Revealing Secrets About The Color Of Marketing

Kelly: Why should we take color into consideration when it​ comes to​ marketing?

Karen: Actually,​ let’s back up. Color is​ our worldview – it’s instinctive,​ human and intrinsic to​ who we are. So we have an​ emotional,​ unconscious response to​ different colors. This is​ what matters in​ marketing – the​ emotional response – and color is​ a​ piece of​ that.

Kelly: So we’re having reactions to​ a​ logo or​ website based on​ color,​ and don’t even know it?

Karen: Yes,​ and there are also scientific ways of​ thinking about color,​ that help us elicit a​ certain response. For example,​ if​ you​ consider the​ color wheel,​ there are warm colors and cool colors. And each of​ these tones will provoke a​ different response: warm gets an​ active response,​ cool gets us a​ calming response.

So with marketing,​ you​ have to​ ask – what’s going to​ work with your message? Warm colors in​ nature,​ like red and yellow (think sun and fire),​ indicate action. When you​ see or​ feel fire in​ nature,​ it​ can either draw you​ in​ or​ be a​ sign to​ get out of​ danger. Either way,​ the​ unconscious message is​ to​ “act now!”

On the​ other hand,​ cool colors don’t elicit action – they invoke serene,​ calm,​ stability (like our earth and sky) – so the​ message is​ “steady as​ she goes,​” and “we’re stable.” if​ you’re trying to​ calm the​ viewer or​ impart a​ sense of​ timelessness,​ blues and cooler colors are good.

And then there are all the​ variations – combinations of​ the​ three primary colors – that are very complex,​ when it​ comes to​ our unconscious responses. an​ interesting example is​ how pink is​ used in​ prisons to​ stimulate a​ more human response.

Kelly: So now let’s apply this to​ marketing. How does color impact our brand identity and our marketing message?

Karen: in​ marketing,​ you’re looking to​ connect with your audience. So it’s important to​ include some form of​ warm tones to​ help people feel comforted,​ and bring in​ the​ sense of​ humanity. Even if​ you’re going after an​ industrial or​ serene feel,​ you​ need to​ temper cool neutrals with something warmer. Blacks,​ grays and blues tend to​ be very cold and sterile. By just adding an​ element of​ warmth,​ you​ can completely change the​ response a​ logo or​ identity triggers.

You see red a​ lot in​ logos because it​ means action. When you​ work outside of​ the​ primary colors (anything but red,​ yellow or​ blue),​ you​ create an​ edgier,​ more complex feel. So orange is​ warm,​ but edgy,​ because it’s not a​ prime color. And purple is​ very complex – it’s warm and cool,​ and can shift depending on​ light and other colors around.

Kelly: What advice do you​ have for how to​ use color in​ marketing materials? Where and when does it​ matter to​ pay attention to​ color?

Karen: Obviously color matters everywhere…the first place to​ pay attention to​ it​ is​ in​ your identity. It’s your first chance to​ say if​ you’re contemporary and hip,​ cool and industrial,​ warm and humanistic,​ intellectual and solid,​ stable and traditional…and you​ can combine things. Like if​ you​ sell to​ the​ federal government,​ you​ could portray “intelligent and stable” using blues and grays…but if​ you’re in​ the​ homeland security business,​ you’d want to​ demand action - address an​ urgent issue – so you​ could add shades of​ orange.

On the​ other hand,​ an​ Asian antique company in​ the​ city is​ completely different – we’ll look at​ jewel tones as​ a​ nod to​ the​ orient,​ but make it​ hip and urban,​ using slate gray in​ the​ color scheme.

Color can be a​ fairly inexpensive way to​ make a​ statement. For example,​ a​ bright red postcard with large-font type on​ it​ is​ more likely to​ be picked up then something gray-blue. Using a​ hot color – and a​ lot of​ it​ – may be all the​ design you​ need. Now this wouldn’t work for a​ hip urban spa,​ so you​ have to​ keep in​ mind what you’re selling. if​ you’re selling “tranquil” – bright yellow isn’t the​ answer. But something with a​ warm color,​ like beige,​ mixed in​ with the​ serenity imparted by gray or​ green would work.

Kelly: So what’s the​ one thing you​ wish your clients would do that would make it​ easier for you​ to​ help them when it​ comes to​ color? Karen: Not think that blue is​ the​ only color on​ the​ planet! Really,​ it’s a​ safe color…it’s everywhere around us…in large doses – the​ sky,​ the​ ocean. So there’s a​ comfort level with it. I also think people are afraid to​ take a​ risk. But if​ you​ think of​ very successful companies that took big risks with color,​ think of​ UPS. Nobody was using brown in​ their logo back in​ the​ 60’s! For small companies,​ this can feel like they’re putting everything on​ the​ line.

The smaller the​ business,​ the​ more compelling the​ reason to​ take color risks – you​ don’t have a​ whole team out there marketing for you,​ so your logo and business card have to​ do a​ lot of​ work for you.

Kelly: Do you​ have a​ story or​ example you'd like to​ share that illustrates what we've been talking about...maybe a​ client success story or​ surprising outcome?

Karen: a​ couple come to​ mind. One is​ TurningPointe’s colors. I pay attention to​ off-hand comments – so when you​ joked about using pink and black to​ reflect your background in​ ballet…and I thought,​ why not? So playing with warmer variations led us to​ your pink and warm brown palette – a​ combination we hadn’t done before. Your pink and brown is​ much warmer,​ human and comforting. the​ fact that they turned out to​ be such popular colors was just luck.

Another example is​ that we just did a​ tradeshow booth with wild,​ hot colors,​ for a​ conservative audience…but they stood out in​ the​ cold,​ austere convention center. They were really in-your-face and it​ worked great – people just flocked to​ their booth.

In another case,​ we adjusted color from purely cool and industrial – what the​ client said they wanted – to​ add more warm tones. So without changing the​ design layout,​ it​ made all the​ difference.

Kelly: Where can people go to​ learn you​ have any favorite websites or​ resources?

Karen: Go to​ – this is​ the​ industry standard for color,​ period. the​ Pantone Institute has lots of​ helpful resources and articles. They also do color forecasting,​ so you​ can see predicted color trends for the​ coming years.

Kelly: Any final thoughts?

Karen: Trust your instincts. There is​ a​ science to​ color,​ but it’s not complicated. It’s also okay to​ choose a​ color because you​ love it​ and it​ makes you​ happy. I’d go back to​ where we started – color is​ about eliciting hidden human emotions. So pay attention to​ your own,​ when it​ comes to​ choosing color.

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