August 2017 - The Psychology of Color

web colors

Are your colors pulling your customers in?
(Or driving them away?)

When your target audience first sets eyes on a direct mailer or piece of marketing collateral, what creates the first impression? Is it the headline? Call to action? Offer? Experts say it’s none of these things. It’s the colors you use.

The priority of color is not unique to marketing materials. According to research conducted by the CCI Color Institute for Color Research and the University of Winnipeg, 62%–90% of our opinions about products, brands, and even our clothing, are based on color. 

Despite the amount of time psychologists spend studying the impact of color on our moods, shopping behavior, and response to environmental stimuli (like marketing materials), there is limited consensus on what different colors mean to different people. However, this doesn’t mean that certain conventions don’t hold true. Here are what certain colors generally connote in the United States:
Green = Wealth/Environment
Orange = Cheap
Blue = Trust/Security
Black = Quality/Luxury
Red = Danger/Love

But these are conventions.  Not every consumer will respond to color the same way, and colors can be perceived differently in different vertical markets.

Color will also be perceived differently in different cultures. For example, in India, red can represent power, purity, and fertility. In South Africa, it is associated with violence and mourning. In the United States, yellow is associated with youth and fun. In France, it signifies jealously, betrayal, and weakness. In Japan, it represents bravery, wealth, and refinement.

How can you be sure that the colors you use are sending the right messages?

1. Understand the underlying message you want to portray. Is it financial security? Adventure and freedom? Enhancement of self-image?

2. Know your target market. Understand not only the demographic make-up of your audience, but the cultural and ethnic one, as well. Know the role the culture can play in each segment’s interpretation of color.

3. Get feedback. Especially if you’re doing a major roll-out, such as a new logo or new template for direct mail or marketing collateral, conduct focus groups. Ask about perception of all elements of the campaign, including the colors you use.

If you are unsure about how certain colors may be perceived or which may be most effective for different customer groups, test them. Experiment with different colors and see what happens. Pay attention to the sub-trends that may only show up in sub-demographics, such as ethnicity, gender, and geographic location. Color is a powerful tool in attracting and engaging audiences, but one size may not fit all.