Ever wonder why successful brands use the colors they do to represent themselves to consumers? Why are McDonald’s arches golden, for example? And why is Target’s bullseye red? These aren’t just knee-jerk decisions companies make for lack of any better choices. On the contrary! A lot of thought and research around the psychology of color goes into selecting the best hues for the brand.
In this article, we’re going to show you exactly how popular brands arrive at the color selections they use in their marketing so that you can do the same for your business. But first, you need to understand the basics of color theory and how colors affect purchase decisions. So let’s dive in—we’re going to make quite the colorful splash in the pool of marketing psychology!
Colors Are Associated with Moods
As a marketer yourself, you probably already know that emotion is a powerful sales technique. If you can get your lead to feel a certain way, then you’re three-quarters of the way done in sealing the deal. What you might not know is that color can be your best friend in this process. That’s right—the impact of color can be a game-changer for your marketing and advertising efforts.
Robert Plutchick’s Famous “Wheel of Emotions”
Understanding how emotions work can give marketers a huge leg up on the competition. Human emotions are quite complex, though. American psychologist Robert Plutchick famously developed a “wheel of emotions” to illustrate the basic emotions that human beings experience. While acknowledging that there are numerous degrees of feelings that can be expressed in thousands of different ways, Plutchick theorized that there are just eight basic emotions: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation.
As illustrated by their placement on the wheel, each of these emotions has a polar opposite. For example, sadness is the opposite of joy. Anger is the opposite of fear, and so on.
The shades of color on the wheel of emotion represent the varying degrees of intensity that these emotions can be felt. The darker the color, the more intense the emotion and vice versa. For example, the emotion “boredom” is a light purple on the wheel because it is a lesser degree of “disgust”, which is colored purple. Moreover, “loathing” is a dark purple because it reflects a higher degree of disgust.
Note that the colors on the wheel are used for the purpose of distinction only and are not meant to denote associations with the different emotions. For instance, the color green is not associated with the emotion of fear on a symbolic level. We’ll discuss the meanings of different colors in color theory later on.
Colors and Their Psychological Affects (It Varies from Person to Person)
Though there are clear patterns in how color affects human emotions, there are also differences. Not everyone reacts to colors in precisely the same way. In fact, the nuanced way that color affects our moods and emotions varies based on a host of factors, including gender, culture, past experiences, and more.
For marketers, that means that you need to carefully consider your target market when choosing colors to represent your brand and messages. It also means that there’s no one right color scheme for your industry. You need to find what works for you through experimentation, trial and error, and testing.
Color Preference By Gender
From the time they enter the world (and even before!), males and females are separated by color. Every baby shower planner or attender knows that blue is for boys and pink is for girls.
Are color preferences really that different among the genders though? The answer—at least according to a 2003 study—is not really.
Image Credit: KISSmetrics
There’s actually quite a bit of overlap between men and women when it comes to their favorite colors. The study did reveal one glaring difference—a good portion of women (23%) report purple as their favorite color while no men said this was their color of preference.
Image Credit: KISSmetrics
The results for least favorite colors were also similar, with brown and orange being the last choices for men and women respectively.
Colors Impact Purchasing Decisions
The psychology of color scheme is a captivating topic, but it’s also controversial. And there are plenty of skeptics. Do colors really have that much impact on consumers? Yes! Color theory isn’t just a theory. The psychology of color and its role in marketing are topics that have been studied extensively.
One important study about color and its effect on consumers found that up to 90% of an individual’s opinion of a company or brand is determined by their response to color. That’s huge!
Color theory is no pseudoscience.
Color Preference Depends On the Brand
Color psychology in marketing is much more complex than just picking a color that you think your target market likes, however. Sports marketers found that out pretty quickly when they tried turning all of their products pink to suit their female consumers’ supposed tastes. When the “shrink it and pink it” technique failed, these businesses were left with an important lesson: consumers prefer colors they deem appropriate for the brand, whether or not they prefer the color aesthetically. In other words, just because girls like pink doesn’t necessarily mean they want to wear a pink sports bra or pink athletic shoes.
Appropriateness of Color to the Business
Consumers want brands to use colors appropriate for the products and services they offer. Here’s how it works. When consumers are presented with a company logo or brand messaging, they instantly begin to form opinions about the business and their products. A large portion of this opinion-forming is a result of the consumer’s reaction to the colors used in the company’s branding.
If the consumer thinks these colors are appropriate for the brand, then their opinion of the company and their offerings will be mostly positive. On the other hand, if they deem the colors inappropriate for the business or product/service, then their reaction will be largely negative. Of course, all of this happens on a subconscious level, making it all the more powerful in affecting buying behavior.
What Do Colors Mean?
So we know that different colors impact people differently and that consumers like brands that use colors appropriately. But what do the different colors on the color wheel signify?
The Color Red
Red is an attention-getting color. It’s quite intense and can be a catalyst for feelings of excitement, urgency, passion, and anger. The color red can be highly effective in marketing as almost a call-to-action in and of itself, but it should also be used with caution.
Playstation uses red predominately in its logo to associate its brand with the excitement of gaming.
The Color Blue
Blue is a calming color and is often associated with feelings of peace and tranquility. With this in mind, it makes sense that many hotel chains use the color blue in their logos to entice vacationers and weary travelers.
The Color Green
The color green is often associated with nature and environmental responsibility, but it also denotes trust and decisiveness. Like blue, it is a calming color (the opposite of red) and promotes feelings of balance and relaxation.
The Color Yellow
Like red, the color yellow almost demands a response, so it’s a powerful color to use in marketing. Yellow can denote creativity and playfulness, so it’s often used in marketing children’s products and recreational items. It’s also the color of spontaneity and indulgence, so dating apps like Snapchat and food products such as Lays rely on the color yellow to peddle their products and services.
The Color Purple
Appropriately, the color purple is positioned between red and blue on the color wheel. In some ways, it’s the best of both of these colors because it is associated with the power of red balanced by the tranquility of blue. Purple is often associated with wealth, respect, creativity, and wisdom. Interestingly, purple is less commonly used in marketing than others on the color spectrum, and as a result, it tends to stand out.
How to Use Colors to Increase Conversion Rate
Now that you have a good grasp of the impact of colors on branding, it’s time to get to the meat and potatoes of this subject: how to use colors to increase conversion rate. I mean, that’s what you’re here for, right? Let’s get to it.
After all, what’s the point of learning color psychology if you’re not going to apply it to your web marketing strategy?
You’ll need to get in touch with your inner Picasso for this part because there’s a lot to consider when choosing a color design. There’s cool colors, warm colors, pure and accent colors. The list goes on. Ready? Here we go.
The Best Colors for Your Website
Wondering about the best color for your landing page? Choosing a good color scheme for your site is a crucial part of the design (or redesign) process. To improve the conversion rate on your website, you need to choose three colors that complement one another: a dominant color, an accent color, and a background color.
Choosing A Dominant Color for Your Website
The dominant color you choose for your website should be the color that you most closely associate with your brand. Think about how you want potential customers to feel when they look at your brand logo as well as the feelings you want them to associate with your company. Consider stimulating colors and colors that are associated with happiness, for instance. This dominant color should be the principle color used in your company logo.
Choosing Your Website’s Accent Color(s)
Once you’ve chosen the dominant color to represent your brand on your website, it’s pretty simple to choose an accent color (or two). You’ll simply select a hue that compliments your dominant color. Often, this is the color opposite of your dominant color on the color wheel. When considering shades, be sure to select an eye-catching version of your accent color that will stand out on your website and draw your visitor’s attention.
When chosen strategically, accent colors can make call-to-action buttons extremely effective.
Don’t choose more than two accent colors. If there are too many colors on your site, visitors will get distracted or overwhelmed. Both of these reactions are uncomfortable and can cause people to leave the site in search of a more pleasant web experience.
Choosing A Background Color
Usually when we think of things in the background, we tend to consider them as less important. Don’t make this mistake when choosing a background color for your website! Contrary to popular belief, your site’s background color is extremely important because it fills in a large portion of the empty space on the page. This color is one of your key players when leveraging color theory in your web marketing game.
You’ll want to make sure your background color is a color that your visitor finds appealing and not boring. Try to find a compromise between a bold color you find exciting and a mellow color you find soothing. It needs to be eye-catching but not distracting.
Keep in mind that you can certainly opt for a white or neutral background color if you like. This is an especially effective technique if you want to draw attention to your products and services. Therefore, neutral backgrounds are popular choices for ecommerce sites.
Test Various Color Options
If you can’t decide on the best color scheme for your website, you can certainly explore further by testing various color combinations. This kind of A/B testing can be a good investment toward the future success of your web marketing efforts. You may be surprised at how color impacts your customer response and what a difference a good color scheme makes for conversions.
Remember that the psychology of colors is just one important element of an effective brand and website. Add it to your toolkit to build a successful, robust web marketing strategy.