Color plays an important role in society by affecting people’s purchasing decisions based on their personalities and/or the image that they want to convey. Through stimulating people’s senses, color determines conceptual intentions of products depending on people’s sensuous desires. Studies have confirmed that color influences decisions to purchase merchandise by grabbin g people’s attention. Although four color ads cost 30% to 50% more, they are 100% more memorable. Through analysis of each color as well as the effects that color has on the public, one can get to the heart of effective selling methods and techniques in marketing.

Color not only motivates the public to buy, but it can also hinder public acceptance of certain products due to other factors and features associated with the color. Such factors as textures, lighting, amount of white space on a page and people’s preference have impacts on the colors chosen in marketing because of the projection of the image. For example, texture can influence people’s decision to purchase one product over another because two different textures of the same color can appear differently and create different responses from different people. Through the aid of a scientific instrument, a piece of white linen and white silk appear to be the same color, but the human eye will see the linen as whiter because the cloth’s textured surface scatters more white light than the smooth surface of silk.

Around 30 to 40 years ago, 70% of space went to copy and 30% of space went to image. Today, these percentages are reversed. The amount of white space on a page makes an image more accessible. On an uncrowded page, words and pictures come alive because they have room to breathe. Such ample amount of white space serves as a background to frame an image, making the advertisement easier on the eye from the severe clutter of words and pictures.

colors in marketing

The lighting used in advertisements manipulates colors by making certain colors more favorable in certain environments. In outdoor environments, colors with high contrast in hue(red, green, yellow) and value(measure of a color’s lightness and darkness) are preferred because colors without contrast tend to blend together and obscure the message. For example, green and red are opposite on the color wheel, and therefore, they are complementary colors. They represent a good contrast in hue but no contrast in value because they are very similar in value. As a result, they create an annoying combination. The same is true for blue and orange. Blue, green, orange and red are a poor combination because they are similar in both hue and value.

On the contrary, yellow and purple, dissimilar in both hue and value, provide a strong and effective contrast for outdoor advertising. Also, white goes well with any color of dark value, while black goes well with any color of light value. Other examples include black with yellow and blue with white. While such colors have good contrast, yellow with pink, brown with yellow, and blue with green give a poor color impact.

When deciding on certain colors for selling purposes, one has to take into consideration the target audience in order to appeal to them. For example, pastels and neutrals typically appeal to an upscale audience, while primary colors appeal to children as well as older adults with less education or lower socio-economic standing. Also, darker colors often appeal to men.

But before choosing the target audience, one must do a customer profile in order to match people’s “motivation, impression, protection and personal aspects” with the needs and personalities of these people in a particular society. This profile constitutes defining the psychological impacts of fifteen colors by looking at the four main aspects that influence people to purchase merchandise: people’s MOTIVATION to purchase, their IMPRESSION on the merchandise, the PROTECTION or security factor, and their PERSONAL preferences. The following analysis of each color will help gain a more vivid understanding of the importance of using specific colors for marketing purposes.

The color RED implies an outgoing, aggressive, excitable, assertive, courageous, and regal behavior. Experiments have shown that if a person stares at a saturated area of red for a period of time, the person’s blood pressure rises. Why? One theory holds that the responses to color has become a part of the nervous system. It is the color of blood, royalty and intense emotions equivalent to love, rage and war. It is said to be the hottest color and the highest action quotient. With such descriptions, RED tends to be a MOTIVATOR of a strong image, a creator of a dynamic/emotion IMPRESSION, a PROTECTOR by counteracting physical fatigue, and PERSONAL preference lies in physical/emotional focus and satisfaction. People who associate with this color tend to be intuitive and sensitive. Red sells very well by being a stimulator of emotions.


PINK tends to MOTIVATE responsibility to others, create a loving/gentle IMPRESSION, and PROTECT by relaxing mental tension. This color sells by emitting a soft, lovable and feminine image.

Words that describe the color BLUE include deep, mysterious, withdrawn, peacefulness, dignified, knowledge, order, tranquility, and melancholy or depression. LIGHT BLUE symbolizes healing, spirituality, soothing and comfort. While light blue tends to MOTIVATE creativity, gives a creative IMPRESSION, PROTECTS by relaxing emotional draining, and the PERSONAL preference of this color is on the intellectual focus, dark blue tends to MOTIVATE justice and wisdom, creates a mental IMPRESSION, PROTECTS from negative influences, and the PERSONAL preference associated with the color navy blue(indigo) lies in self-management and conditioned disciplines. Blue is effective in selling frozen food. In lighter tints, it gives a sweet conception, as in advertisements of milk.

BROWN is a masculine color because of its association with earth, woods, mellowness, warmth and comfort. This color exudes a relaxed and passive state. Earth colors tend to MOTIVATE stability, create a secured IMPRESSION, and PROTECT insecurities. Although brown is a depressing color, most men like this color and earth colors tend to sell. Ads with earth tones, especially brown, tend to sell anything, including fresh grain products, such as coffee, in order to indicate strength, as well as selling cosmetics.

PURPLE is associated with royalty and religion because it suggests opulence and wealth. The color combination of purple and yellow sells because it is dissimilar in both hue and value, and it also represents Easter colors. VIOLET is a murky, meditative, and ambiguous color, implying luxury, and often associated with royalty. A cross between red and blue, its psychological connotation implies non-committal and reserved. Violet tends to MOTIVATE self-introspection, creates a sensitive IMPRESSION, PROTECTS by reducing outside pressures, and PERSONAL preference lies in intuition and sensitivity. This color tends to sell because of its association with royalty and transformation.

ORANGE is the most edible color, evoking autumn and good things to eat. This color MOTIVATES action, gives an action-oriented IMPRESSION, PROTECTS by balancing confusion, and PERSONAL preference lies in action, form and structure. The manifestation of actions is expressed in the intellectual focuses. Yet, this color does not sell in such case as orange greeting cards.

GREEN has positive and negative associations. It implies persistence, obstinacy and self-centeredness. There is a sense of safety and life connoted from this color, as in a “green thumb.” This color tends to be easy on the eye, and it is often used to connote relaxation, nature and Spring. LIGHT GREEN tends to MOTIVATE change while DARK GREEN tends to MOTIVATE balance. Green gives a humanitarian service-oriented IMPRESSION and PROTECTS by counteracting emotional stresses. It implies self-healing and balance, which expresses self-searching and communications. PERSONAL preference lies in humanitarian services. Although this color is a balancing color, it does not sell. This color tends to be used on milk cartons and butter packages, but not on meat labels because of its connotation with mold. If this color is used on vegetable advertisements, there tends to be a sense of freshness emitted. When green is combined with red, although it is a poor color combination, such a combination sells because it represents Christmas colors.

YELLOW implies extroverted, optimistic and joyful, making yellow automobiles least prone to accidents. With descriptive words, such as happiness and wealth, this color tends to be ostentatious. This color also has positive and negative connotations. Although it is associated with vegetables and food, such as squash, lemon, butter and bananas, it also appears sickly and even malevolent, such as in diseases, foul-smelling sulfur and jaundice. Yellow MOTIVATES sociability, gives a communicative IMPRESSION, PROTECTS by balancing depression, and PERSONAL preference lies in self-searching and communication. Although it stands for intelligence and wisdom, yellow does not sell. When combined with red, it is usually used in trademarks for companies and products associated with energy and technological innovation. Since red stands for impulsiveness and power, and yellow stands for sunny and spontaneity, such a combination suggests achievement. But combined with green, a sick feeling is generated because this combination symbolizes illness and death. Both yellow and green have positive and negative connotations. Even though yellow can have a high impact in the consumer’s eye, it is psychologically right only for certain products, such as corn, lemon and suntan products. For example, General Foods changed their Sanka package when it became known that yellow, which was the color of its label, suggested weakness.

RUST, another earthy color, MOTIVATES accomplishment, gives a determined IMPRESSION, and PROTECTS from outside stress. It symbolizes relaxation and self-accomplishment, which implies self-management and conditioned disciplines.

WINE MOTIVATES self-gratification, gives a fun-loving IMPRESSION, PROTECTS sensitivity, and it also symbolizes relaxation and self-accomplishment.

WHITE implies spiritual refinement, royalty, wealth in the secular world, formality, luxury, divinity, goodness, purity, chastity, and innocence. This color sells because it is a soothing color and it stands for purity. Although this color is not a MOTIVATOR, it gives an individualistic IMPRESSION, and PROTECTS by releasing overburdening. Ads with white space on cans of beer and diet sodas connote low calories. This color plays a major role in religion and legend, such as in angels, white robes, and the mythological white unicorn of wisdom and grace.

GRAY, a very conservative color, stands for ambivalence, and it is mostly associated with the color of business attire. Although it is not a MOTIVATOR, it gives a protective IMPRESSION, and PROTECTS by counteracting over-involvement.

BLACK, the color of sophistication, austerity, luxury, power, and elegance, suggests relinquishment. The combination of black and red, when used on bug spray cans, implies that the bug spray will effectively kill and get rid of bugs because black connotes death and red connotes violence. Although this color is not a MOTIVATOR, it gives an authoritative IMPRESSION, and PROTECTS emotional over-sensitivity.

Colors, therefore, do not sell equally well because each color exudes a different meaning, attracting different personalities and stimulating these personalities to favor one product over the other. As color manipulates people’s actions through the various influences in society, whether it be media, art or interaction with others, it creates a powerful force that becomes the foundation for everyday living. People become obsessed with certain colors because of their identification with these colors as part of their personality, lifestyle or appearance. For example, as the American society dictates the color “light blue” as a relaxing and soothing color, people will tend to surround themselves with this color, whether by being in a room with light blue walls or having light blue objects around them, in order to relieve tension and calm nervousness. As society dictates a certain color to symbolize a certain behavior, it becomes recorded in people’s subconscious minds as a problem-solving technique that achieves desired results or certain objectives, such as health, happiness and a better life.