How Designers Use Color to Influence Consumers

by . March 14th, 2013

In this economy, everyone likes to think of themselves as a savvy shopper. Cutting coupons is all the rage, while clearance racks and BOGO sales draw consumers like bees to honey.

Consumers may think they’re working the system, but we all know the truth. The system is working them. Consumers think they’re in control of their purchases, but in reality – we are.



The Factors that Influence Purchases

There are several factors that influence a consumer’s decision to buy.

For example, design usually plays a pretty big role. If shoppers are standing in the grocery store aisle contemplating which can of tuna to buy, their decision might be influenced by the product’s label design. The eye-catching, more attractive label conveys professionalism and improved quality. The top-notch design will win out over the ma and pa variety.

Online, the same principle holds true. A shoddy website design implies low-quality products.

Convenience is another big factor. Amazon’s one-click buying is pretty genius. And Wal-Mart’s ship-to-store option lets shoppers grab their online purchase while they shop for other items.

Buzz words tend to draw consumers’ attention too. When grocery shopping, words like “low-cal,” “reduced sodium,” and “high in fiber” might attract health conscious consumers.

But none of these influential factors can hold a flame to color.

Color has a strong psychological hold on people. There is a definite correlation between color and feeling. Since color can affect emotion, it can easily alter a consumer’s behavior.



It’s Not Hokum!


Consumers may still think themselves impervious to outside influences.  Fortunately, they’re not! This concept has been proven by science. Studies show color triggers a very specific response in our brain.

The best marketing professionals take this into consideration. They know consumers rely on visual cues more than any of their other senses. In fact, consumers base 1% of purchases on sound or smell, 6% on texture, and 93% on visual appearance.

Additionally, 85% of study participants said they chose a particular product because of its color. Vendors also use color for brand recognition since it is directly tied to consumer confidence. What would the golden arches be without their color? Would you dare go into a McDonalds with a green logo?



The Color Wheel Explained

The feelings associated with colors aren’t universal. For example, in the west, white represents purity.  In the east, it is unlucky. Here is an explanation of how colors are represented in North America and how designers should be using them to influence consumers.

The color red has been shown to increase heart rate. It also exudes energy and induces urgency, passion, excitement and power. Venders use red for clearance sales, trying to appeal to impulse buyers. Also, fast food chains use red to induce a hurry-up and leave attitude, creating high customer turnover and more sales.

Check out how Pizza Hut creates a sense of urgency with the color red.



Orange is aggressive. Like the color red, it also exudes energy. Websites use this color to draw attention to a particular action they want you to take – subscribe, buy, or sell.

Look how the designers for Custom Corntoss use orange on the site.  All the take-action-now links are orange.



Lightness, optimism, happiness, brightness, joy, and youthfulness are commonly associated with yellow. Vendors who hope to reach the younger demographic use yellow. It is also used in the brick and mortar world to grab the attention of window shoppers.

Boy, the yellow in this design grabs attention and induces joy!



Green is the easiest color for the eye to process. It also portrays life, naturalness, restfulness, and health. Green also means prosperity and is associated with wealth.  Finance websites use green to promise lucrative investments. Health companies use the color as a promise of vitality.

This health company uses green in an effective way, accentuating the natural health benefits of the TeaZa product.



A feeling of spirituality and peace are usually associated with blue. The color also creates a sensation of patience, loyalty, trustworthiness, and security. As a result, this color is often associated with banks and businesses. It is also used to create confidence with budget spenders.

The website for Maryland Security Professionals oozes confidence, trustworthiness, and security.




Pink, a romantic and feminine color, is often used to market products and services to women and young girls.

This frozen yogurt company knows their target audience is women and girls.  They’ve use pink to grab their attention.




Purple is often use to calm and sooth. It also exemplifies wisdom and sophistication. As a result, purple is often used for beauty and anti-aging products.

Wisdom and sophistication are two qualities a woman would want from a gynecologist.




Black is powerful, elegant, and sleek. It portrays secrecy and mystery. As such, it is the perfect color to market luxury products and services. It also goes well with fitness marketing efforts.

Lamborghinis have always been associated with power and elegance.  Now, their website is too.



SEE ALSO: How to decide the best color scheme for your website?


There You Have It!

Now you have an inside glimpse at how design and marketing strategies can influence what consumers buy. What do you think? Did you know color played such a powerful role in the shopping experience? Disagree? Agree? Share your comments, opinions, and thoughts below!


About the Author

Jessica Velasco works for Subtle Network Design and Marketing – a company that specializes in web design, graphic design, and internet marketing.