By Katrina Olson
This article originally appeared 7/20/2015 as an Exclusive Feature on tedmag.com.
We’ve been talking a lot about writing, content and strategy. So, I thought we’d take a break to talk about something we don’t often think about in marketing…color. Did you know that different colors carry different meanings?
Green is a calm and restful color. It traditionally conveys images of freshness, nature, fertility, the environment and safety. Greed, jealousy and luck are also emotions attached to the color green.
Green is often used with medical products to inspire hope, safety and healing. Banks often use dark green because it is associated with greed, money and stability.
Blue is a masculine color; it’s also calm and symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, integrity and harmony. Its deeper tones are associated with depth, expertise and stability.
Blue is often used to promote products and services related to cleanliness, and to indicate precision when promoting technology products.
Red is an emotionally intense color. It exudes passion, love, energy, danger, strength, power, and determination. In Eastern cultures, red represents good luck.
Red is a highly visible color, used to stimulate quick decisions with “click here” or “buy now” buttons, on banners, or promoting products related to safety or energy. Red also makes elements pop, bringing them to the foreground.
Purple is a rare and somewhat artificial color, so use it cautiously. Usually associated with royalty, power or extravagance, purple also stands for independence, wisdom, dignity, creativity, inspiration, mystery and magic.
Use purple cautiously as light purple evokes feelings of nostalgia and romance, while dark purple evokes gloom, sadness and frustration.
Children’s products often use purple, as 75% of pre-adolescent children prefer purple to all other colors.
Yellow is a pleasant and happy color that produces a warming effect, arousing feelings of cheerfulness and conveying happiness and joy. Yellow is said to generate muscle energy and stimulate mental activity.
Often used by taxicabs, yellow captures attention. But it’s also considered unstable, spontaneous and childish, so don’t use yellow to indicate stability and safety. Dull shades of yellow are visually unappealing; dingy yellow represents decay, sickness and jealousy.
However, yellow is good for highlighting or drawing attention to an element, especially when contrasted with a dark color.
Orange combines the energy of red and happiness of yellow. It’s a “hot” color but not as aggressive as red. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, invigorating it and stimulating mental activity.
Young people prefer orange which is often associated with healthy food or harvest time and supposedly stimulates appetite. Orange symbolizes friendship, strength, endurance, enthusiasm, fascination, creativity, determination, attraction, success and encouragement.
Sports teams, toys and fast food restaurants often use orange. It’s also useful for catching attention and highlighting important design elements in contrast to dark colors.
Pink is a feminine color, often implying romance and love. It also symbolizes nurturing and compassion, and is often associated with women.
It is used to promote breast cancer awareness and products supporting this effort. (In fact, a cement company in my city actually has pink trucks!) Perhaps surprisingly, pink has not always been a “girly” color. Back in the 1700s, men and women wore pink.
White is a wholesome color, often associated with light, goodness, innocence, safety purity, and cleanliness. Unlike black, white has a positive connotation and symbolizes perfection.
White is also used for charitable organizations, foundations and hospitals and is associated with angels, brides, newness and “good guys” wearing white hats.
Use white to suggest simplicity in processes or technology, or to indicate “newness” or a beginning of something.
Gray is a neutral color that is considered impartial, sometimes sterile. No major emotions are connected to gray, although it reminds some people of clouds or overcast skies.
Black is the color of death, grief and evil…but also elegance, power, formality and mystery. While it often carries a negative connotation, black also represents strength and authority.
Use black to highlight perspective and depth, and to make other, highly contrasting colors like yellow or orange stand out.
Although reverse layouts (white type or elements on a black background) are unique and attention getting, use them sparingly and carefully. Especially in newspaper printing, the black ink often bleeds onto the white, making your copy difficult to read.
Just don’t color me bad(d).
If your company logo is only one or two colors, consider adding one or two complementary colors to liven up your marketing pieces or for specific campaigns. Just be cautious when choosing colors; you don’t want to makes customers sad with dark purple or nauseate them with dingy yellow.
Olson is a veteran marketing and public relations consultant. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.