How do you know what colors to best use on your website and in your emails?
We tend to associate different colors with different emotions – and you can use this to your advantage. Blue, for instance, often feels calm and relaxing. Red tends to be bold and passionate, inviting action. Oranges and yellows tend to promote products that are cheap; purples are usually for more indulgent ones.
Most companies have colors that are strongly associated with their brand, such as the colors used in the company’s logo and the prominent color on the company’s website and other marketing materials. That’s why brands often list specific Pantone colors and other requirements in their brand identity guidelines and in creative briefs.
To organize and manage all of these materials, from final logo iterations to marketing collateral in approved promotional colors, creative briefs, brand style guides, and more, smart companies use a digital asset management solution. Using outdated, disorganized folder systems to manage files means your team may struggle to find the assets they need when they need them. There are few things worse than a team member going through the effort of recreating a promotional flyer because they can’t locate the final version that was approved last week – but using the wrong shade of green. A DAM solution like MerlinOne puts you in control of your content – rather than your content controlling you.
Whether you’re designing a new logo, choosing a color for your “buy now” buttons, coming up with a whole new brand, or simply looking to add a splash of color to your emails, here’s what you need to know about color psychology.
What Do Different Colors Mean?
We tend to bring certain meanings to colors (and sometimes to particular combinations of color) – partly due to associating them with specific types of brands.
Of course, different shades of these colors can also be used in different ways: for instance, bold, bright colors can be associated with children; pastel shades with women.
In most cases, you’ll be choosing at least two colors (even if one is white or black). When picking these, opt for colors that contrast highly. CoSchedule has a nifty tip for checking this: convert your image to grayscale and see if the colors you’re using come out as significantly different shades.
Here’s what you need to know about each color:
Red creates a sense of urgency, excitement, and even passion. It’s even been shown to increase people’s heart rate.
Best for: Urgency-driven sales (e.g. “last day to save $100!”), brands associated with excitement or passion.
Works well with: White.
Screenshot via Coca-Cola
Screenshot via Netflix
Many people associate orange with cheap or value products. It tends to give a feeling of warmth and energy.
Best for: Logos (if branding for value), “buy now” buttons. Dark orange is associated with fall; dark orange and black with Hallowe’en.
Works well with: Black, blue, or white.
Screenshot via easyJet
Screenshot via Dunkin’ Donuts
Bright, cheerful yellow is often used for buttons. It can also be used as a “highlighter” to make a key sales message stand out (though this can come across as a bit spammy and pushy).
Best for: Details that “pop” (e.g. a special “low price” sticker on a product); creating a sense of fun or optimism.
Works well with: Black or red.
Screenshot via McDonald’s
Screenshot via IKEA
Green is especially common for health brands and is also associated with being environmentally friendly.
Best for: Brands that have a health or nature component, but could also work for financial brands (due to the association of green and money).
Works well with: White or yellow.
Screenshot via Whole Foods Market
Screenshot via Starbucks
Blue is often seen as a “safe”, conservative choice. It can also be associated with peace and tranquility. It can seem trustworthy and safe.
Best for: B2B brands, promoting trust in your products, creating a sense of calm and relaxation.
Works well with: White or orange.
Screenshot via Intel
Screenshot via Ford
For many centuries, purple has been associated with royalty and luxury. In modern times, it can be used for brands that want to look prestigious or offer luxury (it’s a common color for chocolate brands, for instance). It’s also more gendered than the other main colors, and tend to be more popular with women than men.
Best for: Brands aimed at women or girls; chocolate or luxury goods.
Works well with: Yellow, white, or pink.
Screenshot via Hallmark
Screenshot via Cadbury
While pink is predominantly associated with women and girls, it can also work well for bright, youthful brands that are targeting millennials or Generation Z.
Best for: Brands aimed at women, girls, or under 30s.
Works well with: Purple or white.
Screenshot via Lyft
Screenshot via Cosmopolitan
Although brown isn’t such a popular color as many others, it can still be a useful one for certain brands – carrying earthy, natural feelings.
Best for: Natural brands; seasonal promotions in fall; brands promoting (or associated with) coffee or chocolate.
Works well with: White, yellow, or orange.
Screenshot via M&M’S
Screenshot via Hershey’s
While white often comes up as “white space” around other elements of your website or emails, it’s also a useful color in its own right. Many logos make use of white against a bright, bold color so that text can stand out. White is associated with purity, cleanness, and technology (think Apple).
Best for: High-tech, modern brands; using in conjunction with other colors.
Works well with: Black, or any high-contrast color.
Screenshot via crocs
Screenshot via WordPress
Black tends to be a powerful, confident color, associated with luxury and power. It’s often used by sports brands.
Best for: Fashion industry, a minimalist approach to design, promoting luxury products.
Works well with: Gold (for luxury site); white.
Screenshot via adidas
Screenshot via The New York Times
Don’t just pick colors that you like: make sure you’re choosing colors that effectively communicate what your brand is all about – and that, where appropriate, encourage your customers to take action.
No matter what colors you use in your brand creative, you need a robust digital asset management solution like MerlinOne, a central hub for all your digital assets. With features like automated workflows and approvals, version control, access permissions, and even built-in distribution tools, you’ll never have to worry about that old logo iteration in that strange shade of orange making its way into the public.
Download our white paper, How a DAM Can Help Marketing Leaders to Unite Their Teams, to learn how MerlinOne can help you keep your cross-functional and distributed teams on the same page, all the time.