How to Harness the Power of Color in B2B Content Marketing

June 14, 2023

For 92 percent of men and over 99 percent of women, the world is full of color.

I apologize up front to those who are colorblind or experience another type of visual impairment, for whom much of this joy is lost.

While our perceptions of color are technically qualia—quite literally, in the eye of the beholder—rather than an absolute property of whatever we’re seeing, we generally agree on the colors of common things.

Tomatoes are red; the midday sky varies between blue and grey; the Home Depot logo is orange.

But we connect with colors on a much deeper, primal level.

The same evolutionary processes that equipped us with an innate fear of rustling bushes and slithering animals have pre-programmed our old, lizard brain with instinctive emotional responses to certain colors.

This is great news for marketers, who love nothing better than to mess with people’s minds while they aren’t looking—and, in this case, even while they are.

We assign certain characteristics to a brand based on the color(s) used in its logo and other content elements

Content that’s displayed in a particular color will—generally speaking—evoke a predictable set of emotions in the target audience.

In other words, we assign certain characteristics to a brand based on the color(s) used in its logo and other content elements.

And, since B2B buying decisions are largely made based on emotions (and justified with data and logic after the fact), being able to nudge prospects in a helpful emotional direction is tactically powerful stuff.

In this post, I’m going to describe the adjectives we subliminally associate with twelve popular colors and how this has led to their widespread use in specific cultural contexts.

Take this into consideration next time you’re picking a color for your brand, product, PowerPoint slide, or even the office wall.



Red has held significant cultural value throughout history. Ancient Egyptians associated red with life and victory. In Chinese culture, it symbolizes luck and prosperity, and is often used during festive celebrations. In Western societies, red represents love, passion, and power, and is frequently used in symbolic art.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Passionate: Red evokes strong emotions, such as love, desire, and energy.

> Bold: It grabs attention and can symbolize power and confidence.

> Exciting: It stimulates the senses and conveys a sense of urgency.

> Intense: Red can evoke feelings of aggression or importance.

For example, the global beverage behemoth, Coca-Cola, uses red as its primary brand color to convey energy, excitement, and strength.



The significance of orange varies across cultures. For example, in Western cultures, orange is linked to energy, enthusiasm, and creativity, while Native Americans associate it with kinship and healing and use orange pigments in their art. In Hinduism, meanwhile, it symbolizes purity and spirituality, and is often associated with holy people and deities.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Energetic: Orange combines the energy of red with the cheerfulness of yellow.

> Friendly: It creates a warm and inviting atmosphere.

> Enthusiastic: Orange evokes a sense of enthusiasm and excitement.

> Playful: It represents creativity and a fun-loving nature.

Home Depot, the home improvement retailer I mentioned earlier, uses a neon orange as its primary brand color to convey feelings of energy, friendliness, and creativity.



With the sun as an ever-present reference, cultures throughout history have assigned similar values to yellow, using it in their art to evoke light and warmth. The Ancient Egyptians associated it with their sun god, Ra, and with eternal life. In China, it represents happiness and good fortune. In Western societies, yellow symbolizes positivity, optimism, and intelligence.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Optimistic: Yellow symbolizes joy, happiness, and positivity.

> Warm: It radiates warmth and creates a welcoming feeling.

> Cheerful: It can lift spirits and bring about a sense of optimism.

> Energetic: Yellow stimulates mental activity and encourages communication.

The construction and mining equipment company, Caterpillar, famously uses yellow as its primary brand color to convey optimism, warmth, and energy.


Blues and greens are emotionally tied to the natural world around us


The hue of a cloudless sky and glacial ice, blue is another ever-present color in our world. In Ancient Egypt, it symbolized divinity and protection. In Hinduism, it represents Lord Krishna and devotion. In Western cultures, blue is associated with calmness, serenity, and trustworthiness. These strong associations and its connection to water and sky have led to its widespread use in art, religious symbolism, and branding.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Trustworthy: Blue is associated with reliability and dependability.

> Calm: It has a calming effect and can create a sense of peace.

> Professional: Blue is used in business settings to convey competence.

> Serene: It evokes a feeling of tranquility and stability.

Tech giant IBM uses blue as its primary color to project trustworthiness, professionalism, and a sense of calm predictability.



A dominant color in nature thanks to chlorophyl and the power of photosynthesis, green has held rich symbolism throughout history. Ancient Egyptians associated it with rebirth and renewal. In Islam, it represents paradise and fertility. In the West, green symbolizes nature, growth, and harmony. It is frequently used to represent environmentalism, health, and balance.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Refreshing: Green represents nature and evokes feelings of freshness and renewal.

> Harmonious: It creates a sense of balance.

> Growth: Green is associated with growth, abundance, and prosperity.

> Calming: It has a soothing effect and promotes relaxation.

Starbucks employs green as its primary brand color to symbolize freshness, a place to relax, and a connection to nature.



Though often overlooked, brown is of significance to many cultures and historical periods. In Japanese culture, brown represents reliability and stability. In Native American cultures, it symbolizes the earth and connection to nature. In Western cultures, brown can evoke feelings of warmth, simplicity, and naturalness.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Earthy: Brown represents the earth and natural elements.

> Reliable: It evokes a sense of stability and dependability.

> Warm: Brown has a cozy and comforting feel.

> Organic: It is often associated with organic and natural products.

The package delivery and supply chain management company, UPS (formerly United Parcel Service), uses brown as its primary color to convey reliability and a connection to the country.



Purple is easy to recognize in many cultures by its use in robes and other luxury goods, and its association with creativity and individuality. In ancient Rome, it symbolized power and authority. In many Asian cultures, purple represents wealth and nobility. In Western societies, it is linked to royalty, luxury, and spirituality.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Regal: Purple is often associated with luxury, royalty, and sophistication.

> Creative: It stimulates imagination and represents artistic expression.

> Spiritual: Purple can evoke a sense of spirituality and mysticism.

> Mysterious: It carries an air of mystery and intrigue.

Yahoo is one of several technology companies that use purple as a primary brand color to convey creativity, uniqueness, and a touch of mystique.



Pink's cultural and historical associations are perhaps most evident in Japan, where pink symbolizes the idiosyncratic cherry blossoms and their transient beauty. Western cultures have propagated its associations with femininity, romance, and gentleness. Pink is used widely in branding, fashion, and artistic expressions to represent sweetness and playfulness.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Playful: Pink represents playfulness, fun, and youthful energy.

> Gentle: Pink has a soft and gentle quality to it.

> Romantic: It is often associated with love, romance, and affection.

> Feminine: It is commonly associated with femininity and charm.

The telecommunications company, T-Mobile, uses pink as its primary brand color to convey a sense of playfulness, vibrancy, and a youthful appeal.



Black carries diverse connotations across cultures. In African cultures, it symbolizes strength, power, and authority. In the West, it is associated with formality, elegance, and mystery. Black is used widely in religious and funerary contexts, in addition to fashion and design.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Sophisticated: Black represents elegance, power, and formality.

> Modern: It is often associated with sleek and contemporary aesthetics.

> Mysterious: Black can evoke a sense of mystery and intrigue.

> Authoritative: It also carries a sense of authority and seriousness.

For example, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, chose black as its primary brand color to convey sophistication, authority, and professionalism.



White holds symbolic meaning for most cultures. In many Eastern cultures, it represents purity, innocence, and spirituality. In Western societies, white is associated with peace, simplicity, and cleanliness. It is used in religious ceremonies, weddings, and as a canvas for artistic expressions.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Pure: White symbolizes purity, cleanliness, and innocence.

> Simple: It represents minimalism and simplicity.

> Fresh: White can evoke a sense of freshness and new beginnings.

> Peaceful: It creates a calming and serene atmosphere.

Perhaps the most iconic brand that uses white as a primary color is Apple, which uses it to convey simplicity, novelty, and a clean design aesthetic.


Metallics such as silver and gold evoke opulence and grandeur


Until recently, creating branded elements in metallics—such as silver and gold—was prohibitively expensive for most applications. However, newer printing and embossing techniques and materials have made these colors more accessible and applicable.

Silver represents wealth, purity, and—in many cultures—the moon. In ancient Greece and Rome, silver was associated with the divine. It has been used in jewelry, religious artifacts, and as a symbol of prestige and modernity across many societies.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Modern: Silver is often associated with a sleek and futuristic look.

> Elegant: It represents sophistication and refinement.

> Technological: Silver can evoke a sense of innovation and high-tech industry.

> Prestigious: It carries a sense of exclusivity and luxury.

The car and motorsports brand, Mercedes-Benz, uses silver in its branding to convey modernity, elegance, and a sense of technological advancement.



Throughout history, gold has been highly valued and culturally significant. In ancient Egypt, it represented the sun and divine power. In most cultures, gold symbolizes wealth, prosperity, and abundance. It is used in religious artifacts, royal regalia, and as a sign of luxury and prestige.

Typical emotional adjectives:

> Luxurious: Gold is associated with wealth, luxury, and opulence.

> Prestigious: It represents exclusivity and high social standing.

> Glorious: Gold can evoke a sense of grandeur and magnificence.

> Prosperous: It is commonly associated with success and abundance.

American Express uses gold as a primary brand color to convey a sense of luxury, prestige, and financial prosperity.



In my introduction, I flippantly apologized to those who deal with a visual impairment that prevents them from seeing a full range of color.

In the spirit of inclusiveness, it is a brand manager’s responsibility to find ways of mitigating this loss, so that those for whom a brand’s colors are less or unimpactful can still pick up emotional cues and be guided to valuable solutions.

The key lies in combining different emotional prompts in a consistent way.

Colors, fonts, images, word choices, materials, and layout all contribute to the emotive power of content

Colors, fonts, images, word choices, materials, and layout can all contribute to the emotive power of content—and you should use each of them intentionally, irrespective of any faculties in which an audience member might have acuity or deficiency.

Trouble arises when we use color alone to distinguish or emphasize something. At that point, the meaning is lost on anyone who cannot tell what color is being used, or why. Please consider using patterns and other visual cues where possible.

You can find helpful apps for testing web pages and other media to determine their accessibility to those with visual impairments.  I’ve found the Stark Accessibility Checker to be intuitive and helpful.


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Image credits: Adobe Stock


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