Why Color Theory Matters in Marketing, and How to Use it to Your Advantage

The human brain is a complex organ that is capable of many amazing things. The brain is able to make emotional connections through seemingly unrelated sights, sounds, and smells. For marketers, understanding how these senses influence emotions can help optimize ads and other marketing materials for increased engagement and conversions. One of the most studied and easiest to manipulate sensory devices is color theory and how the brain processes color. 

The brain makes connections based on colors, products, and the links between them.  Understanding how these associations work and how to best use them can bridge the gap between your brand and your target audience. For many years, psychologists have studied the way that colors affect our emotions and behavior. Choosing the right palette is important because it can influence a customer’s emotions, perceptions, and subconscious behaviors. 

Due to the influence color has on people’s emotions, it can be used as a powerful marketing tool. In fact, studies show that color is the main purchasing factor for close to 93% of people. For this reason, the color you choose to add to your content should vary depending on what actions you want the user to take or what your end goal is. The goal is to find a color scheme for your brand that conveys what your business is about, while also being welcoming to users.

Let’s dive into some basic color theory and how you can use it for your marketing efforts.

Color Theory: How colors can influence emotions

Knowing where each color lies on the color wheel and the specific vibes it creates is an important first step to understanding color theory. There are an infinite amount of colors that can be created, but they all stem from the three main primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. The secondary colors on the wheel are created by mixing two of the primary colors together, including green, purple, and orange. Each color is unique and is responsible for invoking different emotional responses. Whether it’s for a CTA or a logo for your brand; it’s important to know which situations to use each one.

Primary Colors and Their Meanings

Red – Red is a powerful color that can be used to convey a multitude of emotions, like love and fear. Have you ever wondered why most CTAs and clearance sale signage is red? It’s because red can produce physical reactions in people, like increased blood pressure and heart rate, making it a great color to convey a sense of urgency. For restaurants or snack brands, red tends to also be the color of choice because it has been shown to encourage appetite. This is why you see brands like McDonald’s, Kellog’s, Lay, and Nabisco incorporating red in their logos.

Yellow – Due to it’s bright and cheery hue, yellow is often associated with happiness, optimism, and warmth. Studies have found that this color can stimulate the nervous system and mental process, making it a great color to build connections in the minds of consumers. Brands that want to come off as high-energy and cheerful can benefit from using this in their branding.

Blue – The color blue evokes feelings of serenity, calmness, and tranquility. Depending on the tone of blue used, it can also convey feelings of security, trust, sadness, and even intelligence. Blue is typically the color choice for more conservative brands, as users perceive it as more conservative and neutral.

Color Theory: Secondary Colors and Their Meaning

Green – Typically when most people think of the color green, they imagine leaves and plants in nature. This color is often used as a symbol of tranquility, peace, optimism, and health in marketing. Some studies even suggest it can be a great color for encouraging decisiveness.

Orange – Orange is a color known for its warmth, that can be used to convey both excitement and caution. Orange logos are often used to show that a brand is friendly and confident.

This tends to be a great color choice for CTAs, because it’s been shown to inspire people to take action. 

Purple – Purple is a color of royal stature and is used to convey feelings of success, creativity, and imagination. In marketing, purple can often be found on anti-aging and beauty products because it also conveys a notion of superiority. This color is great for making your product seem like the better choice against others.

Color Theory: Using Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are important when it comes to designing marketing collateral. Complementary colors are those that lie directly across from each other on the color wheel, including combinations like red and green, blue and orange, as well as yellow and purple. Using two complementary colors is a good tactic for calling attention to a particular place on a page or helping info stand out.

Choosing the Colors that Work Best for Your Brand

First, you must determine your brand goals and find colors that illustrate your business’ values. By studying each color carefully and the emotions they create, you can align and occupy the right space in the mind’s of your users. When in doubt, test it out! It can be hard narrowing down your options, but testing out different colors on your site or in your CTA’s can help you find what resonates best with consumers.

 Sometimes, it takes a team to help steer you in the right direction. The design team at Cape and Bay create compelling graphics that illustrate the story of who your business really is. Ready to learn more? Let’s chat.

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