Feeling the colour of money

Colour psychologist Angela Wright reveals how colour can be used to impact business performance.

Feeling the colour of money

How colour can be used to improve your business performance

How many of you as business people would put ‘review colour palette’ in a list of the top priorities to drive company growth? Few, I imagine.

Our relationship with colour is not widely understood, despite it being our first impression of everything we encounter. Indeed, it is so powerful that our bodies register red rooms as warmer than their true temperature, and colour choices can even help businesses boost retail sales, brand awareness and team performance.

The four psychological primary colours – red, blue, yellow and green – act on the body, the mind, the emotions and the crucial balance between the three. I find the impact of these psychological triggers fascinating.

Retail performance

Many retailers use greys around their tills because of the sleek and sophisticated appearance this gives. However, grey is instinctively associated with the onset of winter and can encourage prudence.

By contrast, it is always a good idea to use green where money is changing hands. In the natural world, green communicates the presence of water so we know that we are not going to starve. In retail, this means we’re more likely to spend freely without suffering from buyer’s remorse.

Other colours can help sales too. In 1998, a well-known mail order company promoted an opera CD with two leaflets that were identical in all but colour. One was in warm red and black, while the other had the same red against a warm dark blue. The red/blue mix communicated more emotionally and resulted in 5.6% more sales – in this case several hundred thousand CDs.

Brand recognition and impact

It’s no accident that so many service companies and banks have blue logos. Think about Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Deutsche Bank, RBS and J P Morgan for example – what are they trying to communicate?

Blue is the colour of the mind: strong blues encourage clear thinking, and soft pale blues aid concentration.  Blue represents competence, reliability and trustworthiness, which means it’s a great colour for a service provider and – particularly following the financial crisis – for banks.

By contrast red – a colour we associate with power and dominance – is often used in the logo of brands built on products, for example, Coca-Cola, Colgate, McDonald’s and Lego. It’s also used frequently by oil giants like Esso, Shell, Exxon and Texaco and helps to establish an impressive aura around a brand.

Red and blue are the two most popular colours used in corporate brands, and while there are many other tips and insights on the use of other colours, I also want to quickly mention how in-store and online branding can benefit from thinking about their use of colour.

In 2004, a well-known global retailer improved in-store recognition of their brand from 8% to 80% of survey respondents by introducing corporate colours to their palette without adding a logo, proving again the importance of colour to business.

Team spirit

Finally, studies have shown that absenteeism, motivation and productivity are all influenced by the colours in workplace décor. Warm friendly colours work well, while different spaces can be designed to support different types of work.  Blues can help aid concentration, while yellows can be employed to boost creativity. But harmony is important. The colours mustn’t clash.

So in conclusion, my advice would be that if you want to see the colour of your customer’s money, think carefully about how you are using colour to get them in the mood to buy!