Psychology of Colour in Branding: YELLOW


Imagine being placed in a room surrounded by bright yellow walls. Some people would feel happy while others would experience instant anxiety. A bold colour - yellow, is guaranteed to influence your audience.

As you may expect, there are many connotations, emotions, and feelings that audiences associate with colour. This series will explore the rainbow and uncover how each hue can benefit a company and it’s branding.


Bringing Sunshine into our Lives


The most obvious comparison to make is that yellow represents sunshine and therefore happiness. Due to this association, the colour brings about a positive mindset, which inspires original thinking and creativity. This allows ideas to flow naturally from one another (especially in a yellow room or an open space with yellow furniture) during brainstorming sessions.

This positive association that yellow emits is also identified as a healing mechanism, as it gives people a sense of worth and boosts the ego. It is often used during art therapy in combination with green or soft orange to rebalance a person’s energy.

So how do you take advantage of this ego-boosting quality? When a business is planning for the future, whether it’s a new product launch or service, having yellow incorporated in internal communications (slides, emails, etc) may help to successfully communicate new ideas.


I’m Lovin It

We all know some popular brands with yellow as their primary colour. McDonald's, Best Buy, and IKEA are a few that have made iconic footprints in the marketing industry. What is common about these brands? They offer cheap, affordable prices with quick service and convenience. This goes hand in hand with the sense of movement factor that yellow conveys.

If combined with other primary colours, yellow is a great colour choice for children’s products. Having yellow as the main colour of the palette will stimulate their minds and creativity. Other products or services that would benefit from this hue are ones of leisure or fun. Since yellow brings about a sense of fun and activity, it’s wise to use it in entertainment businesses, networking, journalism, or social work branding.

The perfect age bracket and target audience for the colour yellow is 36-60 years old. Joe Hallock conducted an experiment to see which age bracket responds best to this hue and which emotional characteristics it entices. The highest score for yellow was in the frugality and fun categories and leaned closer to the middle-age bracket. However, since the boom of social media, there has been an association between generations and the colour of their content. Most notably with ‘Millennial Pink’ and now with ‘Gen Z Yellow’ becoming a new trending colour. Why is that? It could be because it’s current and not associated with any specific gender. As discussed above, It represents a sense of movement and change, which are qualities often seen in a generation that is becoming known for awareness around the world. A brand using this colour could authentically mirror such important Gen Z beliefs also.


Blinded by the Light

Unfortunately yellow isn’t always cheerful and happy-go-lucky. Too much of an intense hue such as yellow can cause nervousness, agitation, and anxiety. Since the colour is so bright and overwhelming it can make the eyes strain because of how much light is being projected. Therefore, we’d recommend using yellow as the secondary or highlight colour of the palette; especially if the hue tips more on the bright side of the scale. This way, you’ll still convey all of the positive connotations of colour, without overdoing it.

Brands who do decide to use yellow as the main colour of their branding need to be aware of its reputation. Remember how we said that audiences associate Yellow with IKEA and McDonald’s? Well, it turns out that a lot of quick and easy brands aren’t exactly associated with quality. The reverse side of appearing convenient can be that your band may be seen as cheap and unsophisticated. With any colour that boots the ego, caution should always be used. So make sure there is wiggle room in the brand’s content to allow for emotional storytelling and humanizing the brand.


Like an Onion, Yellow has Layers

Each different shade of yellow adds a slightly different meaning to the general interpretation of the colour. Think back to the polarizing reactions you may get when people enter that yellow room we talked about earlier. Each shade adds a layer of complexity to the colour that may be overlooked at first glance but may be key in subtly connecting with your audience.