We are all affected by colour in one way or another. It feeds its way into everything we do, trickling into our lives through our physical surroundings and our online world. Colour influences you more than you think and is one of the most overlooked elements in creating successful online marketing.
Think about it, we as a species have an innate ability to process and react to colour. Evolution tells us that red means danger. We learn how to read the world around us with the colours that we see. So, with online marketing, you can harness the power of colour to invoke emotion and also, in turn, persuasion.
Whether you’re creating a brand or designing a website, using the right colours is the key to having a professional, convincing, appealing and quality brand identity, that is consistent across all channels. It defines your brand, helping you to stand out in this crowded market.
Many specialists have made theories about the psychology of colour. The theories explore the psychological impact of colours on people’s mood and emotion. But, to understand more about colour theory, we have to look at what colour actually is.
Objects do not necessarily bear colour. Colour is the human eye’s perception of the way something reflects or emits light. So, black and white aren’t actually colours because the spectrum of light only includes red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Different colours are perceived due to the distributed wavelengths of an object. Longer wavelengths produce colours like red, orange and yellow. The shorter the wavelengths get, the further along the colour scale.
To put this into context, Faber Birren explored this in his work on colour psychology. He is perhaps one of the most famous colour theorists and one of his ideas is that with maturity, comes a greater liking for colour hues with shorter wavelengths i.e. blue, green and purple, than those with longer wavelengths.
But this is just a small part of a long theory that explains which colours invoke which responses. A theory which centres around the idea that it is not necessarily the colour itself that produces emotion, but an individual’s perception of it. When you think about this in terms of your online marketing, it allows you to make more of an informed decision for the colours of your brand and how it might affect your audience.
Now that we know a little more about colour theory, we can delve into how you choose colours. For this, most people refer to the colour wheel. The colour wheel is simply a piece of concept art that orders the colours into a circle to depict the relationships between primary, secondary and tertiary colours.
The wheel shows us that colours opposite each other are complementary, and a number of other ways you can experiment with colour combinations.
For example, colours that are next to each other are analogous while colours at a radial separation of 120 degrees form a triad of colours. One colour combination is called ‘split complementary’ which takes a base colour, with the two colours on either side of its opposite.
Once you understand how colours work together on the colour wheel, you can look into the visual parameters of colour. Visual parameters include the hue, value, saturation, shade, tint and tone. All of these parameters manipulate the colour to produce something different.
So, when you’re designing a website, email or other online marketing tool, you can use the colour wheel for a baseline, if you’re in the early (but no less important) stages of selecting colours. But what else do you need to think about?
All of the theories about colour are just theories, so it is important to remember that there are plenty of other things to consider when choosing colours, and sometimes you may need to test and experiment to see what reactions you get.
The first thing you should think about when designing anything for a company is the brand message. How does your brand or your clients brand want to be viewed? The colours will be a reflection of the brand’s core values and principles, so it must be in keeping with the right brand message.
You may think that this is more about design, but the colour choice is important here too. For instance, there is a reason why so many fast food restaurants use the colour red. Research suggests that the colour red and even the colour yellow make you hungry, so restaurants can utilise this. The instantly recognisable colours tell you straight away that the brand is a food establishment.
This example also illustrates that the colours you choose should invoke the desired emotion in your audience. Whatever you want them to do, the colours of your brand or website should have the desired effect. Just like how yellow and red colours will make people feel hungry and buy the food.
Another important element to consider when selecting colours is to think about your audience. As Birren says, how people perceive colour can be affected by their age, amongst many other factors. For example, research suggests that children are attracted to the colour yellow, as well as many other primary colours. But, in addition to age, you must also think about the kind of people you are targeting. Where do they live? What do they do? These are all pieces of information that can help you choose the right colours.
Nothing helps you remember a company like the colours of their branding. So, if you want to make an impact on people through your online advertising, colour is at the heart of it. It is proven that memory retention and recall are enhanced by colours, so when you think about your marketing and brand awareness, you can see how important the use of colours is.
Also, first impressions never die. If your audience is only going to get a glimpse of your branding, you want to make a good first impression. For example, if your website pops up in the organic search results, or your PPC ad is clicked on, people will take a look at your website and decide straight away whether it is what they were looking for. A bad colour scheme can result in high bounces rates where people will instantly click away from your website. Your audience likely wants to see something that looks professional and high quality. This is similar to email marketing. If your email isn’t visually appealing, it’s going straight in the trash folder.
Not to be left out, is how important the use of colours is in CRO (conversion rate optimisation). When selecting colours for your call-to-action buttons etc, you may need to test colour combinations to see which ones are the most effective. Another point to consider is making the colours accessible for those with poor eyesight, having a yellow button with white text isn’t going to work!
It goes without saying that these colours should stand out and make people want to click them, but how else can you encourage your audience to convert? Think again about the psychology of colour, which will help you predict how people will behave.
Colour is a powerful tool in your arsenal when it comes to online marketing. So, next time you go to create a website or design an email, consider your colours before anything else, to help you improve your brand message and ultimately increase your conversions and brand awareness. For more advice, visit the rest of our blog, or get in touch with the Colewood team today, to see how we can help.