Misconceptions around the Psychology of Color
Why does color psychology invoke so much conversation ... but is backed with so little factual data?
As research shows, it's likely because elements such as personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, context, etc., often muddy the effect individual colors have on us. So the idea that colors such as yellow or purple are able to invoke some sort of hyper-specific emotion is about as accurate as your standard Tarot card reading.
The conversation is only worsened by incredibly vapid visuals that sum up color psychology with awesome "facts" such as this one:
Don't fret, though. Now it's time to take a look at some research-backed insights on how color plays a role in persuasion.
The Importance of Colors in Branding
First, let's address branding, which is one of the most important issues relating to color perception and the area where many articles on this subject run into problems.
There have been numerous attempts to classify consumer responses to different individual colors:
Image credit: The Logo Company
... but the truth of the matter is that color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings.
But there are broader messaging patterns to be found in color perceptions. For instance, colors play a fairly substantial role in purchases and branding.
In an appropriately titled study called Impact of Color in Marketing, researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on color alone (depending on the product).
And in regards to the role that color plays in branding, results from studies such as The Interactive Effects of Colors show that the relationship between brands and color hinges on the perceived appropriateness of the color being used for the particular brand (in other words, does the color "fit" what is being sold).
The study Exciting Red and Competent Blue also confirms that purchasing intent is greatly affected by colors due to the impact they have on how a brand is perceived. This means that colors influence how consumers view the "personality" of the brand in question (after all, who would want to buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle if they didn't get the feeling that Harleys were rugged and cool?).
Additional studies have revealed that our brains prefer recognizable brands, which makes color incredibly important when creating a brand identity. It has even been suggested in Color Research & Application that it is of paramount importance for new brands to specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors (if the competition all uses blue, you'll stand out by using purple).