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Choosing Colors for Conversion: How Color Influences Marketing

From product packaging to CTA (call to action) buttons on your website, the opportunity to optimize your marketing efforts with color are endless. Every color on the color wheel can tell a different story or provoke a different mood. So if you’re a marketer, you might wonder exactly which combination of colors will make your audience more likely to convert? Unfortunately, the psychology of color is not all black and white. There is no one size fits all. To find the answer to your question, you’ll need a deeper insight into color psychology research, a solid understanding of who your audience is, and a clear context of the product you are marketing.

The Psychology Of Color

As humans, we’re notably visual beings. Color has the ability to affect different people in different ways. It can hold different connotations across gender, culture, and age. Color psychology is an area of research that looks at how color influences our behavior and decision-making. Yet, there tends to be a lot of controversy around color psychology due to the minimal amount of scientific research on the topic. A quick google search can leave you sifting through tons of infographics defining psychological traits associated with each color, but there isn’t any scientific evidence to back it up.

The reality is that color is not a universal language and the way you react to it can be heavily dependent on the culture you came from. For example, in the United States, red can imply danger (stop sign) or importance (red carpet). In China, red represents prosperity and happiness. In other eastern cultures, red is worn by brides on their wedding days for good luck. In South Africa, red is considered the color of mourning. Research says that personal preferences, experiences, upbringings, culture, and context can make the perception of color differ from one person to another.

But this isn’t to say we shouldn’t be paying attention to color. Within the small pool of scientific evidence that does exist, one study finds that it takes a person roughly 90 seconds to make up their minds about a product and that 60-90% of that judgment is based on colors alone. The idea that color has an effect on us should not be ignored, especially by marketers.

Making Informed Decisions Around Color

The research that does exist on colors in relation to branding states that it’s important for colors to support the personality you want to portray instead of attempting to match a stereotypical color association.

While there are no clear-cut guidelines for choosing colors for your branding and marketing, determining the context your brand or product is working within is essential. Context is the feeling, mood, or image you are trying to convey. The study “Dimensions of Brand Personality” states that there are five core dimensions that can determine a brand’s personality. Your brand will typically be dominated by one of these, although there are instances where the personality can cross between two:

Sincerity
Down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful.

Excitement
Daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date.

Competence
Reliable, intelligent, successful.

Sophistication
Upper-class, charming.

Ruggedness
Outdoorsy, tough.

Again, there is no one size fits all color guide for the dimensions described above. However, being clear on which category your brand personality falls into is a major part of the equation, followed by a solid understanding of who your audience is.

Know Your Audience

Understanding the demographics of your target audience will be incredibly insightful for choosing what colors should dominate your marketing collateral. As mentioned earlier, colors hold different symbolism from one culture to another. So, if you plan on sharing marketing materials with different regions, your design may not work across the board.

Designers and marketers also generally take gender into account when deciding on color. Yet, holding this demographic in such high regard seems to become more obsolete as time goes on. In fact, there are many brands that are rewarded for breaking through gender norms, and this is something to keep in mind. This interesting study produced the results of favorite and least favorite colors amongst men and women. However, the study is only within the scope of western culture.

A/B Testing

We’re strong believers that you should make decisions based on insights gathered from customer data. A/B Testing is a great way to approach collecting data when it comes to experimenting with creative. One hotly debated topic amongst marketers, “what color should my CTA button be to bring in the most conversions?” was tested by Hubspot by changing the color on 2 different landing page designs and recording the results. Hubspot found that between red and green, the red button outperformed 21%. The results can of course change from audience to audience so it’s best to try A/B testing for yourself.

The Bottom Line

Color psychology is tricky and there’s a lot of information out there without evidence to back it up. There are many stereotypes and perceived associations when it comes to color, but factors like culture, upbringing, and preference can blur the lines. When choosing colors for your marketing and branding, the color palette will greatly depend on the context of the product, the personality your brand holds, and the audience in which you are targeting. Collecting data from your audience by testing different creative approaches is the most effective way to get the straight facts about what your audience will respond to the most, and have the most impact.