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The Importance of Colour in Digital Marketing

Did you know that the colour scheme of your website could be the deciding factor for converting leads and increasing sales?

Colour is an influential but often underestimated feature of digital marketing. Different colours can affect our moods and emotions in different ways, and they hold a lot of weight when it comes to forming an opinion on a brand or product.

There’s an abundance of research confirming the significance of colour, including this study which found that up to 90% of a person’s opinion about a product is based on colour alone. And that decision is made within just 90 seconds of an initial interaction.

If you think back to your pre-school days, deciding on your favourite colour was probably right up there on your list of priorities, along with learning to write your name and trying to keep within the lines of your colouring book. You might have even snuck your favourite coloured pencils and crayons home in your backpack once or twice. We’re conditioned from a very young age to have an emotional attachment to colour. So it’s not surprising when you consider the importance it has in our purchase decisions.

The Biology of Colour

You’ve probably never thought about colour in this much detail, so, bear with us here. When you look at anything, your brain automatically recognises and differentiates between the different colours you are seeing. But it doesn’t stop there. The eyes send a message to the area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which triggers signals to the pituitary gland, endocrine system and thyroid glands. This cascading effect floods our body with hormones which influence our feelings and behaviour – all in a matter of seconds. If you’ve ever laid eyes on a certain colour, be it in a shirt, a shade of lipstick or a new car, instantly fell in love and felt like you just had to have it – this is why.

The Psychology of Colour

Earlier, we mentioned colours can affect our moods and emotions in different ways. But, the feelings colours evoke are different for different people.

That’s what makes the psychology of colour so complex.

Let’s start with favourite colours. Most of us have a few, and our favourites are likely reflected in purchases we wear or display like clothes, jewellery and vehicles.

Again, there are countless studies and surveys about colour, but this often cited survey reveals some solid findings about favourite colours according to gender. It found that blue was the most common favourite colour of both males (57%) and females (34%), followed by green (14%) and black (9%) for males, and purple (23%) and green (14%) among females.

So, according to this survey at least, blue and green make great unisex colour options if you want to appeal to a broad audience.

But when it comes to how colours make us feel, things get a bit trickier.

Some brands choose colours that naturally make us think of their product, think mocha brown for coffee, or orange for Fanta. But a lot of branding aims to evoke emotions or feelings in the viewer with the use of colour. This colour wheel illustrates the wide variety of symbolism associated with colours in different cultures. For example:

White commonly represents purity, marriage and luxury in Western society, but in Chinese and Hindu communities it’s the colour of death.

Red is symbolic of good luck in Africa, Eastern Europe and China, but more commonly associated with danger in Japanese and Western cultures.

Blue is associated with loyalty in Western, Japanese and Eastern European cultures, love in Africa and creativity in Hindu societies, but it represents unhappiness for Native Americans and trouble in South America.

Sometimes conflicts in colour symbolism can even occur within the same culture.

Green evokes thoughts of jealousy in Western and Japanese cultures, but also represents nature, good luck, and growth in these same countries.

Purple is associated with decadence and flamboyance in Western society, but also modesty, mystery, and cruelty.

And some colours seem to have mostly negative connotations across all cultures  

Yellow is the colour of illness and deceit for Hindu and Japanese cultures, mourning in Eastern Europe, danger for Native Americans and cowardice for Western and Japanese communities. (Just to confuse you even more, yellow represents health in China and happiness in Western countries.)

Black is associated with evil, death, mourning and unhappiness across Western, Japanese, Hindu and Asian cultures. But it’s also the colour of style and authority in Western society.

Confused? Don’t worry, we were too. But we’ve drilled down to find the takeaway message here, which is get to know your audience and define your brand’s identity. Who are you targeting? Where are they from? What should your colour scheme say about your business? And how do you want people to feel about your brand? For best results, limit your colour scheme to just a few colours, or apply several shades of a single colour.

This graphic by The Logo Company illustrates how major brands have embraced this colour psychology:

How Brands have embraced colour psychology

Colours that make us Click

Marketers are increasingly A/B testing the colours of links and Call To Action (CTA) buttons on websites and digital marketing campaigns.

The aim is to identify which colour combinations are more successful at influencing customers to click.

You’ve probably already guessed, the results are conflicting…

The Button Colour A/B Test by Hubspot found that Red Beats Green, with a red ‘Get Started Now’ CTA button outperforming the green by 21%.

In another case study, a Big Orange Button, affectionately termed BOB, increased conversions by 32.5%.

And in yet another test, a blue button beat orange by 9%.

We’ve analysed these studies and the underlying common factor is this: the most successful CTA buttons are in a contrasting colour that stands out against the background.

Seeing in Colour

A lot of people assume Facebook’s colour palette is mostly blue because it represents dependability and loyalty. But the main reason is founder Mark Zuckerberg is colour blind.

Colour blindness is more common than you might realise. One in 12 men and one in 200 women are colour blind. There are several variations of the condition, but all colour blindness makes most colours appear different to how they actually look.

Given the prevalence of colour blindness and other vision challenges, websites and marketing materials should be optimised for visual accessibility.

Some solutions for improving digital design for colour blind and vision impaired people is simple design elements, limited colour palette, high contrast text, and incorporating the use of symbols and patterns.

Our Conclusions on Colour

  • Choose colours that represent your product physically OR colours that are symbolic of your brand values
  • Take into account the cultural interpretations of colour according to your target audience
  • Limit your colour palette to no more than three major colours or use several shades of a single colour
  • Vary the prominence of each colour so they aren’t fighting for attention
  • Embrace white space
  • Avoid neon and low-contrast colour combinations which can be difficult to see
  • Test, test and test again. What works for one brand may not work for you.

As you can see, there is no easy answer to the question we’re all asking – what colours get conversions and sales success online?

By studying the psychology of colour and the many surveys and reports about the most influential colour schemes, we can conclude this is yet another area of marketing that should be customised to each unique brand and audience for the best results.


Source: How Colors Affect Conversions – Infographic

 

Image Sources:

  1. http://www.playbuzz.com/dimisi10/what-colour-are-you-personality-quiz
  2. Sourced with permission from https://thelogocompany.net/blog/infographics/psychology-color-logo-design/

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