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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Color has a large effect on the way people perceive the world– objects, nature, and even other people. Designers of all kinds rely on color to ensure that their creation carries a certain aesthetic. Companies utilize color in their branding as an establishing element for their visual identity (Milne & Labrecque, 2012, p. 11). As a design student, color and color theory are crucial in decision making, depending on the intended audience and the purpose.

The Psychology of Color

Although color in general is thought to enhance a consumer's mood or thoughts about a subject, it can also have a negative effect (Kaufman-Scarborough, 2000, p. 467). Different colors are perceived differently, as described in Impact of Colors on The Psychology of Marketing – A Comprehensive Over View. According to the article, violet is typically considered elegant, while yellow, its complement, is cheerful. Magenta is artistic creativity, and orange is both happy and enthusiastic (Singh & Srivastava, 2011, pp. 201-203). Brands that wish to be perceived as natural generally use green as the base color and main graphic element in their advertisements because of the natural feeling it gives the viewer (Visser, Gattol, & van der Helm, 2015, p. 8423). According to Yelena Alpert, “In retail, the color orange is associated with fairness and affordability, which is why you'll find it at stores offering good value, like Home Depot and Payless” (Alpert, n.d., p. 1). Black is associated with negative concepts such as evil and death and prompts people to behave more aggressively towards others (Elliot & Maier, 2014, p. 97). However, black is also often used in high-end packaging, and may therefore be viewed as classier than the brighter and bolder competing products. Diving deeper into color, there are also plus and minus colors. Plus colors are yellow, yellow-red, and red-yellow, and are lively, aspiring, warm, positive. Blue, red-blue, and blue-red are the minus colors, and they are known to portray restless, anxious, and cold feelings (Elliot & Maier, 2014, p. 97).


In a study described by Bellizzi and Hite, shoppers actions in stores were observed. The stores were either red or blue. The results were as expected– 39/100 of shoppers in the red store postponed selection, while only 18/100 in the blue store delayed their purchases. In addition, the consumers spent 24 more seconds on average in the blue store. The researchers concluded that the subjects in the blue store “expressed a greater intention to shop, browse, and buy in the simulated store” (Bellizzi & Hite, 1998, p. 347).  Another study concluded that most consumers make their purchase decisions in the store instead of at home or online (Mohebbi, 2014, p. 93). This proves how important packaging is in affecting these decisions. On average, more than 60% of people's opinion of an item is based on solely color (Mohebbi, 2014, p. 97).

Color and Sales

It's been established that careful color choices are crucial in the success of sales. Online, color is an important element in the selection of fashion products because it is one of the best products that can be accurately depicted on a digital screen in color (Nitse, Parker, Krumwiede, & Ottoway, 2004, p. 903). Color should be used sparingly, in the most creative way possible. Steven Greenland explains that while color may simplify the purchase decision of a consumer, it becomes “largely redundant” with plain packaging, forcing the designer to be creative in their decisions (Greenland, 2015). The isolation effect is when an item stands out, likely because of its boldness. Products with this effect are more likely to be remembered by a consumer (Ciotti, 2016). Color also plays a role in eating habits. A study found that carrot sticks that were served in McDonald's packaging were more appealing to children, an example of how branding affects perceptions of companies (Elliott, Carruthers Den Hoed, & Conlon, 2013, p. 364).


My proposed research will expand upon previous research by increasing the variety of fields observed. In my studies, I will be observing how color influences consumer purchase decisions in clothing, shoes, appliances, food and furniture.

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