Color Me Successful

Visual Theory

Make sure the colors you use in your marketing materials are saying the right things about your brand.

If your marketing campaign isn’t showing your true colors, you may be paying the price for it. Color can play an important role in the effectiveness of any marketing campaign, but it’s not a cure-all.

“As far as color in marketing goes, much of what passes for expertise is completely made up–bogus,” warns Rob Marsh, the owner of logo-design software firm Logomaker, who has almost 20 years of experience in brand creation and marketing support.

It’s not that the purveyors of information about color’s marketing capabilities are looking to intentionally mislead folks. It’s more a matter of reaching unsupported conclusions. For example, Marsh points to a study that suggested tilapia fish eat more when exposed to red light, “but it’s quite a jump to say the same thing works for humans,” he says. “The effect of color is situational. Green can mean ‘natural’ for a brand with natural attributes, but it doesn’t always mean that. Colors used by brands tend to reflect the ideas and meaning already projected by the brand.”

Color has three primary purposes in marketing, says innovation consultant Filberto Amati. The right color combination can make a marketing message stand out and increase the likelihood it will be recalled by viewers. Using the right color in the right way can convey a brand’s promise, setting expectations and building brand equity. In addition, color codes can play a pivotal role in boosting the credibility of marketing messages.

The psychology of color has been studied extensively, and while there are shades of difference in various interpretations, there is strong consensus about the implications of most common colors.

  • Red. Some studies have shown that the color red can actually increase the heartbeat and breathing rate of a person viewing it. Red is associated with excitement, love, energy, and movement. Use it as an accent color to draw attention to key elements or phrases. But also be aware that red can trigger some potentially negative connotations because of its association with war, violence, blood, anger, and danger.
  • Blue is associated with competence, quality, loyalty, and strength. For many, blue brings to mind the ocean, which has relaxing overtones, and the color is favored by marketers looking to invoke serenity in a stressful process, such as applying for a loan. It’s also the color of dependability. Not surprisingly, it’s favored by many financial services providers and large corporations.
  • Green is considered by some experts to be the easiest color for the eye to process. In U.S. culture, especially, green means “go,” but as Marsh suggests, it is increasingly associated with environmental and natural attributes in the global marketplace. Color consultants recommend green for tourism, science, and medicine, but it is less appropriate for luxury goods or technology products.
  • Yellow may be the most “controversial” of all the commonly used colors in marketing. While its positive associations include joy, optimism, and youth, it is also linked to cowardice, deceit, illness, and hazard. Yellow can be so overpowering that it can strain the eyes, so it should be used sparingly.

Creating the right color combination is an important part of branding, so it’s typically worth investing in some testing with your target audience. Try using different colors on the “buy” button to see which generates the strongest positive response. Experiment with different colors on your website and marketing materials, and solicit customer feedback to help you decide which work best for your company.

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