Colour psychology in branding article header by UK branding agency Halo Media

Colour psychology in branding

Halo Media is a corporate brand agency working with international markets. One of the challenges that we face when dealing with the global market is the different colour meanings in different cultures and societies, so we turn to colour psychology in branding to as part of the creative solution.

What is colour psychology?

It's the study of how colours affect behaviour. We look at colours in relation to branding and how they influence decisions and perceptions by the target audience.

For example, let's look at the colour red. Red is seen as the colour of happiness and celebration in Asia. In the Middle East, some consider it the colour of evil. And for some cultures in Africa, it is the colour of mourning. 

What is colour psychology in branding?

Many people don’t realise that the meaning of colours varies in different countries or within different cultures. But this has a big role in how a product or service is positioned within that location or culture. As colour is a such a vital aspect of design, it's critical that you research your target markets.

When we are branding for international audiences, we analyse the target audience. We look at where the product or service will be sold and tailor the colours, especially if it will be used in a global market where Eastern and Western colours often portray vastly different meanings and emotions.

The challenge our graphic designers face is to carefully consider the colours we choose and what meaning or emotion they will convey to the customers and audience. We need to be aware of any offensive or insulting colours which may be used to market a product or service. 

color psychology in branding statistic

Looking to why the psychology of colour is important

Color plays a significant role in culture, and its impact on communication is undeniable. Here are some key aspects of the role of colour in culture:

1. Colours carry symbolism

Colour meanings are often deeply rooted in cultural and historical contexts and are symbolic. A symbolic association can evoke emotions, convey a message, or represent abstract ideas across cultures. For example, red may symbolise luck and prosperity in Chinese culture, while white can signify purity or mourning in various cultures.

2. Colours have cultural associations

Different colours can be associated with specific cultural values, beliefs, or traditions. As an example, gold is often associated with wealth, power, and divinity in several cultures, while green is often associated with nature and fertility.

3. Communication and Perception

Colours can communicate nonverbal messages and evoke specific emotions or responses. Different hues may elicit different psychological and physiological reactions in individuals. For example, warm shades like red and orange are generally associated with energy, passion, and excitement. But cooler ones like blue and green can evoke feelings of calmness and tranquility.

4. Cultural Preferences

Colour preferences can vary across cultures. Certain hues may be favoured or disliked due to cultural, historical, or religious reasons. So these preferences can influence various aspects of daily life, such as fashion, design, and marketing strategies.

5. Color in Language and Idioms

Color terms often find their way into language and idiomatic expressions, reflecting cultural perceptions and associations. For instance, phrases like "feeling blue" or "green with envy" use colours metaphorically to convey emotions or states of being.

6. Colour Psychology in Rituals and Traditions

Colours play a significant role in religious, ceremonial, and traditional practices worldwide. You can use them to represent stages of life, events, or roles within a community.

It's worthwhile to note that while colours have general cultural associations, individual preferences and interpretations can still vary. Furthermore, color symbolism and cultural meanings aren't universal and can change over time or differ within subcultures. So if you want to understand colour's role in communication, you need to be sensitive to cultural diversity.

Colour is not universal

Blue in Western companies indicates trustworthy, masculine, and corporate. In eastern cultures it can represent feminine wealth.

We have put together a short overview of what colours mean in different cultures and countries:

colour psychology in branding showing how colors relate to culture