Is Your Color Scheme Killing Your Campaign?

Commerce is more than simply paying money and receiving a good or service.  And consumers consider more than just the price and features of an item before making a purchase.   Shopping is an experience.  Whether consumers are aware of it or not, certain emotional and psychological triggers have a huge effect on spending habits.   Everything from the signage and window displays out front to the layout and ambience of the interior create the carefully devised “feel” of the store.  Small details can evoke very specific responses in consumers.  As marketers, it is our job to make sure these triggers are leveraged in ways that make campaigns as successful and efficient as possible.

Choose colors wisely. They each send distinct messages to consumers.

Color in particular is very important for marketers.  Based on our culture, experiences, and upbringing, our brains are wired to react to different colors in distinct ways.   For example, from a young age we are conditioned to associate green with “go”, yellow with “slow down”, and red with “stop”.  A recent study tested the visibility of signage at the ends of aisles at a major retailer.  Shoppers denied even seeing the signs except when they were yellow.  Just like motorists drive through a green light without giving it another thought, shoppers walked right past the neon green signs.  Yellow triggers the response to slow down and so shoppers actually took time to read the signs.   The researchers noted shoppers probably didn’t notice the red signage because they blended into a sea of other red signs already in the store.

Depending on setting and context, colors can evoke a number of different feelings and responses.  Even the shade of a color can change its meaning.   Here’s a list of main colors with their primary associations.

Red—Passion, urgency, love, anger, danger
This is a great example of how important context can be for color.   If it’s close to Valentine’s Day, red triggers feelings of love.  However, red road signs often signal drivers to use caution.   Also, red can physically affect the body, increasing heart rate, respiration, and metabolism.  This color is often seen advertising clearance sales.

Pink—Romance, femininity, calmness
Pink evokes feelings of love and is often used to market products to women and girls.  Some sports teams paint the opponent’s locker room pink because of its calming affect.

Orange—Joy, aggression, youth
This is a very fun and energetic color that is often used to inspire a call to action.  Darker shades of orange are often associated with the earth and autumn.

Yellow—Optimism, happiness
Yellow is seen as a fun and cheery color, although too much of it can be hard on the eyes.   It is often used to grab attention of window shoppers since people are conditioned to slow down when they see yellow.

Green—Wealth, nature, environment
Dark green creates feelings of wealth and thoughts of money while light green encourages relaxation and is associated with the earth and the environment.   Many recycling programs use light green in promotional materials.

Blue—Trust, security, calmness, responsibility
Banks and businesses often use blue to inspire trust and communicate professionalism.  Shade is very import in this case as well.   While dark blue is associated with security, light blue is associated with friendliness and calmness.

Purple—Royalty, luxury, soothing
Purple is associated with status and dignity, though light purple can create feelings of love and romance.   Because of its calming affect, it is often used to market beauty or anti-aging products as well.

Black—Power, elegance
Black goes well with just about any color and is commonly used to market luxury goods.

White—Purity, goodness, minimalism
Like black, white goes well with other colors.  Although it typically has a positive and pure connotation, when used alone it can create a feeling of emptiness.

Red-orange, black, and royal blue are typically used to attract impulse shoppers and can be seen at fast food restaurants, outlet malls, and clearance sales.  Dark blue and teal are used to attracted shoppers on a budget and often are used at banks or large department stores

Using color in marketing is an art, not an exact science.  Context and culture are very important.  With that in mind, what are some brands that use color psychology effectively in marketing?   Can you think of any brands that use colors that are out of line with the message they want to send their customers?

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