The psychology of color plays a seriously important role in marketing and advertising, so in this post we will explore how to choose the colors you use wisely, based on your specific marketing and advertising goals.

Tech startup founders and small business owners—and in fact anyone who needs to advertise or market their products or services—needs to master this design area. If you’re doing your own design work it’s essential to understand the basics, but even if you’re working with a professional designer, it helps to have a sense of what you need in terms of color.

By the end of this post, you will understand the basics of the psychology of color, see how it intersects with marketing and advertising and feel comfortable using color to further your own specific marketing and advertising goals.

Your brain on color

Color and the way humans perceive it plays a crucial role in marketing and advertising. There’s an entire field of research dedicated to it, in fact! Color psychology is the study of how colors influence human emotions and behaviors. Our reactions to color are based on a complex series of interactions between our cultural background, our family upbringing and our personal tastes.

Colorful butterfly logo
Beautiful watercolor effect in a logo for a children’s book publisher. Logo design by Merci dsgn for Meant to Fly.
Vividly colored logo
Logo for beauty consultant makes smart use of vivid, trendy colors. Logo design by TwinkleBee for VSP Consulting.

Color can affect our perceptions in both obvious and subtle ways. The hue of a product can convince us that it tastes fresher and can even enhance the effectiveness of medication (and placebos). Blue is used to tint pills that calm or induce sleep, while yellow or red are usually the colors of choice for stimulants.

Every brand and business uses colors deliberately in their product designs, packaging, advertisements and websites. High-level marketing and advertising rely in part on the ability to select colors that support the brand and the company’s mission. The psychology of color can and must be used to trigger the right responses from consumers if you want to ensure that your advertising and marketing materials will have the impact you want.

How colors get us to buy stuff

Among consumers, colors are closely connected to buying decisions. Color is the primary reason 85 percent of consumers give for choosing what they buy and up to 90 percent of impulse decisions about products are based solely on color. Researchers have also found that 42% of consumers form an opinion of a website based on the site’s design, including color, more than any other factor. And 52% of the time inferior design and the poor use of color will influence a consumer’s decision to avoid returning to a particular site.

Consumer research has found numerous links between consumers’ purchasing decisions and specific colors—connections you can use as you make branding choices.

Here’s the scoop:

Orange, red, royal blue and black appeal to impulse buyers.

Logo with orange and red
A travel agency geared toward impulsive, free-spirited globetrotters makes use of red and orange in its logo (and some creative purple, too). Logo design by Daria V.

 

Teal and navy blue are the comfort zone for bargain hunters.

Logo with teal and blue jeans
Logo for a deals website utilizes teal and navy blue (via a denim pocket). Logo design by freshvision.

When it comes to clothing, softer colors like pink, sky blue and rose are the sweet spot for traditional shoppers.

Vintage logo with pink and mint green
Logo for a vintage clothing seller. Logo design by Diggitigirl ♥ for Viva la Vintage.

Consumers have emotional reactions to colors they see in marketing, and those reactions come with specific expectations. Part of those expectations have to do with how appropriate the “fit” between the color and the brand seems to be. We expect to see red and yellow on a sign for Denny’s or McDonalds. But how would we feel if we pulled up to a restaurant for a meal we knew would be hundreds of dollars—the most exclusive dining establishment in the city—and saw a similar red and yellow sign? Cheated in advance, right? That’s a bad fit!

The same reasons cause Americans to mistrust a bank with a bright yellow and orange sign. We also find brown paper packaging super appealing when it’s wrapped around high-end organic coffee or soap. Yet the same paper is totally unappealing when covering bottles of fresh-squeezed juices that look best when they show off their own flashy colors through a clear, unobtrusive label.

Coffee beans packaging
This brown paper packaging works perfectly for coffee beans. Product packaging by Martis Lupus.
Fresh juice bottle
This juice product has a gorgeous natural color, requiring nothing more than a simple, clear label. Logo and hosted website design by Mad pepper for 3seeds.

And how well do you think a cure for baldness would sell in a lavender box? About as well as a feminine hygiene product in a black and gray box, probably—or worse, a brown one.

These preferences aren’t because we’re insecure about our own gender or because we don’t like brown in packaging. Our connection to color is actually evolutionary! We are programmed to avoid brown produce which could be rotten and so can be hesitant about brown hues. We implement survival strategies, which have trained our brains to prefer certain colors in certain situations. For example, there is research that suggests men really do prefer blondes—probably because blonde hair is a sign of youth and because fair-skinned individuals show age quicker, making it easier to tell if they’re too old to mate. Similarly, there’s a reason people find red appealing, especially in the context of food. Back in our primate days, the ability to spot ripe, red fruits was a serious advantage, and that programming is still in there.

So, now that you’re aware that you can exploit eons of biological programming on behalf of your brand, are you on board?

Cultural colors

Successful marketing and advertising also anticipates cultural differences in color perception. The same color can mean very different things to different audiences. Take yellow. In most European and North American cultures yellow has a playful, bright, cheerful meaning, making it a common choice for things having to do with families and children. Germany is the European exception, where you go yellow, not green, with envy.

Logo for birthing services
This logo has an organic feel thanks to cheerful colors that look painted, making it very appropriate for a child/family centered business. Logo design by Binary Made for Sunshine Birth.

For the rest of the world, yellow is all over the map. In China, yellow can have vulgar connotations. In many Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, yellow is imperial and sacred (not purple, which is associated with royalty in European cultures) often worn by members of the ruling or royal classes. In Japan, yellow is the color of courage, so telling a Japanese person that they have a “yellow streak a mile wide” wouldn’t be as insulting as it would in Texas.

Many cultures associate yellow with gold, and therefore with success, quality and money. In India yellow is the color of commerce, and in many African nations yellow is reserved for those of higher social rank. Conversely, in many Latin American cultures yellow is associated with mourning and death. Egypt shares this morbid association, but in general yellow is connected with prosperity and happiness in the Middle East.

As a citizen of the marketing world, you owe it to yourself and your brand to design to your target user’s culture associations.

Action-oriented colors that will inspire anyone

The best color for call-to-action buttons has spawned extensive research, yet the results are not entirely clear. What we do know is that context is important to buying decisions, and sometimes the optimal button color depends on overall design and the specific brand and product. That said, there are a few rules of thumb that are good to follow. First, your call-to-action button color must be easy to see, but not an eyesore; it should complement the website’s overall design yet contrast with it enough to eliminate any searching for it. Second, call-to-action buttons generally, and checkout buttons in particular, should be big, clean, and simple, set against plain backgrounds that aren’t distracting.

Orange call-to-action buttons
These orange call-to-action buttons would work for a wide range of businesses. Icon or button design by :-Dee-Ex™ for Large Online Retailer.

General research has found that there are three colors that tend to perform best for call-to-action buttons. Red is easy to see, stands out against most designs, and suggests urgency and excitement. Green is a more calming color, but sometimes it helps to soothe certain shoppers into a decision, especially if your service or product is in any way connected to relaxation, peace, psychology or the environment. Finally, the orange/yellow range is associated with warmth, happiness and action. Seen Amazon.com lately? Lots of that orangey-yellowy color.

Testing, testing, testing: are your colors working for you?

Testing is really the only way to make sure you’ve nailed your marketing color strategy. Multiple iterations of A/B or split testing might be needed before you can determine which colors are working best, and remember, you can really only test one at a time. First, eliminate any colors that have negative connotations in any of your cultural markets. (After all, why test them if you already know the answer?) Then, whittle down your list of possibilities, which should all support your brand while contrasting with each other well.

Now you’re ready for your “bracket tournament.” Really, that’s all that split testing is; you’re just testing one color against another allowing the better candidate to move forward until you determine the optimal color. Meanwhile, maintain the rest of your strategy, keeping your calls to action big and above the fold.

Once you’ve tested, you can confidently implement your color choices for each element of your design, from calls to action to backgrounds to text.

How to use colors precisely to further your specific marketing and advertising goals

Take a closer look at each type of color and individual color to get a better sense of how to use them:

Warm colors

Red, orange, yellow and all of their variations are the warm colors. In general they are energizing, enthusiastic, happy, passionate, playful and positive.

Red (primary color)

Positive associations we commonly have with red include comfort, confidence, excitement, love, passion, strong emotions and warmth.

Vintage eatery logo
This Southern vintage eatery logo stands out with red gingham in the background, red with white polka dots on the woman in the middle, and bright red script in the foreground. Logo design by Diggitigirl ♥.
Illustration of a woman with red flowers
This illustration of a woman is feminine, and her red lips, lashes, and the flowers in her hair all suggest love, warmth, and strong emotions. Illustration by Luz Viera.

Negative associations that can come along for the ride with the color red include anger, danger, fire, violence and warfare. Sometimes these “negative” associations are exactly what will sell your product!

Logo with red and black monster
This logo of a fierce monster uses the dangerous side of red to its advantage. Logo design by JK Graphix.
Logo with red armored warrior
This logo of a magical, armored warrior in red makes the most of the color’s warlike qualities. Logo design by Ron | Graphics for The Fitness Cult.

Some designs use both the positive and negative connotations of red to support the product, like this movie poster that exudes confidence and passion and danger and violence.

Red movie poster with black silhouette
The red poster with the sexy and dangerous silhouette of a woman and her gun utilizes all of red’s attributes. Poster design by jestyr37.

Red’s known physical effects on the body include a rise in blood pressure and respiration rate, and enhanced metabolism. Common design uses for the color in the U.S. include bright red as an accent color, and darker red or maroon, in combination with black, or black and white for a more elegant, sophisticated look:

Black, red, and white wine logo
This simple yet elegant black, red, and white wine logo is modern and creative yet still classic. Logo design by Cahjambu for Vino Pinto.
Black wine menu with red accents
The black and white wine menu gets a splash of red here and there for excitement, but stays classy. Flyer design by Lalitha for Islero.
Black, red, and white clothing logo
This beautiful black, red, and white logo communicates the thrill and tradition of flamenco and the style of the brand. Logo design by Sign.Yra for Flamenco Casual.

Or in combination with navy blue or gray and white to create a more traditional or professional tone.

Red, white, and Blue sports logo
This classic red, white and blue logo is as American looking as the sport it advertises. Logo design by JK Graphix for National Pastime.

Orange

Positive associations that typically come along with orange include affordability, beauty, earthiness, energy, enthusiasm, excitement, friendliness, health and vitality, humor, playfulness, seasonal changes and warmth.

Let’s break those down a bit as that’s a lot of associations!

Humor:

Fox astronaut logo
This funny fox is somehow exploring space, and the bright orange contrasts against the black in the same way the idea of the headiness of space travel contrasts with cartoon foxes doing it. Logo design by Angela Cuellar for Novster.

Playfulness:

Cartoon dog logo
This adorable cartoon dog wants a walk—you know you can’t let him down. Logo design by Cross the Lime for Oh My Dog Walking.

Enthusiasm:

Marketing book cover
This enthusiastic book cover entices the prospective reader. Book cover design by Bikelindo V. Rouco for The Little Book on Digital Marketing.

Earthiness:

Logo for chef
This clever illustrated logo looks and feels organic and earthy. Logo design by TheBluebird for Chef Christine.

Affordability:

Fox with coins logo
This cute logo is for a financial education service for parents and children. Logo design by surfacing™.

Health and vitality:

Label with green and orange accents
This packaging uses orange and green accents to suggest health and vitality. Product label design by greenboys.

Orange is an interesting color in the U.S. in that there aren’t many negative associations with it; maybe prison togs, but that’s about it, and that’s maybe not a strong enough association to affect your branding. A known physical effect that is associated with orange is appetite stimulation, so you’ll see a lot of orange in food and drink branding.

Orange beer logo
This beer label makes the most of orange for appetite stimulation purposes. Product label design by Wooden Horse.
Food store logo
This watercolor logo is bright and beautiful. Logo design by S A V.

Orange also appears frequently on discount sites.

Discount store logo
This discount store logo is simple yet effective. Logo design by BlueMooon for Buy Buy Stores.

Yellow (primary)

Positive associations commonly felt with yellow include attention-grabbing, cheerfulness, energizing, happiness, hope, playfulness and warmth.

Playfulness:

Cartoon chicken logo
This arrogant little cartoon chicken’s puffery makes you smile. Logo design by TN Designs for Arrogant Chicken.

Warmth:

Puffin logo
This stylized puffin and the shades of yellow add warmth to a software development company’s ad—an area that can feel cold to consumers. Logo design by chilibrand for Puffin Software Development.

Attention-grabbing:

Bright parrot logo
If this logo doesn’t get your attention, please see a doctor right away. Logo design by Vidakovic for Wuwu.

Energizing:

Energy drink web page
This web page design uses a streak of deep yellow across the page to energize visitors and draw their eyes toward important details. Logo design by Theodora.

Negative associations for yellow include anger, caution, cowardice, danger, deceit and frustration. Just like with red, sometimes these negative associations can be powerful marketing tools in their own right:

Yellow book cover
This book cover is counting on your anger, caution and danger associations (along with the biohazard sign, of course). Book cover design by L.Mai Designs.

Yellow is known to brighten the mood in the short-term, so this physical effect should be on your mind as you plan to use it. Common design uses for soft yellows include branding for products and services involving children (like the birthing service from the introduction). Bright yellows are often used for foods or for “fun” or playful products.

Logo with bright yellows and pinks
This logo uses several bright colors including yellow and orange to stimulate the appetite. Label design by TheBluebird for Gera’s Cakes.
Bright yellow sausage dog logo
This software development company wants to seem fun, not dull, and this bright yellow sausage dog does the trick. Label design by utuy.

Darker yellows and golds are typically used for an antique look and the feeling it provides of permanence or long-lasting appeal.

Deep gold microphone logo
This old-fashioned microphone logo in a deep gold has an antique feel. Logo design by okdesignstudio for Emerson Biggens.
Product label with gold Greek trim
This vitamin supplement label gets a classical treatment with its deep gold border in a Greek style trim pattern. Label design by Milena Milosavljevic for Opulence Aphrodite.

Cool colors

Green, blue, purple, and every variation in between them are the cool colors. They are generally perceived are more calming, professional, relaxed, and reserved than the warm colors.

Green (secondary)

Positive associations that are inherent to our perception of the color green are abundance, balance, calm, fertility, good luck, growth, harmony, health, money, nature, new beginnings, renewal and soothing.

Health:

Green medical logo
This elixir logo looks about half science and half nature—just what the product is all about. Logo design by KVA.

Nature:

Green stylized leaf logo
This simple, stylized leaf logo folds in the “e” for the electronic service yet retains a natural feel. Logo design by ultrastjarna.

Renewal:

Green flame logo
This church logo juxtaposes a green flame and negative space leaf to suggest renewal. Logo design by sheva™.

Money/Growth:

Green leaf logo
This financial services logo is one larger green leaf that is one half high rise buildings and one half tiny leaves, seeming to suggest both money and growth. Logo design by KVA.

Soothing:

Delicate teal and green logo
This lacy logo depicts a butterfly and a leafy vine and has a delicate, calming feel. Logo design by RotRed.

Negative associations that come along with green include envy, greed, jealousy and lack of experience. Known physical effects attributable to green are lowered heart rate and blood pressure. Common design uses for green include suggestions of nature, stability, renewal, and wealth. Brighter greens are frequently used for energizing and vibrant design concepts:

Bright green food packaging
This bright green sleeve for sandwiches at a modern eatery is energizing and appealing, yet keeps to the organic feel of the place. Logo design by nevergohungry for Blink!.

Whereas more natural looking avocado and olive greens are often used to suggest the natural world.

Natural green logo
This leafy logo in natural looking greens signals the natural alternative of acupuncture. Logo design by Vuk N. for Harvest Acupuncture.
Drawn green logo
This beautiful, hand-drawn logo uses a natural shade of green and an informal, sketched look to suggest a nature-focused company. Logo design by RotRed.

Darker forest greens are best used to signal wealth and stability.

Dark green logo
This darker, forest green logo is for a successful environmental nonprofit organization and suggests stability, building confidence in donors. Logo design by Arthean for Sustainable Harvest.

Blue (primary)

The positive associations typically associated with blue include calm, authority, masculinity, conservative in the broader sense (but in a narrower political sense can also mean liberal), peace, non-threatening, reliability, refreshing, serenity, responsibility, strength, stability, and tranquility.

Peace, and Tranquility:

Blue river logo
This simple logo with the flash of a blue river running through it feels tranquil and peaceful. Logo design by Dusan Klepic.

Refreshing:

Blue and yellow octopus logo
This fun logo is interesting to the eye and refreshingly appealing. Logo design by calikusu for deep blue travelers.

Calm and Reliability:

Darker blue drawn logo
This old-fashioned looking, single color drawn logo seems to depict a simpler time; it suggests the calm of nature and the reliability of tradition. Logo design by C1k for Higland Springs.

Strength:

Navy blue bull logo
This navy blue bull is about to charge and his solid strength is apparent. Logo design by gaga vastard for Bullseye Management Consulting.

Authority, Reliability:

Mountains and blue PowerPoint logo
This PowerPoint template uses a blue theme throughout to suggest reliability and authority. PowerPoint template design by Sali Designs.

Masculinity:

Blue baseball logo
Two different blues along with gray and white accents and heavy fonts give this logo a classic, masculine look. Logo design by JK Graphix for Oakland Velocity.

Negative associations for blue include depression, distance, sadness, and to a much lesser extent, adult themes and vulgarity. Blue is known to calm and relax the body. Some common design uses include baby blues for children’s services and products and pastel blues for relaxing and calming effects.

Bluebird logo in light blues
Two lighter shades of blue and a stylized bluebird create the right relaxing feel for this botanical company. Logo design by vraione.

Bright blues tend to be used to suggest an energizing, refreshing feel:

Bright blue graphic logo
Two different bright blues along with a graphic design give this logo a modern, energetic feel, contradicting the idea that insurance has to be dull. Logo design by Diego Ayuso for Brock Jodoin Insurance Agency.

While teals and turquoises are used for creative, imaginative, or progressive ventures.

Teal dog logo
This is a very simple logo, but the cartoon-y dog in teal lends a creative feel. Logo design by cucuque.
Turquoise dragon logo
This is a business directed at older kids and parents, so a cool dragon in turquoise is the perfect look. Logo design by bayuRIP for Funny Dragon.

Finally, dark blues are frequently used for financial services, corporate designs, medical services and other places where strength, trust and reliability are important.

Navy blue U.S. flag shield logo
This logo is about as tough as it can be, mixing a shield, the American flag, and a dark blue together. Logo design by okdesignstudio for Moving Blue.
Dark blue corporate WordPress theme
This WordPress theme has a solid corporate feel with its dark blue and sage green accents. WordPress theme design by AbdooElhamdaoui.

Purple (secondary)

Positive associations we make with purple here in the U.S. include creativity, imagination, individuality, luxury, magic, military honor, mystery, romance, royalty, spirituality and wealth.

Romance:

Bridal company website with purple flowers
This bridal company website uses creams, purples and slight pink accents for a romantic, elegant look. Logo design by Solomia for Elite Bridal Registry.

Spirituality:

Purple and teal mandala-esque logo
This delicate, pretty logo is looks as though it was captured mid color change and uses teal and purple for a creative, spiritual feel. Logo design by AlexSa for Threshhold Arts.

Creativity:

Plum sheep logo
This plum and lavender logo for a handmade goods store has creative appeal. Logo design by Orangeclever for The Plum Sheep.

Imagination:

Brilliant, deep purple card and logo
This brilliant, deep shade of purple suggests imagination and curiosity. Logo and business card design by AlexSa for Peregrine Pacific.

Magic, Spirituality:

Vibrant sugar skull logo
The vibrant, audacious purple, fuschia, and red in this logo lend this sugar skull its spiritual magic. Logo design by KuSe_The_Unknown.

Imagination, Magic, Spirituality:

Unicorn logo with shades of purple
This logo was created for a “spiritual thought leader,” so the purples in the unicorn are right on target. Logo design by Flavia²⁷⁶⁷ for Moving Blue.

Individuality:

Illustrated logo with lavender]
This logo gives you a sense of the choreographer’s personality and art. Logo design by sithdesigns for Just Taylor Jade.

Like orange, its opposite color, we don’t have any real negative associations with purple (other than the obvious residual sadness we feel after the death of Prince, which is in line with the cultural associations with mourning that purple holds in India, Brazil and Thailand).

Common design uses for lavender or light purples are for beauty and pampering brands and services:

Lavender and teal botanical logo
This logo for massage and Reiki arts suggests soothing and pampering. Logo design by Jani Tavanxhi for I Knead Serenity.
Hand-lettered logo with lavender
This logo features graceful, hand-lettered initials and lavender for a sense of beauty. Logo design by ananana14 for Sweet Lupine.

And sometimes passion and romance:

Illustrated logo with lavender
This purple and lavender logo mixes passionate colors and classic lettering for just a hint of romance. Logo design by haa™ for Passion Plus Lingerie.

Dark purples are commonly used for wealth and luxury branding.

Dark purple cupcake logo
This logo uses color and imagery to suggest decadence. Logo design by themassonest for Sweetnez.
Purple watercolor logo
This handmade watercolor logo in brilliant shades of purple works for a luxury beauty service. Logo design by Huntress™.

Neutrals

Neutral colors may seem less exciting, but they are central to branding because they are what you use to balance focus and accent colors to create the effects you’re looking for. Neutrals also have their own meanings, so it’s good to be aware of what they are.

White

Positive associations with white include brides, cleanliness, goodness, health, innocence, peace, purity, simplicity, virginity and youth.

Health and Purity:

White and gold lotus logo
This simple, elegant logo uses the purity of the lotus blossom and the color white to suggest natural health. Logo design by ultrastjarna.

Youth:

Hand-drawn black and white treehouse logo
This hand-drawn treehouse brings you back to childhood. Logo design by Cross the Lime for Nature-Inspired Playgrounds.

Cleanliness and Purity:

Modern white product packaging
This clean, bright white packaging has a pure and modern feel. Logo design by Flora B.

Brides, Virginity:

Clean, white bridal jewelry catalog
This catalog’s slick, white pages feature bridal jewelry and engagement rings. Logo design by duwi.sleman for Chemgold.

Goodness, Peace:

Fluffy white clouds and logo
This vintage looking logo is imposed over the sky in all white for a peaceful, idyllic feel. Logo design by Dara T.

Negative associations with white include blandness, cold, dullness, impersonality, sterility and lack of inspiration. Known physical effects of white are a cooling sensation. White is commonly used in design as a backdrop, typically for a high energy contrast:

White background and black logo
In this logo, white provides a backdrop for the contrasting black logo image. Logo design by Gorcha.

Or to allow other colors or pure design elements to stand out:

White packaging with colorful accents
These white bottles allow colorful elements in the packaging to stand out. Logo design by Agve.

White can also be used in large quantities of negative space to create minimalist designs or to communicate both winter and summer, oddly enough.

Minimal landing page with white background
This page gets its clean, minimal feel from its white background and high amount of negative space. Logo design by reaxur™ for SquareOneLabs.
Minimalist 3D image
This minimalist design in all white provides an ideal contrast for a complex product. Logo design by tarkomp.

Black

Positive associations and negative associations with black have a lot of overlap, but in general the positive tend to include elegance, fashion, formality, Halloween, magic, mystery, power, sexuality and wealth. Elegance:

Strong, elegant black and gold business card
This logo is simple, yet the color scheme makes it feel strong and elegant. Logo design by ultrastjarna for Luca Fontani.

Fashion:

Black and gold fashion logo
This graphic logo is basic yet stylish and its rendering in black and gold elevate it into the realm of the dramatic and fashionable. Logo design by ultrastjarna.

Power:

Illustrated superhero logo
This amazing superhero illustration makes for the perfect logo, especially in powerful black and white. Logo design by DORARPOL™ for Black Heroes Matter.

Sexuality:

Black and gold logo with female silhouette
This black and gold logo uses its colors as well as gothic looking text and the silhouetted body of a woman to imbue the design with sexuality. Logo design by 99Spy for Amanda La Fatale.

More purely negative associations include bad luck, control, evil, death, mourning, intimidation and the occult. Black is sometimes linked to feelings of depression. It is commonly used in design to convey an elegant, mysterious, or edgy mood, or to suggest high quality.

Predominantly black website
This website looks and feels edgy because it is mostly black. Logo design by WebBox for Black Label Films.
Black product labels with color accents
These very modern looking black product labels look like they contain high-end condiments. Logo design by Impakto for New Hemisphere.

Black and white together can be used to striking effect.

Black and white logo with single green accent
This black and white logo is simple but impactful, with a single, small accent of green nodding to its connection with nature. Logo design by a.n.n.a. for Abundant Design Permaculture.
Black and white book cover
The contrast of the black and white and the graphic design of the cover suggest the story of a struggle. Book cover design by LianaM.
Vintage black and white logo
This black and and white logo has a vintage feel and appears to be printed or painted on wood. Logo design by Project 4 for Old Gus Granola.

Gray

Positive associations with gray include formality, professionalism and sophistication. Negative associations are as you’d guess: moodiness, dullness and depression. Common design uses of gray are in corporate designs:

Gray and white webpage design
This solid, professional web page design owes its respectability to gray. Web page design by Under the Moonlight.

But gray can also be creative and fun in the right hands:

Gray dog camera logo
This extremely cute yet professional looking logo blends the technical look of a gray camera and the cute face of a dog. Logo page design by cucuque design for Pet Pawtraits.

Brown and beige

Positive associations for the poor, under-appreciated and misunderstood color brown are comfort, dependability, down-to-earth sensibility, earthiness, family, handiness, masculinity, reliability, steadfastness and warmth.

Old-Fashioned Values and Earthiness:

Tree and wine bottle logo in shades of brown
This vintage looking logo series in a range of browns suggests a return to the old ways and hints to the organic ingredients the company uses. Web page design by Project 4 for Forgotten Roots.

Handiness and Masculinity:

Brown and cream furniture logo
This logo has a retro look and feel thanks to a range of brown hues and the right fonts—the presence of wood and tools is firmly masculine. Web page design by Diggitigirl ♥ for Around the Table.

Family and Warmth:

Brown and white bee logo
This clever, fun logo suggests the feeling of old-school family values and tradition. Logo design by C1k for Humblebee Toy Co.

Negative associations are dullness, dirtiness and lack of freshness. Common design uses for browns are to suggest natural, earthy or organic qualities:

Brown logo with wheat
This simple brown logo with its shaft of wheat has a very organic yet modern feel. Logo design by Project 4 for The Organic Basket Co.

To suggest vintage appeal:

Vintage brown furniture logo
This vintage piece of brown furniture surrounded by period font drives this logo design. Logo design by Project 4 for One Room.
Old-school bandana logo
A retro design including a diamond shape and brown colors make this logo stand out. Logo design by C1k.

Or to connote a masculine, rugged set of qualities.

Dark brown ale logo
A strong, masculine vibe is what you get from this very dark, rich brown and heavy font. Logo design by Tmas for Brewery Legitimus.

Wrap it up, we’ll take it

I hope this gives you a sense of how the psychology of color works, and the ways it intersects with marketing and advertising. Once you’ve got a grip on that, it’s easier to see how to use color precisely to further your own specific marketing and advertising goals. Using colors strategically to produce specific, desired branding effects is more than just choosing what looks good to you. After all, there are people walking around out there today who think olive green and fuschia are a match made in heaven—and for some businesses, maybe they are!

What’s the perfect match for your business? Let us know in the comments below.