▷ 5 misconceptions about color psychology applied in marketing
Articles on the meaning of colors are legion, but few of them manage to go beyond the stage of Epinal’s image. This is unfortunate, because when used correctly, color psychology can help companies create a memorable visual identity and effectively reach their target audience. Let’s dot the i’s with this selection of the 5 most common myths about color psychology…
“My sector of activity depends on the color I should use in my visual identity.”
This point is not so much a myth as a source of misunderstanding.
Each sector of activity has its favorite colors, which are transformed into visual identities with similar colors.
For example :
Brands concerned with health and environmental protection readily adopt blue, green or white in their visual identity, but avoid more aggressive colors such as red.
Second, on the other hand, it is highly valued by the food industry or luxury brands, who sometimes perceive it as appetizing and sometimes as a charm.
These codes exist whether we like them or not. Therefore, it is necessary to take them into account when finding a reflection… but not to accept blindly!
For example, the brands Hermès or Veuve Clicquot both wanted to stand out by betting on bright orange shades, which are more common for food packaging than for luxury goods or champagne bottles. This bold choice helps to enhance the uniqueness of their brand image and differentiate them from their competitors on store shelves.
While it’s true that every industry has its own color preferences, there’s always room for underdogs. Choose your opponents carefully based on their preferences and how you want to position yourself against them.
“I can’t use the color blue to sell fitness classes: blue slows the heart rate…”
It is true that there is research that colors can affect our bodies and behavior.
For example, some studies show that the color red can increase heart rate and blood pressure, while the color blue has the opposite effect: it calms and lowers blood pressure. Other studies have found a link between red and orange colors and appetite stimulation, while blue has the opposite effect.
Not all research on the subject is completely reliable. Many of them are carried out with limited means and in samples too small to be representative.
Furthermore, it should be noted that these effects vary from person to person and are influenced by many factors, including culture, personal experience, or the environment in which colors are perceived.
Rather than focusing on the physiological qualities of the debated colors, it is important to question how our audience will perceive them based on their culture and expectations.
Take the example of a fitness club:
Blue is certainly not the first color that comes to mind. But back to the earlier point: this might just be a good opportunity to stand out! Take, for example, Orange Bleue, which adopts the colors of its name to emphasize the professionalism of its specialists and the importance of rest between two sessions of physical activity…
“Pink is for girls”.
Clichés are hard to ignore, especially when they are deeply rooted in the collective unconscious. In fact, generalizations about colors (green = nature, yellow = optimism…) are not unreasonable and deserve consideration.
However, there is an important point to consider:
When a color acquires a specific meaning in a given context, the latter will gain more weight and may even go so far as to override more general meanings.
Think traffic lights. What image or thought spontaneously comes to your mind when you see a red traffic light? A tomato? Blood? Or rather, the commitment to stop and the wait that follows?
Contrast plays a lot in the meaning we give to colors. At the beginning of this article, I briefly mentioned the use of orange by two prestigious brands that gained (among other possible motivations) additional visibility in stores. In reality, this logic also applies to more abstract brands.
Lyft, for example, chose a red color in contrast to its main competitor, Uber, which is boldly black and white. Thought? Emphasize the human, entertainment and community aspects. Finally, their bright pink color evokes less of the “young and trendy outsider” side of Barbie (one suspects they’re not aimed at kids!).
“My call to action button should be red, research has shown it works better!” »
Ah yes, those famous studies proving the miraculous effect of warm colors on conversion rates… Sorry to spoil your enthusiasm, but if putting red everywhere was enough to sell better, it would be known!
Colors have no effect on conversion rate (by the way, Google takes the color of its links very seriously). But the success of one color over another depends largely on context.
To return to the red button example:
Red is an energetic color, hard to ignore and provides a good contrast to most colors. So a button of this color will naturally tend to attract more attention and, by extension, get more clicks than a button that blends into the background.
my advice Look at the colors available on your page and choose a shade with good contrast to draw attention to the areas where the conversion is happening. In order not to disturb the chromatic harmony of your design, for example, depending on the graphic charter, you can choose darker, lighter or more saturated shades of your main color.
“If my logo isn’t the right color, my business will be ruined! »
If it makes you feel any better, I can guarantee you with 99.9% certainty that if your business fails, the color of your corporate identity is unlikely to be the culprit. (Don’t thank me, I’m good at calming people down.)
All kidding aside:
A characteristic of a brand, is to create meaning to give greater perceived value to the objects and services sold. And who says make sense: make your own rules.
Remember when I said that specific meaning trumps general meaning? The good news: that special meaning, you have the power to create it.
The more you expose people to the idea association “color X = brand Y”, the more they will get used to it. Even if the basic definitions of color don’t make much sense to you.
Finally, you can find Tiffany & Co. and you’ll be able to make color combinations like its turquoise blue, or even just one color, steal the show from the logo.
That is, be pragmatic when choosing the colors of your visual identity. Don’t choose the same combinations as your competitors and think about “readability”. The combination of yellow + white is nice, but if you want us to decipher the text of your communication media, you’ll need to consider adding a little more contrasting color to the equation!
The psychology of colors hides clues that guide us. However, it is advisable to avoid an interpretation that is too literal or too strict. The meaning of colors varies. Our perception of colors is largely dependent on context, and it makes sense that the same applies to the meaning we assign to them.
Each person has their own personal experience and appreciation of colors. We can neither expect nor control it. On the other hand, things we can control This is what we mean to them through our brand. By avoiding generalizations and taking into account parameters such as trends, accessibility, context, cultural associations and color combinations, you will avoid the most common pitfalls and create a successful brand experience.
About the author
Alicia Vigne: An iconoclastic graphic designer and blogger with an academic background as a translator, I work mainly on my blog Pixeliart (https://pixeliart.fr) and on Quora. My specialty: speaking sarcastically about visual communication, linguistics, and artificial intelligence.