Color psychology involves studying how different shades and hues affect someone’s behavior or feelings. Color has a surprisingly strong influence on the human psyche and can dictate whether an advertising campaign is successful or mediocre.
Here are six ways that using color could change the results of your marketing efforts:
1. Background Color Can Make Displayed Products Seem More Attractive
When aiming to take an appealing picture, you’ve probably tried to choose a flattering background. Science suggests that doing the same when selling products could pay off. One study involved participants evaluating several common vegetables placed against different backgrounds.
The results indicated that cool and warm colors like blue and orange were not ideal for the backdrops. Black emerged as the overall background winner, and it gave the most significant positive effects when combined with carrots. That could be due to the orange-black pairing offering excellent contrast.
Although this study focused solely on vegetables, consider applying its findings to anything you want to sell. The wrong background color could make a product seem washed-out or make it difficult for a person to perceive the true hue when shopping online. A strong product and backdrop pairing could draw attention and encourage people to linger as they check out the merchandise.
2. Color — or the Lack of It — Can Help People Focus on Different Elements
Color also comes into play concerning what attributes of an item people notice most frequently. A team at Ohio State University questioned the common assumption that showing products in color is always best.
Their study involved asking college students to imagine a scenario of going to a remote campsite where they could only hear one radio station. They then saw two possible radios to rent and had to pick the preferred one for such a setting.
The images showed an analog radio available for $10 per day and a digital $18-a-day version with many preset buttons that looked nice but would not help the participants hear more content.
When the group saw black and white images of the radios, 75% of them chose the analog radio — a practical choice given the circumstances. When shown the color versions of the pictures, half of them selected the digital radio despite it having features that would not function in the isolated destination.
Based on those results and the outcomes from a similar study that displayed both color and black-and-white content to the participants, the researchers believe seeing something in black and white helps people notice form and function but not the smaller details like unique features. That effect happens due to how the brain interprets environmental stimuli.
Company representatives should consider that conclusion when finalizing choices about marketing colors. If the goal is to make people notice the presence of lots of small buttons and switches, for example, a color image could help that happen. Conversely, if the product is more basic in its build — a smart speaker with a single front-facing button, for example — black and white imagery could be the best bet.
3. Colors Can Shape the Characteristics People Use to Identify a Brand
Do you want to increase the likelihood of people associating your brand with particular desirable attributes? Boosting those chances may involve choosing the right colors.
Researchers from the University of Oregon and the University of Cincinnati wondered whether certain colors in marketing made people associate a product with eco-friendliness.
They showed people logos for made-up companies paired with colors from real, well-known brands. Participants saw the blue and green shades used in Walmart and Sam’s Club logos, plus the red chosen for the lettering on a Trader Joe’s sign.
The results showed that blue and green were more likely to make people think of eco-friendliness as a brand’s characteristic. They did not make that conclusion as often when seeing the red hue. A surprising related finding is that people connected blue with eco-friendliness even more often than green, although the action of “going green” is significant in popular culture.
Marketers can apply this finding more broadly for other kinds of products, too, as they use color psychology to shape brand identity perceptions. For example, if a company sells essential oils and wants to draw attention to all-natural ingredients, it’s probably not the smartest choice to go with potentially jarring colors like lime green and neon pink.
Companies concerned about color variations occurring during a product’s creation — or within its packaging — should consider using a color measurement tool such as a colorimeter. Brands depend on those devices during the production and inspection processes, recognizing them as invaluable for color quality control.
4. Color-Coded Information Can Influence Purchases
When calorie-conscious people shop for food, they often spend significant amounts of time poring over the content on product labels to determine how to make the best choices. Researchers found what may be a much easier, worthwhile way to influence their decisions, however.
Scientists applied traffic light-style calorie indicators to the menu options for an internet-based food ordering platform. Something with a red symbol had a higher calorie count than one with a green graphic, for example. The team wanted to investigate whether that kind of color-specific system worked as well as showing consumers numerical caloric values on a package.
The conclusions revealed that, if used online, the color messaging was as effective as displaying numbers to denote calories. Moreover, if people saw either numbers or traffic light indicators alone or together, any of those three informational methods reduced the total calories of the food items ordered by 10%. This number proved a major difference compared to when consumers did not have accessible calorie count details.
If your company sells consumables and needs a straightforward way to help people make nutritional choices, the color-centric system could work best. Sticking to the traffic light combination makes the message universally understood. In contrast, individuals might understandably have difficulty figuring out how a meal with 640 calories fits into their overall dietary needs.
5. Well-Chosen Website Button Colors Can Encourage Desirable Actions
Many discussions about colors in marketing include people weighing in on factors that may seem inconsequential to the average person. Button colors for online forms get hotly debated, for example. A company called Amasty, which sells e-commerce plugins, analyzed colors for “Buy” and “Add to Cart” buttons to find the most popular hues.
The study’s results showed that button color preferences among marketers vary by industry. A look at the most popular button hues across the top 100 global shopping sites found that red comprised the most-used color 20% of the time, but green, blue and orange were close behind — accounting for 19%, 18% and 17% of the total, respectively.
The breakdown differed across specific store categories, however. Red remained the top choice for food retailers, with brands choosing it 29% of the time. Then, electronics stores went with red and green buttons equally, selecting each one 21% of the time. Clothing retailers, however, preferred black buttons, implementing those in 23% of instances. However, 23% of apparel brands also chose hues in an “Other” category, including pink, brown, violet and white.
Try not to stick too closely to whatever color your industry chooses most often for buttons. It’s more important to make the button text readable and help it stand out against surrounding hues. Additionally, if customers associate a specific shade or color combo with your brand, using those for buttons could support broader brand strengthening efforts.
6. Having an Influencer Showcase a Large Assortment of Product Colors Can Introduce Mistrust
Is your company thinking about working with influencers? Research indicates that if you take that route, color psychology could impact the outcomes.
Research spotlighted by The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) found that if brands used influencers to promote products that come in many colors or offer other options, people might be less likely to trust those tastemakers’ opinions. As the available variations go up, people feel uncertain about the influencer’s ability to recommend a product based on quality.
For example, if they see an online celebrity showing off a sweater available in eight colors, consumers may wonder, “Does she like it because that shade looks nice with her skin tone, or does her opinion come from its softness and ability to withstand multiple washes?” The scientists working on the project clarified that adjustments made to the product variety could directly influence consumer inferences about quality and therefore affect purchases.
Stay mindful of that result while ironing out what goods your influencers highlight and how. Consider having them back a product with no or fewer variations rather than something offered in numerous colors.
Color Psychology Can Make a Difference
As these six examples prove, chosen colors may impact product sales and marketing campaign outcomes. Instead of solely relying on these studies, however, research which hues your audience responds most favorably to and include that data in your decisions.