatility and ability to elicit different emotions or perceptions in customers.
The psychology of the color purple
Purple is a unique color that suggests creativity, imagination, wisdom, wealth, and magic.
The power of red blended with the calmness and trust of blue make purple an interesting color dynamic.
Purple is strongly associated royalty throughout history. Purple dye was typically reserved for royalty—like Persian King Cyrus in 1200 B.C.E—and was extremely expensive.
In the United States, the color purple represents bravery, heart, and courage as seen in the Purple Heart honor in the military.
Brands using purple in their branding include Hallmark, Cadbury, and Lady Speed Stick.
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The psychology of the color pink
Pink is technically a tint of red, and therefore holds a lot of the same connotations like power and romance.
But it’s a softer version—inspiring emotions tied to care, understanding, hope, and nourishment.
Pink is seen in a lot of women-focused brands—like Barbie, Playtex, and Billie. It’s also the main color for the breast cancer Susan G. Komen Fondation.
But it’s also seen in a variety of other brands as well, like T-Mobile, Lyft, and Dunkin’, to draw attention and convey an approachable demeanor.
The psychology of the color brown
While brown may not be the most exciting color—compared to pink and yellow—it exudes protection, reliability, and structure, which are important qualities in a brand.
Brown is a stable, grounding color and is often used by furniture brands, coffee shops, campgrounds and national parks, and universities.
It’s a color that conveys quiet confidence, elegance, and dependability.
In fact, brown is used more often in branding than you may think. A few brands that leverage the underestimated power of brown include UPS, Hershey’s, M&M’s, and Nespresso.