Color Psychology Used in Marketing: An Overview

For most marketers, the ultimate goal is to persuade consumers to make a purchase. Experienced marketers know that influential words and enticing images alone will not enable them to achieve their goal. Instead, they have to support their initiatives with psychological tools to connect with customers, convey brand messages and drive conversions.

One such tool at their disposal is color, which can enhance their messages, inspire consumers to take action or help them stand out from their competitors. Not surprisingly, understanding the psychology of color is essential for developing winning marketing campaigns and creating persuasive brands.

How Personal Factors Influence the Psychology of Color

The psychology of color suggests general guidelines for the ways that various hues and shades influence consumer behavior. However, a number of factors may also influence the way that individuals perceive and react to color, and marketers should be aware of how they may impact the way consumers respond to color.


Studies have shown that gender tends to have a measurable impact on the psychology of color. For instance, both men and women may prefer blue over all other colors, but men have the strongest preference for this hue. Along the same lines, both men and women tend to prefer cool colors like blue and green, but women demonstrate a much stronger preference for this color family.

Many of these nuances may be based in science, as women perceive more colors and have a greater awareness of differences among colors than men do. These differences in perception and preference should inform marketers' use of color psychology.


Marketers may be eager to apply theories of color psychology to campaigns that span multiple countries or even the entire globe. However, consumers in different nations are likely to experience and react to color differently. While North American consumers may typically view yellow as optimistic and purple as soothing, shoppers in different regions may have entirely different perceptions of these hues.

To ensure that their campaigns have the desired effect, global marketers may consider conducting local studies. This may help them gain a better understanding of how the psychology of color affects their target audiences.

How Color Can Impact Branding

While many marketing experts have attempted to distill colors down to a few basic properties or perceptions, psychology can help businesses develop a deeper understanding of the implications of color choice. For instance, it is important to know that green does not always translate to growth and red does not always mean excitement. However, even if one particular color cannot always convey a specific message, several studies have revealed that color is essential to branding.

For instance, a study published in the journal Management Decision supports the theory that color is critical for conveying information. The study says that people make decisions within 90 seconds of their first impression of a product, and color alone contributes up to 90 percent of the information that forms the decision. This suggests that marketers must understand how the colors they use affect consumers' ability to differentiate products and identify brands.

A study published in the journal Marketing Theory demonstrates how important the psychology of color is to branding, revealing that many consumers assess how appropriate a color is to a brand when making a decision. When consumers perceive a color to be incongruous with a brand, they may not respond to it as positively as they would to a color that they believed to be more appropriate to the brand's message. In fact, appropriateness might be the most important factor for consumers when evaluating a brand's use of color. So, marketers should be well aware of their desired brand perception, and whether the colors they use align with it.

How Color Can Generate Conversions

Developing a clear brand identity that generates a positive response among consumers is a sign of success, but marketers also need to generate conversions and drive sales in order to meet their goals. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science suggests that the psychology of color may also be key to accomplishing this objective. The study demonstrates that consumers' response to a brand's identity and its use of color may also affect their affinity for a brand. This means that marketers who successfully use color psychology can influence purchasing habits and brand loyalty.

While no one color has been proven to drive sales more successfully than others, the use of color psychology does appear to impact a brand's ability to make itself stand out. Many brands make use of the Isolation Effect, a principle that suggests that a unique color in a field of uniform hues will stand out more. Brands that apply this psychological principle to brightly colored call-to-action buttons on their monochromatic landing pages, or to bold packaging that stands out among competitors on store shelves, may have much more success in driving consumers to purchase.

Color is just one of many psychological tools that marketers can use to build successful brands. Using psychology to reach and influence consumers is a specialized field – and is what makes the online Master of Science in Applied Psychology degree  unique. Learn more about how consumer psychology impacts marketing, and what career paths this field of study may hold, by visiting the USC online Master of Science in Applied Psychology (MAPP) degree.


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