Color Theory in Marketing: How Color Theory Works In the Healthcare Industry

Have you ever noticed that healthcare logos tend to be blue? If you simply type in “healthcare logos” into Google Images you’ll see a handful of images that may be red (like the iconic heart symbol), but for the most part, blue will be the predominant color you see.

Why? Before we answer, we must begin by answering the bigger question: “what is color theory?” At the highest level, color theory is simply understanding the relationship that different colors have with one another — which ultimately helps designers and others develop a logical method for utilizing specific colors in design. The exact color theory definition shown below is from Wikipedia.

“In the visual arts, color theory or colour theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination.”
Simply put, we subconsciously understand when a color scheme works or (more importantly) does not work. Let’s take a deeper dive into the concept of “color theory”, why it matters, and how the healthcare industry is using it.


The definition of color theory can be split into three parts.

1. The Color Wheel

The main purpose of a color wheel is to display the logical, progressive sequence of colors. The Color Wheel is grounded in the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). Next, there are the secondary colors (the colors you get mixing the primary colors, aka green, orange, and purple). Finally, the wheel incorporates the mixes of primary and secondary colors, resulting in 12 colors for the tertiary colors. Technically, any color scheme that is logically composed from each other can work in a color wheel format.

2. Color Harmony

In music, harmony is when two or more notes are played at the same time, blending together in a pleasing way. Color harmony is exactly the same concept, but instead of music or some other element, it’s composed of two or more colors that work together. A major tenet in color theory is understanding how different colors interact – or don’t. For instance, two diametrically opposed colors will make a jarring or off-putting image. Using two very similar colors can create a situation where the overall design is boring and easily glossed over. Achieving color harmony involves choosing complementary colors that play off of each other in a way that stands out and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

3. Color Context

Similar to color harmony is color context — or how two or more colors complement each other. If you opened up a plain white Word document and type in black, the text is clearly visible. If you change the text color to a light gray, then try to read the light gray text on white background, you’ll find it’s much more difficult to read. Reverse the colors completely – so the page is black and text is white, and you’ll quickly find out where headaches and eyestrain come from. That’s context. The key to fully understanding color theory is simple: colors help our brains process information, and work together to help communicate a story on many different internal and external levels – consciously, subconsciously, culturally, and more.

Color Theory in Marketing: Why it Matters

So what is color theory in marketing and how is it applied? We’re glad you asked! Ultimately, color theory in marketing helps set up consumer expectations. When we go in, we have an idea of what to expect and the overall brand perception. This is key to telling your brand story and relating to consumers. For instance, orange is cheerful, fun, and confident — think Nickelodeon, Orange Crush, Amazon. Red is bold and strong — think Target, CNN, Coca-Cola, and Nintendo. Brown is rugged and dependable like UPS, and works well for outdoors and woodsy, or natural and organic products. If you have a brand that is young and vibrant, a brown logo would send a very different message to your audience as opposed to one with bright, vibrant colors. That’s why you should choose your brand colors carefully.

Feeling Blue? So Does All of Healthcare.

Now, we’re left with blue. The color blue is associated with credibility, trust, knowledge, power, professionalism, cleanliness, calm, focus, among a number of other things. When you think of healthcare, that’s exactly what you want, right? Trusted, credible, and clean (along with everything else). You don’t want yellow or orange which screams cheerful, fun, and informal, you want a professional! Blue helps convey the idea of serenity and calmness — that everything is going to be all right. That’s the root of how color theory in marketing helped make blue the predominant color in the healthcare industry.

The Blue Pitfall

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. That’s why not all healthcare brands are blue. For instance, Phoenix Children’s Hospital proudly sports a white on red logo and design scheme, with the website incorporating some blue accents. And it works for them. Other brands have broken away from blue because they recognize how overused it has become. In a world where we’re trying to break from our competitors, being unique is key, so standing out from the pack can be a big benefit. Makes perfect sense, right?

Do You Need Help Standing Out?

With everything said, blue is a safe bet for developing a strong healthcare brand; however, its very strength as a reputable healthcare color is its exact pitfall. If you’re interested in learning more about branding and logo design for your firm, as well as discovering how your firm can stand out in a meaningful way that gets results, call Serendipit Consulting or click here to schedule a consultation.