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    Colours … your silent sales person!

    When designing your company’s logo, do you carefully consider your choice of colours or do you just keep trying colours till you see something you like? How about when designing your promotional materials? What about your customers, do you consider what colours appeal to them or do you just say “if it looks good they will like it?”  Many people still think that the effects of colours in business are purely cosmetic but appearance is very small part of the vital role it plays in impressing your customers. As simple as it may sounds, the colour thrust of your printed material whether brochures, presentations or reports, can open the initial door to your customer mind much more quickly than mere words.

    Colours can influence your business and customers in more ways than you could expect.  Colours are a powerful form of communication that derives from our deepest instinct and it’s always in play. Customers’ immediate response will always be to the colours first. They are the first thing we look for to give us information about everything that confronts us. Understanding colour psychology and how it works helps you use colours to influence your customers’ responses to your products and printed materials.

    In one of the latest reports in collaboration with OKI Printing solutions, one of the world’s largest colour printer manufacturers, we managed to lay down some guidelines to help business owners harness the power of colours, when producing their own in-house colour documents. There are two things you have to consider; harmony and reactions to colours.  It’s a scientific fact that we do not respond to one colour – but to all the colours we see; there is no bad colour, just bad colour combinations. One of the most common mistakes businesses make is that of leaving the corporate colours out of the equation when they decide to produce an important promotional document. Every colour you are considering for your document should go with each of the logo colours, this will ensure that the whole document serves to enhance and reinforce your company values, and there are no mixed messages. Colour documents in general provoke between 60 and 70% more response than black and white. However, using colour for the sake of colour can be counterproductive.

    So how can you choose the right colour for your materials?

    It is commonly thought that red is always a winning colour for a corporate because red stimulates us physically and communicates strength and power. However – before you rush to red for your logo or other printed materials, please pause for a moment: there is no such thing as a universally good colour. Red is potentially exhilarating and exciting but if it is not right for your brand, it can be horribly aggressive, demanding and a strain. Impact for its own sake is not enough.

    In a research sponsored by OKI Printing Solutions we established that response to colour is a psychophysical, universal phenomenon that works on two levels:

    Each of the eleven main colours has its own universal effect; that is the first level. However, in practice the effect can be positive or negative. Once you understand what each main colour communicates, decide which one best captures the most positive aspects of your business and then treat that colour with great respect; make sure that you never forget to pay attention to the colours you use with it, so that it always looks good and evokes a positive response.

    To make things easier we cracked the main colours code to help you understand their psychological effect


    Positive: Physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, stimulation, masculinity, excitement

    Negative: Defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain

    Red has the property of appearing closer than it is, and therefore catches the attention first – it has the most ‘stand-out’.

    Used wrongly, it can be perceived as a strain – aggressive and very harsh.

    If you are selling consumer goods, if your company has anything to do with sport or physical activity, has retail outlets trading in leisure activity or the home, or your business needs to appeal more to the senses than to the mind, red will work well.


    Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm

    Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness.

    Blue is the colour of the mind. Strong blues stimulate clear thought and soft blues aid concentration. We instinctively associate blue with clarity and with things working efficiently

    Used wrongly it could be perceived as cold, unfriendly and bureaucratic.

    Blue will work very well if you need your customers to trust you – solicitors, accountants, insurance companies, technology companies and roofing contractors.


    Positive: Optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength, friendliness, creativity

    Negative: Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety

    Yellow is a warm, bright, uncomplicated colour and it stimulates the ego and emotions.

    Used wrongly it can cause anxiety, and when used with black it sends a strong signal of danger.

    Yellow is an effective colour if you are communicating anything new, or anything associated with the young. It is, however, quite a difficult colour to use in graphic design because, oddly, it is not as visible as other colours


    Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, peace

    Negative: Boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation

    Green is the colour of balance; it strikes the eye at a point where no adjustment is necessary in order to look at it, so it is restful.

    Used wrongly it can be stagnant and far too bland, encourages stillness and lack of action.

    The reassurance of green will be effective for just about any organisation, but particularly for a business whose customers are likely to be tense or nervous – e.g. doctors, dentists or anything medical, or driving schools.


    Positive: spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality

    Negative: introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.

    Often described as Purple, it turns energy in, rather than out, and soothes the emotions.

    Used wrongly, purple can come across as false, and reflect anything but premium quality.

    Purple will work well for any company concerned with the New Age, or who are selling the finest quality goods at the top of the market.


    Positive: Physical comfort, food, warmth, security, sensuality, passion, abundance, fun

    Negative: Deprivation, frustration, frivolity, immaturity.

    Orange stimulates the body and the emotions. It is sensual, and activates awareness of secondary survival issues – food, warmth, shelter and physical enjoyment.

    Used wrongly it could reflect lack of seriousness, or intellectual values.

    Orange is the most powerful colour for selling food, heating systems, anything associated with home comfort – and pure fun. 


    Positive: physical tranquility, nurture, warmth, femininity, love, sexuality, survival of the species

    Negative: inhibition, emotional claustrophobia, emasculation, physical weakness  

    Pink is physically soothing and nurturing; it represents the feminine principle, motherhood and survival of the species.

    Used wrongly it can be physically draining and men will find too much of it emasculating.

    If you are selling feminine products of any kind, lingerie, cosmetics or women’s fashions, pink will capture that essential femininity. Strong fuchsia is the colour of militant feminism!


    Positive: Seriousness, warmth, nature, earthiness, reliability, support

    Negative: Lack of humour, heaviness, lack of sophistication.

    Brown is essentially a serious colour it is always the best colour to communicate no-nonsense, down-to-earth ideas.

    Used wrongly it could be perceived as humourless and heavy.

    Brown would probably not be a strong enough colour to be effective as a main corporate colour. However, if your business is anything to do with the environment, or the natural world, brown is a far more effective secondary colour than black.


    Positive: Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance

    Negative: Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness

    It is a cold colour and uncompromising; it can be menacing. It certainly is not neutral. It can be very effective in communicating sophisticated elegance, materially aspirational products and glamour. Don’t use black with red for your company if you do not want to remind people of the aggressive and arrogant attitudes of the Third Reich!


    Positive: Hygiene, Sterility, clarity, purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication, efficiency

    Negative: Sterility, coldness, barriers, unfriendliness, elitism

    Pure white can be a cold and uncompromising colour because it reflects all wavelengths, thus creating barriers. It is a very strong colour, with a very strong psychology – not by any means, as is widely thought, neutral. It is aspirational and communicates uncompromising quality, hygiene, sterility and attention to detail.

    If you wish to use white for your company, make sure the colours with it are cold and sharp; if you use it with the kind of warm friendly colours that most companies favour, it will turn them from warm and friendly to cheap, and possibly aggressive.


    Positive: Psychological neutrality

    Negative: Lack of confidence, dampness, depression, hibernation, lack of energy

    People will tell you that grey is elegant. Sadly, except under very specific circumstances, this is not so. Grey says virtually nothing, and usually indicates lack of confidence. It is never to be recommended in any corporate communication.

    So the next time you plan designing any of your promotional materials consider well your choice of colours and remember that they are your silent sales person.

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