Good design has become ubiquitous in our world, influencing everything from the websites we visit it to the content we read. Our brains are pre-wired to consume, process, and digest visual information more quickly. Design can improve virtually every experience because it provides simplicity and clarity in a world of distractions.
I’ve written about how to use the principles of psychology to improve design and content marketing. In this post, we’ll maintain our focus on design and analyze an important aspect: colors. Colors are fundamental to marketing and design. They have a significant impact on our mind and might change the way we feel about products and experiences. Colors are powerful. They can either support content marketing and the user experience or reduce content effectiveness. Colors can also affect emotions and potentially become a powerful tool in the hands of expert content hub designers. Finally, colors can make people react and take specific actions.
Color psychology is the science of how colors affect human behavior. It can be considered a branch of the broader field of behavioral psychology. “Color,” writes marketing guru Neil Patel, is “85 percent of the reason you purchased a specific product.” It’s a no-brainer that color affects conversions on any website. Some interesting stats about color are:
- 92.6 percent of people affirm that visual dimension (color, design, space) is the number one influencing factor affecting their purchase decision (over taste, smell, or other senses).
- Studies suggest that people make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds of initial viewing; up to 90 percent of that assessment is based on color, alone.
- Color can improve readership by 40 percent, learning from 55 to 78 percent, and comprehension by 73 percent.
The color wheel can be used to create harmonious color schemes, leading to an effective visual experience.
Primary colors – red, yellow, and blue – cannot be formed by any combination of other colors. Secondary colors – green, orange, and purple – are formed by mixing the primaries. Tertiary colors are created by mixing primary and secondary colors.
From a content marketing perspective, the highest-converting colors for calls to action are bright primary and secondary colors: red, green, orange, yellow. Darker colors like black, dark gray, brown, or purple have very low conversion rates.
The world’s biggest retailer’s “Add to Basket” button is, in fact, orange.
Headlines, menu items, and lists are other elements that colors affect.
Colors have different meanings to various demographics, age groups, cultures, and nationalities, though there are some nearly universal commonalities that we’ll explore. The best method of determining the right color (or colors) for your brand or website is to consider the target group you’re trying to reach and the emotions you are trying to elicit.
Let’s analyze the psychology of individual colors and how you, as a marketer, can utilize them.
Pro tip: Use this interactive color wheel to help inform your design decisions.
Blue builds trust.
Blue is one of the most-used colors, with good reason. Literature on the color blue explains that it is a color of trust, peace, order, and loyalty. Because of these attributes, blue is one of the most commonly used colors in American marketing, as well as worldwide.
Blue calls to mind feelings of serenity and calm. It often is described as peaceful, tranquil, secure, and orderly. There is wide agreement in the research community on the psychological effects of the color blue. Its subtle message of trustworthiness and serenity is real. You can use this to your advantage on your website and landing pages.
Facebook and other major social media companies use blue as their branding color. Tech brands like IBM, Intel, and Dell use blue to evoke trust; they’re companies that create reliable experiences that people use every day. Brands that sell appliances and machines love blue as well; GE and Ford both use it. Many financial companies also have blue branding: Allstate, J.P. Morgan, American Express. Here, blue means financial stability.
Yellow is for warning – and optimism.
Yellow is a color of warning. For this reason, it is often used for alerts and traffic signals. Small yellow buttons or calls to action may create just a touch of anxiety that’s required to make people click the desired call to action. Another advantage of yellow is that because it is so bright, it can stand out even when it is on a busy page.
Yellow is also the color of the sun and evokes feelings of optimism, clarity, and warmth. Brands that want to put a smile on consumers’ faces call on the power of yellow. For example, McDonalds’ golden arches are kid-friendly, and Snapchat’s vibrant yellow is playful and welcoming.
Green evokes nature.
Perhaps the most intuitive color connection is green. It’s the color of outdoors, eco-friendliness, nature, and the environment. If the focus of your website has anything to do with any of those topics, green should be your branding color of choice.
Many brands whose products deal with the environment utilize green. Some energy companies have rebranded and adopted green on their websites and marketing materials to evoke respect for nature and the environment; think BP or Schneider Electric.
Orange is for fun and urgency.
Orange suggests urgency, which makes messages noticeable and actionable. Amazon.com uses orange in its “limited time offer” banner.
Orange can also be used as the “fun” color. Orange evokes action, excitement, and competition. This is why sports teams and children’s products heavily use orange in their branding. The color is also kid-friendly. Nickelodeon’s orange splatter grabs the attention of young minds across the globe, and Fanta and Crush orange sodas easily attract audiences with a sweet tooth.
Red represents energy.
Red is a powerful color – passionate, warm, exciting, sexy, and urgent. It is the color of blood, of stop signs, and classic roses. It works well in the tech and entertainment industry. Think of Nintendo and Netflix – both exploit the power of red. Coca-Cola takes advantage of red’s welcoming allure. The brand’s logo, coupled with the company’s advertising, recalls positivity and affection.
Black and purple are for value and luxury.
The darker the tone, the more luxurious it is, says color psychology. Black and purple evoke elegance, sophistication, and power, which is exactly what luxury designers and high-end brands, from Chanel to Equinox, want you to feel.
While some companies adopt colors as tools to enhance dynamism and provoke emotions, others prefer to use them sporadically and to go with a monochromatic branding scheme. The use of a monochromatic scheme in layouts is a common marketing practice for designers who want to portray a balanced interface while focusing on the overall UX. Monochromatic designs are most effective for communicating simple messages. This color scheme consists of using a singular color in various shades and hues. It helps to create a minimalistic and sleek look that is very easy to the eye. A great example is A List Apart, a website for designers.
Colors meanings around the world
As it happens with most cultural factors, colors may have different connotations, be perceived, and evoke different meanings in certain parts of the world. Some countries, or even regions within specific countries, may attribute different values to different colors. The way cultures see and describe the meaning of color varies dramatically around the world. For instance, the Bassa people in Liberia only have two words for classifying colors (“ziza” for red/orange/yellow and “hui” for green/blue/purple), while the Inuit reportedly have 17 different words for white, alone, which are modified by different snow conditions.
The color purple, for example, typically represents attributes such as luxury, wealth, and royalty, but has a very different significance in Thailand where is worn when mourning. In Mexico, green is a national color that stands for independence.
Before launching global marketing campaigns, marketers need to research these cultural nuances in local regions and take them into account.
The proper use of color choice can support and empower brand awareness and readability. Colors can simplify navigation and enhance calls to action. The successful use of color for cross-border branding and content launches can be tricky, but there are relevant success stories all around: In the hot drinks market, for example, tea brand Lipton has successfully entered more than 110 markets, with particular popularity in Europe, the Middle East, North America, and parts of Asia. The brand’s distinctive yellow and red color palette is used all over the world. Lipton’s marketing campaigns are designed to be globally appropriate, but they are smartly re-adapted to fit the culture of each individual market.
Giuseppe Caltabiano is a Content and Digital Marketing Keynote Speaker and Author. Content Marketing Across Borders is his blog about Global Content Marketing.