Marketing Colour Psychology – Exploring The Emotion Behind Colours

Sunlit yellow daffodil

Marketing Colour Psychology: Unpacking the Emotion Behind Colours

What if I told you that the colour of your logo could be as influential as your brand message? We’re not playing with crayons anymore – this is about tapping into the psychology behind colours in marketing.

Think about it: have you ever noticed how certain colours can spark very specific emotions? The vibrant red of a clearance sale that urgently prods you toward those flashy 70% off signs? That cool, trusty blue on the Facebook logo that keeps you coming back day after day?

Colour choices are far more than just aesthetic – they have the power to influence emotions and behaviours at a subconscious level. So let’s take off our kindergarten caps and dive deep into the technicolour world of marketing psychology.

In this post, we’ll unravel the secrets behind colour symbolism, harmony schemes, and other crucial elements for making informed colour choices that align with your brand personality. You’ll walk away with actionable tips on selecting logo hues, color palettes, and design assets that appeal to your target audience on a deeper, more intrinsic level.

So without further ado, let’s unpack the rainbow and see what emotive magic lies behind marketing’s sleight-of-colour.

Colour Symbolism: Tapping into the Psychology Behind Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Hues

Let’s start with a quick review. Can you name the three primary colours? If you guessed red, blue and yellow – you nailed it. These three can’t be created by mixing other shades – making them the building blocks for every hue imaginable.

When you blend two primary colours, this produces the secondary colours of orange, green and purple. Take this a step further by mixing a primary with a secondary and you get the tertiary colours – think browns, teals and maroons. It’s colour theory magic.

But there’s more to these shades than just aesthetics. Different hues also symbolise different emotions:

Blue = Intelligence, trust

Green = Nature, growth, health

Yellow = Happiness, optimism

Marketers tap into this colour psychology all the time. Think about how many eco-conscious brands drench their logos and websites in leafy green hues. Or how blue connotes trust for social media platforms like Facebook.

But this is still just scratching the surface of how colours communicate ideas and feelings on a subliminal level. Let’s dig deeper.

Nuancing Your Colour Choices

So we know that primary colours can be blended together to create new shades. But there’s all kinds of nuances beyond mixing that drastically impact what message your colours send:

Pure Hues

Pure hues are any colour shown in its natural, unaltered form around the edges of the colour wheel. The bright crimson red you’d find in a box of crayons.


Take a pure hue and add white to lighten and soften the shade. Pepsi tweaked their red logo to a pinkish tint in an effort to seem more lighthearted.


These result from adding black to a pure colour, creating darker, muted hues. Think dark forest greens or navy blues.


Mix gray with a pure hue to get a more subdued, neutral tone. Sephora features this kind of hazy plum tone prominently.

The easiest way to adjust these is by changing the saturation – how vivid or muted a colour appears. But beware – the wrong nuance can undermine or confuse your messaging. Make sure to test how your audience responds on a gut, emotional level.

The next time you’re designing new branding assets or revamping your website’s palette, leverage the tips above on altering hues. Start with the psychology behind primary colours – then explore how tints, tones and shades can take your colour storytelling to the next level.

The Art of Colour Harmonies: Mastering the Nuances of the Colour Wheel

We’ve explored the basic colour wheel – those primary, secondary and tertiary hues. Now let’s level up and talk about how to blend them together into stunning colour harmonies.

These harmonies are specific combinations of shades and tones designed to complement one another – almost like chords in music. Use them right, and they sing. Use them wrong, and you get visual dissonance.

There are a few key types of colour harmonies to know:


These pair colours from opposite sides of the colour wheel. Think red and green or blue and orange. Bold, vibrant and eye-catching – but use them in balance. One colour should dominate, with the other acting as visual “spice”.


Analogous harmonies use adjacent shades on the wheel, like yellow, yellow-orange and orange. They convey a sense of cohesion and flow – perfect for gradient backgrounds.


Leverages different tints, tones and shades of a single hue. This Grand Budapest Hotel poster uses various pinks to create depth.


Forms a triangle with three colours equally spaced on the wheel. Vibrant but difficult to balance. Again, let one colour lead.


Begins with one colour, then pairs it with the two colours on either side of its complement. Provides the color pop of complements, but slightly muted.


Combines two complementary pairs into one palette. Bold yet complex, so use sparingly.


Four colours spaced evenly apart. Achieving balance is tough, but can pay off when done right.

Next time you’re struggling with finding harmonious hues – reference the tips above. Layer colours from the wheel into these combinations, while letting one dominate. You’ll be amazed how a simple palette tweak can take your design from drab to fab.

The Psychology of Colour: How Individual Hues Influence Emotion

Colour isn’t just about aesthetics. Different hues can profoundly impact mood, perception and behaviour. Master colour psychology, and you’ve got a powerful asset for influencing your audience.

Let’s explore some of the most impactful colours, the emotions they evoke and how to apply them effectively:


The colour of sunshine, smiles and daffodils. Yellow conveys warmth, joy and optimism. It grabs attention without aggression, hence its use in traffic signs and fast food branding. But too much can cause sensory overload. Use bright yellows to uplift, muted yellows for a calmer effect.


Vibrant, urgent and impossible to ignore – red is the maximum signal colour. It quickens the pulse and draws the eye, useful for highlighting calls-to-action. But it also signifies danger, rage or lust – tread carefully. Balance with cooler colours to offset intensity.


Cool, crisp and intellectual – blue conjures images of clear skies and deep oceans. It speaks to logic, clarity and focus – hence its popularity in tech branding. Dark blues feel professional and trustworthy. Light blues calm and reassure. Add warmth (like yellow) to soften effect.


The colour of nature, renewal and environmentalism. Green signifies life, freshness and serenity. It’s a versatile secondary colour – cooling warm schemes or warming cool ones. Eco brands leverage green to convey natural wholesomeness.

Metallic Colours

Not technically colours, metallic hues combine pigments with metal flakes or powders. This achieves a shimmering, light-reflective effect for an opulent finish. Metallics add richness and value – perfect for positioning premium brands. Just ensure legibility.

Colours influence us in countless subtle, unconscious ways. Learn their emotional triggers and use that knowledge to better connect with your audience. With great colour psychology comes great branding power.

The Power of Colour in Branding

A brand’s visual identity is its face to the world. Colour plays a leading role in shaping that identity and influencing consumer perceptions. Let’s examine how some of the world’s most iconic brands have harnessed colour psychology to build famously effective brand images:


That signature Coke red needs no introduction. Vibrant, energetic and impossible to ignore, it grabs attention while triggering feelings of excitement and joy. This red-and-white combo has stood the test of time, cementing Coke as a beloved global icon of refreshment.


Those Golden Arches shine like a beacon for hungry travellers, promising warmth, comfort and family fun. Paired with red, this bright yellow conveys boundless energy and optimism. It just feels happy and welcoming. An ideal reflection of McDonald’s fun, community spirit.

Tiffany Blue

Robin egg blue stands out from the crowd while feeling simultaneously calming and elegant. The distinctive Tiffany Box colour has become synonymous with exclusivity, glamour and luxury. Proof that branding isn’t just visual – it creates experiences and emotional connections.


Facebook blue feels professional yet friendly, blending logic with humanity. It speaks to efficiency, competence and trustworthiness. Combined with a clean, pared back aesthetic, it gives Facebook an approachable yet corporate personality.

A brand’s colours are more than decoration – they’re critical carriers of meaning that shape audience perceptions. Use colour strategically to convey your brand’s values, vision and personality. Align it with messaging for maximum impact. With great branding comes great influence.

Harnessing the Psychology of Colour

Colour is a subtle yet influential tool for marketers. While aesthetic appeal matters, the psychology behind colour choice runs much deeper.

Let’s recap key learnings:

  • Colours trigger emotional responses tied to long-held cultural associations. Red signifies passion, yellow joy, green health. Know what feelings you want to evoke.
  • Warm tones feel comforting, cool tones feel detached. Use intentionally to set desired moods.
  • Context impacts meaning e.g. red feels exciting with yellow, aggressive with black. Consider colour interactions.
  • Colour combinations create experiences – red and yellow feels fun, blue and white professional. Align with brand personality.
  • Consistent colour use builds recognition and trust. Reinforce signatures rather than chasing trends.
  • Contrast levels impact legibility and hiierarchy. Brighter colours draw the eye first. Lead viewers clearly.

So as you finalise designs, consider the psychology behind your choices. How do colours, contrasts and combinations support your goals? What feelings do you want to spark in the viewer? How will it represent your brand?

Purposeful colour use can make communications pop. It’s a subtle influence that makes a big impact. Use it wisely and let psychology enhance your marketing power.

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