Chapter 3: The Psychology Behind Retail Display Colors

When you’re thirsty on a hot summer day, would you rather buy a drink in a blue bottle or a red bottle? If you chose blue, you just experienced the power of color. Past studies have shown that drinks in blue or green containers are perceived as more thirst-quenching than those in red or orange containers.

What does this mean for product manufacturers? If you want customers to look at your brand and merchandise a particular way, color psychology can help. This chapter explores the role of color in visual merchandising and how you can apply these ideas to your display design.

The Psychology of Visual Merchandising

Visual merchandising is the practice of displaying merchandise attractively. It includes all the components that enhance the retail environment, such as retail displays, signage and lighting. Visual merchandising aims to bring attention to particular products, encourage impulse buys and create a more pleasant and convenient shopping experience.

To implement visual merchandising, merchandisers combine psychology and marketing with visual elements, including color. This powerful mixture can make a big impact on consumers’ decision-making and buying behaviors.

For example, imagine a display designed to target adult chocolate lovers. It might combine the color brown to resemble chocolate with purple or gold to convey richness and luxury. With an enticing chocolatey image set at eye level, target customers are apt to notice, and they might make an impulse buy. You can use color psychology to connect with your ideal customers and impact how they view your brand and product.

Retail Merchandising Color Wheel

The color wheel is a tool designers use to choose color schemes that evoke a particular emotional response. It consists of stimulating warm colors, like red and orange, and soothing cool colors, such as blue and green.

Neutral colors like black, white and brown aren’t on the color wheel, but they still have relevance in color psychology and retail merchandising. Since neutral colors don’t compete with other hues, they can make an excellent background choice for a display, depending on the product and target customers.

By using the color wheel, designers can determine which hues go well together and which ones don’t. They can also figure out which colors to choose to create the desired effect. Here are three ways to organize different color schemes:

  • Analogous: Analogous colors are located next to each other on the color wheel and create a sense of harmony when used together because they don’t stand out against each other. Yellow and yellow-green is an example of analogous colors. If you use an analogous color scheme, you might add one contrasting color to make an image or font stand out.
  • Complementary: Complementary colors are located opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, blue is located opposite of orange. When used together, each color is more intense. It’s generally best to use one color in the background and the other as an accent because of the intensity. This ensures the accent color pops and doesn’t have to fight for attention.
  • Monochromatic: A monochromatic color scheme uses one color in different tints, shades and tones. On its own, it creates a relaxing effect. When paired with a complementary color, you can create an attractive design.

When selecting colors for your retail display, you may want to use the color wheel as a reference or a source of inspiration.

How Does Color Affect Consumer Behavior?

Picture a display without color — it probably wouldn’t outshine the surrounding shelves. Color is one of the most critical parts of display design because it gains attention, adds visual appeal and affects how a person perceives a product. All of these factors can encourage a customer to buy a product or put it back. Here’s more on how color impacts consumer behavior:

1. Influences Perception of the Product

Customers typically judge a product within 90 seconds of interacting with it, and about 60% to 90% of their judgment is based on color. People associate colors with different meanings and perceive a product a certain way based on that meaning.

For example, green is associated with nature, and red is linked to sweetness. If you’re designing a display for sugary candy, you might incorporate red so customers quickly get the message that your candy is sweet. However, if you’re promoting organic granola bars, green might be the better color choice.

Color also influences a person’s perception of quality. If a product’s packaging features an attractive design with well-chosen colors, customers may perceive the item to be of higher quality.

Many customers judge products based on color subconsciously. For this reason, it helps to select colors that strongly correlate with your product. So, if you sell bottled water, consider incorporating blue in your display. Customers will instantly get the message that your product’s refreshing.

2. Increases Brand Recognition

Color has the power to increase brand recognition. Colors, along with shapes, embed the image of a company’s logo in customers’ minds. Choosing a simple color palette of two to three colors and using them consistently helps customers remember your brand.

Ultimately, brand recognition boosts sales. Many customers look for products from brands they recognize and trust. With color, you can help customers quickly find your brand among similar options and make it easy for them to buy.

3. Affects Mood

Colors impact how customers feel, and this affects the decisions they make. For example, red increases heart rate and creates a sense of urgency. It’s often the color of choice to advertise sales and encourage impulse buys. Since red is a stimulating color, it also arouses hunger. This is why restaurants and food companies often include red in their designs.

Blue, on the other hand, is known to have a calming effect. Blue might appeal to customers who want to feel relaxed as they shop and choose products carefully.

Color Associations

People connect colors to different words, emotions and characteristics. In general, warm colors like orange and yellow are associated with energy, happiness, joy and optimism. Here’s a list of colors and their associations:


Red is a stimulating and attention-grabbing color. It’s associated with:

  • Love
  • Passion
  • Heat
  • Speed
  • Urgency
  • Excitement
  • Courage
  • Fun
  • Sales

Bright reds are energetic, while darker reds portray luxury.


Pink is a soft, warm color. It’s often used in the background or as a font color. Pink’s associated with:

  • Nurturing
  • Femininity
  • Romance
  • Love
  • Compassion
  • Hope
  • Sweetness
  • Playfulness
  • Happiness

Companies often use pink to target female customers. You might use bright pink to appeal to a younger audience.


Yellow is the most attention-grabbing color because it’s the first color the eye notices. This bold color may be viewed as:

  • Playful
  • Fun
  • Creative
  • Cheerful
  • Warm
  • Optimistic
  • Joyful
  • Affordable

Since yellow is so intense, it’s often used in moderation as an accent color.


Orange is often thought of as a casual and fun color. It’s also associated with:

  • Affordability
  • Energy
  • Playfulness
  • Creativity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Confidence

Orange can help prompt action but should be used moderately. Too much orange can be overwhelming.


Blue is the most popular color, reminding people of the sky and sea. Blue conveys:

  • Trust
  • Authority
  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Coolness
  • Tranquility
  • Strength
  • Wisdom
  • Loyalty

Blue also makes a product look more professional and mature.


Green is an easy color to look at and live with. It reminds people of grass, trees and vegetables. Darker shades of green evoke elegance and wealth. Green is associated with:

  • Nature
  • Health
  • Healing
  • Eco-friendliness
  • Freshness
  • Growth
  • Money
  • Organic

Green doesn’t shout for attention like red or yellow and is often used in the background or text.


Purple can imply luxury or extravagance. It’s also associated with:

  • Imagination
  • Prestige
  • Royalty
  • Spirituality
  • Magic
  • Mystery
  • Creativity
  • Courage
  • Fun
  • Wealth

Companies that want customers to perceive their products as superior might incorporate purple.


Black is a neutral color that conveys:

  • Power
  • Strength
  • Mystery
  • Glamour
  • Luxury
  • Sleekness
  • Elegance
  • Security
  • Authority
  • High-tech

Black attracts customers who want sophisticated, top-quality products. Black is also widely used as a background and font color.


Brown is an earthy color that reminds people of wood and nature. It’s associated with:

  • Home
  • Seriousness
  • Stability
  • Dependability
  • Structure
  • Warmth
  • Safety
  • Honesty
  • Tradition
  • Ruggedness
  • Wholesomeness

Brown is often found wrapped around natural and organic food products.


White indicates simplicity. It also conveys:

  • Peace
  • Purity
  • Cleanliness
  • Innocence
  • Positivity

White is commonly used as a background color.

How to Choose Color for Your Retail Display

When it comes to choosing colors for your display, it’s usually best to keep it simple. After all, your product is the most important feature of your display. Still, you’ll want to choose your colors carefully because they will impact how customers perceive your merchandise. Here are seven tips for choosing your display’s colors:

1. Look at Your Product

Although you want your display to draw attention, make sure its colors don’t detract from the product. Your product should always be the main attraction. Instead, use your display’s colors and shapes to frame the product and make it enticing.

For instance, a black display makes red products appear more vivid and hard to ignore. In general, any neutral color will put attention on the product. If you use a more adventurous background color, like red or orange, consider a monochromatic color scheme or adding neutral colors for balance.

2. Consider Your Logo

What colors are in your logo? You might pull colors from your logo to use in your display. If you don’t use the same colors, choose ones that complement your logo. Your logo mustn’t blend in with the display so customers can remember your brand. There’s also no need to change your logo’s colors for the display. It’s more important to be consistent across all advertising forms.

3. Celebrate the Season

If you’re selling a seasonal product, use color to convey a festive mood. For example, if you’re promoting Halloween candy, choose orange, purple or black. For Valentine’s Day, consider red, white or pink. If you want customers to connect your product to the season easily, stick to the tried and true.

4. Think About Your Audience

Different groups of customers tend to have different color preferences, so think about who you’re trying to reach. For example, men tend to prefer orange over yellow, while women prefer yellow over orange. Children like yellow more than both adult men and women.

Your customers’ nationality and cultural background also play a role in color perception. For example, red is associated with fear in India and good luck in China.

Overall, you’ll want to consider how several aspects of your target customers’ lives might affect how they perceive certain colors.

5. Check Out Competitors

Look at competitors’ displays and the colors they use. Consider what works and why. Next, try to choose something different so you don’t blend in. You can look at Pantone’s color trends to inspire your exact color choices.

6. Know Your Brand Personality

Is your brand playful or serious? Classic or modern? Ask yourself questions about your brand’s personality to help you choose suitable colors.

7. Match Colors to Flavors

If you manufacture food or beverages, consider how your display can reflect flavors. For example, a red display might be suitable for strawberry or cherry flavors, while brown signifies chocolate or coffee. You want customers to know what they can expect to taste.

Test Your Colors With a Prototype

To ensure you make the right color choices for your display, consider creating a prototype. With a prototype, you can see how your display looks holding your products before committing to a design. At Creative Displays Now, prototype creation is part of our process, so you can be confident in your design before we manufacture your display. Give us a call at 1-866-244-2214 to start your project!

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