The colors you use in your marketing efforts matter. As humans, we’re highly visual creatures. So it makes sense that the colors you choose to promote your company with will affect customer buying decisions. But how much so is up for debate.
In this article, we’ll take a look at color psychology in marketing. We’ll first explain what it is. Then we’ll debunk a common myth, share a few general color guidelines, and give you three actionable tips you can use to improve the colors in your marketing efforts.
Let’s dive in!
Color Psychology Explained
Color psychology is the complex study of how different colors affect human behavior. In regards to marketing, color psychology is used to help determine whether potential customers are more or less likely to take desirable actions based on the colors used.
For example, a color psychology-conscious marketer might ask if a green or purple dress is more likely to be purchased or whether a red of black CTA button is more likely to get clicked. These are definitely questions worth asking. The colors that a company chooses to market its products with matter. But not to the extent that many people think.
Busting the Color Psychology Myth
Unfortunately, specific colors can’t envoke hyper-specific emotions. Marketing would be a lot easier if they could. We’d simply have to find the perfect “buy” color and slather it all over our websites, email marketing campaigns, and products. But the truth is, personal preference, past experiences, and other factors distort the effect each color has on individual people.
But that doesn’t mean color psychology is useless. Far from it! Let’s take a look at a few general color guidelines.
General Color Guidelines
As we just mentioned, a person’s reaction to a certain color will be largely based on their own personal experiences. This makes it impossible to say with absolute certainty that such and such color will always make people feel or act a certain way.
But there are general color guidelines that are helpful to keep in mind:
The color red can be linked to feelings of excitement. A brand that uses this color in its marketing tends to be thought of as daring, imaginative, and up-to-date. Certain studies have found that it can also boost heart rate, increase hunger, and create a sense of urgency. That’s why it’s often used in clearance sales and by fast food companies.
Notable Brands: Coca-Cola, Target, Netflix, YouTube, and CNN
Yellow is often thought of as an optimistic and youthful color. It can be linked to feelings of happiness, fun, and sunshine. But it does have specific marketing disadvantages. Certain tints can appear “dirty” and be hard on human eyes. It’s typically best used as an accent color alongside something darker.
Notable Brands: McDonald’s, UPS, IKEA, Best Buy, and National Geographic
Studies show that blue is the general consensus favorite color for both males and females, though men are drawn to it more. It’s known to have a calming effect and therefore promotes feelings of strength, wisdom, and trust. Used in the wrong context, though, it can appear cold and unfriendly.
Notable Brands: Facebook, Walmart, AT&T, American Express, and Ford,
For many people, green signifies health and vibrancy. It’s the color of nature, which is why it’s used by so many health food brands. Green can also be linked to money and feelings of power. It’s worth noting that this color doesn’t seem to connect with females as well as other colors do.
Notable Brands: Whole Foods, Starbucks, John Deer, Land Rover, and Animal Planet
Throughout history, purple has been used to signify superiority and royalty. It’s often used by brands that want to position themselves as elite or prestigious. But overdoing it can appear extravagant. It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that many women like purple, while many men classify it as their least favorite color.
Notable Brands: Yahoo, Hallmark, T-Mobile, Taco Bell
Finally, we have the color orange, which many people associate with warmth and fun. But it’s also many peoples’ least favorite color and thought of as being cheap. Because of this and the fact that it’s bright and eye-catching, orange can be used to signify a deal or bargain.
Notable Brands: Amazon, Home Depot, Harley Davidson, Nickelodeon
Like we mentioned previously, every color will be interpreted differently by each individual who sees it depending on their background. But in general, the above guidelines apply.
How to Properly Use Color Psychology
Now that you know a fair amount about color psychology, let’s teach you how to use it in your marketing efforts. This is where the rubber meets the road. We have three tips for you.
1. Aim for Color Fit
While color can’t reliably evoke specific emotions in people, it still plays an important role in the branding and overall marketing strategy of your company and its products. The key is to go after the proper color fit. The colors you use should make sense in the minds of your potential customers.
For example, Harley Davidson has a “tough guy” reputation, right? There’s a perception that only hardened, leather-clad, macho-man bikers (or those that want to be seen as such) ride Harleys. But what if the Harley logo was pink and black instead? They would likely have an entirely different clientele.
It’s also worth noting that the way your customers perceive color is massively influenced by the brands already out in the market. It’s one of the reasons why so many health food brands use the color green. Not only does it align perfectly with their products, but it’s also what their customers expect to see.
2. Contrast is Your Friend
The contrast between the colors you use in your marketing efforts is very important. By putting two contrasting colors next to each other, you’ll make each of them stand out better. This is why you’ll often see CTA buttons in bright colors when the rest of the web page is black and white. The bright red, orange or purple button attracts attention.
To choose the most appropriate contrasting colors, you’ll need to know a little bit about color theory. Here’s a quick summary:
- Primary Colors: The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Every other color can be made using these three.
- Secondary Colors: There are also three secondary colors, which are green orange and purple. These are made by mixing equal amounts of the primary colors.
- Tertiary Colors: There are six tertiary colors which are formed by mixing primary and secondary colors together. The six are yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green.
Now, look at each of these colors on the color wheel below. Complimentary colors are classified as those directly opposite each other on the wheel. Blue and orange, and red and green, for example. These are the best color combinations to use when you want something to stand out.
There’s also what’s known as split complementary, analogous, triadic, and tetradic color combinations as illustrated in the image below. When matching colors for your marketing efforts, follow these rules and you should be safe.
Source: Stephen’s Lighthouse
3. Test Your Color Combinations
Finally, once you’ve chosen a few color combinations, we recommend testing them out. Test whether a white or blue background works better for your website, or if a red or orange CTA button gets more clicks. Then analyze the results.
The marketing software company, HubSpot, found that conversions rose 21% when they changed their CTA button from green to red. You may discover that specific colors connect more with your target audience as well.
As with all marketing tests, when comparing certain colors to others, make sure to only change one of them at a time. For instance, you wouldn’t want to test your original webpage against a secondary one that has different background and CTA colors. If you do, you won’t know exactly why one page performed better than the other. Instead, change just the background and run the test. Then determine your winner and run a second test to decide upon the proper CTA color.
Color Psychology for Your Company
Color psychology is quite complex. But the tips we’ve shared with you in this article will allow you to make better marketing decisions. While certain colors can’t reliably be linked to specific emotions, it does help to know the general feelings each of them invoke. Just remember that each of your potential customers is unique and their relationships with color will vary depending on their backgrounds.
What you can control, though, is color fit and contrast. Make sure the colors you use match the product you’re marketing. And do your best to use contrasting colors to make certain elements of your marketing stand out. Finally, test your color combinations to ensure you have the perfect fit. To your success!