Understanding the purpose of color

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Busting The Color Conversion Myth

Color doesn’t happen on accident. Except in finger painting, of course.

In the world of marketing, everything has a purpose, and color is no exception. From the logo to the landing page, color is instrumental in communicating to customers what your purpose is, what image you’re projecting and, most importantly, how you want them to feel.

There’s been a lot of talk on the internet about which colors convert the best in online marketing, but most experts agree that a one-stop solution doesn’t work. What works for an organic produce shop might deter customers from an online software company. So no matter how many websites swear they’ve figured out the definitive answer to the color conundrum, the truth is, no one really knows for sure.

So what do we know? Well, for starters…

Color matters. A lot.

Just because there’s no one perfect color doesn’t mean there’s no one perfect color for your company. Blindly throwing together a color palette doesn’t work for anyone, because, like everything else in marketing, customers don’t respond to spontaneity. They respond to research.

According to Kissmetrics, people make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds, and up to 90 percent of that judgment is based on color alone.

Check out this page from NASA’s Color Usage Research Lab, where they detail the importance of color usage in display graphics. Even astronauts care about color, so business owners probably should, too.

That being said, color doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Different cultures and disciplines understand color differently, and what represents “mourning” to one nation may project “wealth” to another. (Hint: we’re talking about purple!)

Gender affects color psychology as well—though generally, everyone hates orange. Data suggests the colors that appeal best to women are blue, purple and green, and men are drawn toward blue, green and black. That might explain why so many of the world’s largest social media networks (think Facebook and Twitter) use blue as their primary design color.

Something else to consider when choosing colors for your business or product—words associated with color. The English language has a way of making phrases out of color cliches, like “green with envy,” but there are other words that have been found to relate to specific colors as well.

In a study, researcher Joe Hallock found the following associations to be most prevalent:
  • Trust, 34% of respondents chose the color blue.
  • Speed: 76% chose red, which may explain all those speeding tickets for red Ferrari’s!
  • High quality: 46% of respondents said black communicated high quality to them.
  • Reliability: 43% picked blue!
  • Fun: This one was close, with 28% picking orange and 26% choosing yellow!

So which colors should I use?

So you understand the basics of why color is important, but now comes the hard part—deciding which colors to use in your own design. Again, there is no “correct” answer. The most reliable way to find the color that works for you is going to be about the same answer we find in any area of marketing: test, change and test again.
Yep, no surprise here…A/B testing is the best way to figure out which color converts best for you. Luckily, you don’t have to start off blindly testing colors. By now you understand the basic principles of color association, so start by brainstorming there.
How do you want people to associate your brand? Do you want to be seen as reliable? Fast?
Think about your target customer.
  • What do they look like?
  • How do they dress?
  • Where do they go out to eat?
  • How do they decorate their home?
Starting with a detailed, hyper-focused vision of your target customer (and we mean target customer, as in the person you like the MOST, better than anyone else!) makes the entire creative process easier.

We’ve talked on the site before the importance of a brand inspiration board, so that might be a good first step. Make a Pinterest board that you think your target customer would curate. Spend some time surfing the web for images that stand out to you, and use a color picker to pull colors that you think both represent your brand and create the word association you’re looking for.

No matter what color(s) you end up with, nothing means more in design and business than authenticity. Don’t choose something because it’s popular, and stray away from magical colors or design principles that anyone claims to be a quick fix. So long as you’re making choices that reflect your vision and elevate your business, you will find people who love and connect with your brand. It’s inevitable!

- Lexi Merritt, Vandelay Design