The Psychology of Colour Theory and Modern Marketing

Colour is an extremely powerful communication tool that has long been used by marketers looking to deliver a message that words sometimes fail to convey. Colour transcends language, instantly telling a compelling story, even in the absence of words. More than that, colour can inform, command attention and create an identity – all of which are imperative in successful advertising!

Colour also can move people on an emotional level, stimulating an action or reaction and allowing marketers to subliminally move consumers in a desired direction. It can also help you emphasize your advertisement’s standout features, draw the eye down your devised path, and connect the visual elements to tell a story from start to finish.

The four primary colours (red, yellow, blue and green) each trigger a different human instinct, and evoke specific responses:


Red will trigger a physical response, raising your pulse and heartbeat, giving you the feeling that time is flying. It can also invoke your physiological flight or fight response.


Yellow affects emotions, impacting the nervous system, and is the strongest colour from a psychological viewpoint.


Blue triggers mental responses, making it the ‘intellectual’ colour. It can provide a sense of reliability and calm. 


Green is the colour of balance and harmony, bringing the mind, body and emotions together.

Choosing the Right Colours for Your Brand

Along with your brand voice and tone, your colour palette is one of the most critical factors in your overall brand image. Just like clothes make the man, colours make the brand! The right colours, combined with the right font choice, will allow you to articulate your brand values and attract your ideal customers.  

Cultural Meanings

Colours can also have different cultural meanings that can affect a consumer’s inclination to purchase or avoid your product, which is important to consider when choosing a colour palette for your brand. For example, in the western world, the colour white is a symbol of purity and innocence. In contrast, in some parts of Asia including India and China, white is the colour of death and mourning and is often worn to funerals.

Seasonal Colours

Colours can also be used seasonally to influence emotions, and ultimately, purchasing decisions. EG. Cool blue and oyster-white could be used to sell a crisp Semillon wine in summer while rust red and chocolate brown could be used to sell a pinot noir in winter.

Colours are Subjective

Different people perceive colours differently, as such their emotional or psychological associations with specific colours will also differ. For example, your first impression of a stranger dressed in red may be exciting and desirable, whereas your friend may perceive this person as dangerous or attention-seeking.


Have you ever wondered why the post box, the stop sign or the traffic light are all red? Well, it’s because the colour red has the appearance of being closer than it actually is, commanding your immediate attention! 

Positive Associations: 

  • Warmth
  • Energy
  • Excitement
  • Desire
  • Stamina
  • Strength
  • Passion
  • Courage
  • Rebellion
  • Survival

Negative Associations:

  • Anger
  • Annoyance
  • Exhaustion
  • Aggression
  • Defiance
  • Confrontation
  • Overwhelming

Red colour combinations you might consider for your brand: 

  1. Red, yellow and lime green could be used to create an exotic palette for a travel company specializing in tropical escapes.
  2. Red, orchid and pale pink come together to create a sensual or provocative colour palette, ideal for a lingerie brand.


If hugs were a colour, they would be pink! Pink represents empathy, nurturing and care. Pink can also be the colour of love – although red is often associated with love (think Valentine’s Day), it is actually more representative of lust than love.

Positive Associations:

  • Soft
  • Empathetic
  • Nurturing
  • Love
  • Caring
  • Warmth
  • Fun
  • Feminine
  • Youthful

Negative Associations:

  • Needy
  • Weak
  • Emasculating

Pink colour combinations you might consider for your brand: 

  1. Pastel pink pairs perfectly with pure white and baby blue for a children’s boutique.
  2. Fuschia pink and orange come together to create a fun feel for a modern Eastern-inspired restaurant and bar.


The colour of sunshine, yellow is joyous, happy and uplifting. It is emotionally stimulating and energizing, although you must be careful when selecting your particular tone of yellow. Some shades have been linked to feelings of irritation, anxiety and depression. Yellow has also been shown to stimulate appetite and can therefore be found in many food logos.

Positive Associations:

  • Happy
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Emotionally stimulating
  • Confident
  • Positive
  • Optimistic

Negative Associations:

The wrong shade of yellow can have the exact opposite effects of the right shade, and can cause negative feelings such as:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Nerves
  • Depression

Pink colour combinations you might consider for your brand: 

  1. Yellow and orange accented with black and white would be ideal for a fresh new sparkling citrus beverage that can’t be ignored.
  2. Pale lemon yellow and lilac create a restful feel, ideal for a day spa.


As a composite colour, orange is made up of two primary colours (red and yellow). It combines the physical properties of red with the emotional properties of yellow. Together, the result is a playful and warm colour that stimulates social interaction and conversation and represents abundance.

Positive Associations:

  • Happy
  • Cheerful
  • Optimistic
  • Warm
  • Friendly
  • Fun

Negative Associations:

The wrong shade of orange, or too much of it can cause your brand to perceived as:

  • Childish
  • Frivolous
  • Unsophisticated
  • Cheap/poor quality

Orange colour combinations you might consider for your brand: 

  1. Orange and ochre pair perfectly for an earthy feel, ideal for a construction company or hardware store.
  2. A peachy orange could be used with a custard colour for a delicious and enticing palette for a patisserie or bakehouse.


Brown is earthy and natural, solid and dependable – just like a strong tree! It gives a feeling of reassurance and reliability. Whilst brown is often used by companies wanting to reflect the nature of its product (chocolate, coffee etc.), it is also often used by service suppliers seeking to establish a sense of dependability. 

Positive Associations:

  • Earthy
  • Grounded
  • Reliable
  • Strong
  • Supportive
  • Cosy
  • Warm

Negative Associations: 

  • Boring
  • Dull
  • Lifeless
  • Heavy
  • Unforgiving

Brown colour combinations you might consider for your brand: 

  1. Brown and gold would be ideal for a boutique chocolatier, giving the feeling of luxury, while also physically representing the product.
  2. Mix brown with aubergine tones and accent them with pops of cream for an ultra-rich and sophisticated feel. Ideal for anything from luxury bedding to imported red wine.


Did you know that blue is the world’s favourite colour? Research continually shows people favour blue over any other colour, and given that it is both the colour of the sky and sea, it’s easy to see why. As a primary colour, blue targets mental responses and can promote clarity of the mind and thoughts. It’s also reliable and approachable, making it the colour of choice for many uniforms.

Positive Associations:

  • Logic
  • Clarity
  • Serenity
  • Reflection
  • Calming
  • Honesty
  • Integrity

Negative Associations: 

  • Cold
  • Unsympathetic
  • Aloof
  • Not a naturally occurring colour in food

Blue colour combinations you might consider for your brand:  

  1. Use a variety of blues in the one colour palette for a fresh nautical take – for example, mix navy with seafoam and sky blue for your coastal B’n’B.
  2. Use fresh and bright blues in conjunction with zesty greens to create an invigorating aura, ideal for skincare or healthcare products such as vitamins and supplements.


Green equals life – it is the very colour of nature and abundance. It triggers our primitive hunter/gatherer instincts and reassures us that where there is green, there will be food and water. 

Positive Associations:

  • Relaxing
  • Abundance
  • Balance
  • Harmony
  • Fresh
  • Nature
  • Restful

Negative Associations:

  • Stagnant
  • Boring
  • Judgemental
  • Over-cautious 
  • Jealousy

Green colour combinations you might consider for your brand: 

  1. Leafy green and earthy brown is a classic combination that can be used to represent nature. These colours may be ideal for a gardening centre, organic play-based kindergarten, waste removal service.
  2. Hunter green accented with gold creates an aura of wealth, ideal for an accountant, bank or financial planner.


White is pure and represents the ultimate perfection – free from flaws or blemishes, which is why it is so often used by brands selling baby products. The colour white can also help to bring clarity and emotional security. As it would be impossible to have an all-white logo, it is often used in conjunction with other colours to lend a touch of simplicity to the overall design. 

Positive Associations:

  • Simple
  • Pure
  • Clarity
  • Perfection
  • Cleanliness

Negative Associations:

  • Sterile
  • Cold
  • Unfriendly
  • Isolating

White colour combinations you might consider for your brand: 

  1. A predominantly white colour scheme, accented with red and navy blue, could be used for a health service such as a medical centre or hospital. 
  2. White can be accented with metallic gold or silver to create a sophisticated and luxurious feel and be suited to a 5-star hotel, a wedding celebrant or a jeweller.


Black is a complex colour that possesses many different characteristics, and can be viewed as anything from sophisticated and elegant, to menacing and dangerous! It is best used in combination with other colours to deliver a brand message that is relatable to your values.

Positive Associations:

  • Strong 
  • Sophisticated
  • Glamorous
  • Elegant
  • Authoritative
  • Protective

Negative Associations:

  • Menacing
  • Scary
  • Serious
  • Boring
  • Oppressive
  • Heavy

Black colour combinations you might consider for your brand: 

  1. Black with red can be exotic and mysterious, ideal for a lounge bar or Asian restaurant.
  2. Black and white is a classic combination that never goes out of style. Use pops of colour to accent it and give it a modern or current feel. This could work well for fashion retailers or home decor stores.

Choosing a colour palette for your brand will require much consideration, due diligence against competitors, research to ensure that it reflects your personal preference AND works to attract your ideal customer. If you need help rebranding or creating a distinctive brand that resonates with your desired audience, contact us today for an obligation-free quote. We will alleviate the stress that comes with developing your branding, and ensure you fall in love with your brand image

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