Psychology is everything in business.
To attract new customers, keep your current advocates magnetized and simply sell more, you must tap into their minds; communicating on both a conscious and subconscious level.
What does this mean?
Let’s demonstrate using a familiar sight…
We all know what ‘SALE NOW ON’ refers to — in a literal sense. However, what about the deeper meaning behind this message?
For instance, the subconscious mind may tell us there is urgency, 1) Due to the use of ‘NOW’, and 2) Because we are evermore conditioned (by brands) to believe such promotions are only temporary:
This isn’t how we intentionally think each time we see ‘SALE NOW ON’ — but psychologically, it’s making an impact on our frequent decisions as buyers.
Add color to the palette and it becomes all the more interesting.
Notice just a slight pattern here?
Red actually increases heart rate and encourages an urgent response, so it’s a hugely popular color in the display of promotions.
THINK: Which road signs are red? Only the major signals! It isn’t merely coincidence…
“Up to 90% of shoppers make snap judgements based on the influence of color.”
(Source: Emerald Insight)
More on this in a moment.
Visual cues are extraordinary marketing tools — they hold the power to influence both thought processes and the sentiment of customers, enough to alter the end result (purchase, or no purchase!).
Hit the spot, and they will keep coming back for more. A whopping 85% of customers are swayed by color when they buy.
(Infographic Source: Kissmetrics)
Ignoring the lure of color would be a colossal oversight.
It’s time to reach that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; here are 3 striking steps towards reaching colorful precision in your business.
REMEMBER: Your aim is targeted psychology that captivates your specific audience, not attempting to cater for the entire spectrum.
Step #1: Coordinate Your Collective Branding
It’s important to acknowledge that color relevance and consistency could carry just as much weight as color choice (if not more).
This means applying synchronized branding that reflects your company’s identity, rather than merely selecting colors based on the results of studies…
Let’s revisit the color red.
[It’s just too good an example to exclude.]
While other primary and secondary colors may evoke psychological reaction with some evidence of bodily effects, remember that red is a mighty color that is proven to command multiple physical responses (a faster heart rate, higher blood pressure and also appetite stimulation).
[Interestingly, blue is the other primary color that sparks mostly opposite physical effects.]
Think about many of the major food brands, and how their red logos make you feel…
(Image Source: Vector Art Illustrations)
But this doesn’t confirm we were born to react to this color.
It’s more likely — due to exposure over time, and the context of such — we become taught or nurtured to react in particular ways:
The red stop sign. The red ‘SALE NOW ON’ message. Big red buttons for time-sensitive action…
They all promote URGENCY, so this may be how we begin to naturally perceive the color.
IT’S ALL ABOUT CONTEXT
Take note of research and the overall usage of color by known brands across the globe — while honing in on what truly 1). Captivates your target audience, and 2). Suits your specific business personality.
This is essential. The whole context surrounding the colors you choose is what really impacts customers. Harmonize your branding with what your business stands for, and you will never veer off track…
Apple = White (Simple + Clean)
Fanta = Orange (Zesty + Fun)
Ralph Lauren = Black / White (Style + Strength)
Speaking of context, check this out:
“Heinz changed the color of their signature ketchup from red to green — selling over 10 million bottles in the first 7 months, resulting in $23 million in sales.”
This particular Heinz product was designed to attract the younger demographic — perfectly summing up how red (or any other color) matters depending on who you’re selling to.
Always look beyond any existing color research or usage; only use these references as starting points.
If green was so successful, why didn’t Heinz change their adult-targeted products in the same way..?
Because they likely knew it wouldn’t work, based on their knowledge.
There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from becoming the next metaphoric ‘blue’ McDonald’s, or a ‘purple’ KFC…
Your colors just need to work together; fully coordinated with your brand and target audience. That’s it!
In fact, the food industry is one of the best examples of such variation in color:
(Image Source: Behind The Brands)
Simply: There is no right or wrong.
You must assess stereotypes with care (they are not unwavering proof of success) — and even create your own.
How about a lilac ‘sale now on’ banner?
Yes — this was used by a UK shopping store, in real life…
As with any customer-focused decision in business:
- Conduct primary market research on color preferences via surveys, polls, interviews and buyer feedback
- Analyze secondary market research that’s already out there and available to you — there are many studies to be absorbed here, here and here
- Experiment, test, and repeat
On the topic of color testing, you would be crazy to miss out this key aspect of branding for glowing sales…
OPTIMIZING YOUR CALL-TO-ACTIONS (CTAs)
CTAs are typically the buttons on your website that direct visitors to take action — mainly, when they become either subscribers or customers.
Aside from the many other variables that come into play (such as pricing, positioning, text, font and design) — the contrast between backgrounds / surrounding colors and the color of your buttons are immensely important.
You want your CTAs to really POP out of the page, so your visitors can’t miss them…
Always think: High, yet fitting contrast (including that of your ‘action’ text).
(Image Source: PopSurvey)
NOTE: Be sure to remain on-brand and don’t stray (as tempting as it is to go wild). Else, you’re going to end up with a website that looks like this:
(Image Source: Branded3)
Ouch! The rainbow effect isn’t going to convert anybody, aside from perhaps leprechauns. Certainly no pot of gold here, though…
Use A/B testing tools to data-drive your decisions on CTA colors (+ much, much more):
(Infographic Source: Seth Wilson)
If you don’t have much traffic, you can even think about paying people to test (your target demographic / personas only, of course).
Try this awesome alternative tool to help you formulate and match brand colors:
BONUS: You can also try subtly tweaking your brand colors throughout the seasons.
Step #2: Target By Gender
An essential dimension of color for your consideration, demographical targeting is an overarching pillar of branding…
Gender is a subset not to be ignored.
We’re diving deeper into the ‘who’, rather than focusing on ‘what’ specific color to use for more sales.
Again, it can be easy to rely on stereotypes. However, this isn’t a solid strategy if you wish to attract your target customer.
Naturally, what color would you say men are drawn towards? And what about women..?
You might be surprised!
The study found both men and women preferred the color blue.
Now, it may be my own stereotype — but I’d suggest most people wouldn’t have accurately predicted this result.
[Smithsonian Magazine discussed how society and culture shaped blue into the standard color for boys, and pink for girls. Interestingly, it was once the complete opposite! Our ever-changing surroundings and culture have profound effects on generalization.]
So, why might both genders appreciate blue in branding?
Check out the stats for the world’s most valuable companies and the corresponding colors used in their logos:
(Infographic Sources: The Logo Factory)
This is notable because (aside from certain cultural differences) blue is closely associated with trust, security and quality.
The question of nature VS nurture comes into play; is this because we have been continually ‘programmed’, or were we born to react to blue this way?
No matter the answer, it’s difficult to query the color’s widespread validity when so many folk behind top-tier brands have chosen the color blue to represent themselves.
From trendy to detested — here are the findings for our least favorite colors (by gender):
Brown and orange are apparently disliked by both sexes.
As communicated earlier — studies are helpful, but not definitive guidelines.
Here are some key takeaway stats to remember as reference points:
- The majority of both men (56%) and women (76%) favor ‘cooler’ shades of colors
- Men have been found to enjoy bold and bright colors significantly more than women
- Blue is generally a safe color to use (but still, wait until you finish reading this piece…)
- Green is another gender-neutral choice to consider (I repeat, stay until the end!)
- Men were found to dislike brown the most, while women tend to dislike orange
- Hone your color choice in favor of your ideal buyer’s gender group, if your products and/or services are gender-specific (or gear your palette towards whichever gender presents a much larger proportion of your customer base)
TOOLS TO USE
Colr.org — Upload images, discover granular colors within, then create your own palettes
Colorspire.com — Visualize a template webpage in lots of custom color schemes
Pictaculous.com — Tells you what color palettes to use alongside any uploaded image
Coolors.co — A super-modern color scheme generator with quick sharing capabilities
COLOURlovers.com — Choose example palettes then create your own patterns / styles
Just remember: It’s impossible to please every person when it comes to color choice.
At the same time, you don’t want to alienate potential customers (of a particular gender) by applying off-putting brand colors…
MISTAKES TO AVOID
— Being too heavily focused towards ‘the wrong’ sex (in terms of your ideal customer)
— Using strong stereotypical colors that can even be deemed offensive to each gender
— Mismatching your company personality with feminine or masculine colors
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
Research existing studies on color by gender → Discover who is really using your products / services → Collect qualitative data from existing customers + target buyers → Align your branding → Constantly A/B test → Gather feedback → Repeat
It’s a great idea to ask your audience’s men and ladies to be involved in any sales-focused branding process. Allowing them to contribute to your company (and even product designs) is a massive psychological incentive that also creates a sense of belonging and consequently, ongoing loyalty.
Although, it may not only be adults you are considering…
Step #3: Adjust To Demographics
Aside from gender, it’s important to delve into the various other attributes of your target audience before finally deciding on ANY colors (or change of palette).
After all — an ‘inappropriately’ colored call-to-action is going to be a massive turn off for your potential customers, costing you conversions.
(Graphic Source: Redigma via Dribbble)
I’ll explain ‘inappropriate’ in a tick. (Again, all about context.)
Along with yet more in-depth color research, here are a few examples of demographical sets of data to help you make an informed choice on color usage:
- Disposable income
- Purchase behavior
- Family / marital status
- Leisurely activities
Yes! Bright pink may work for teenage girls, but a mild rose could work much better for older women…
Referencing Joe Hallock’s research once more, “With maturity comes a greater liking for hues of shorter wavelength (blue, green, purple) than for hues of longer wavelength (red, orange, and yellow).”
To reiterate: You can (and should) study what is already available to you on websites like Hallock’s and the Census Bureau, PLUS information collected from your own audience — by conducting primary market research (the type that has never been carried out before).
A combination of statistics, data and common sense is highly recommended. Your collective colors should perfectly represent three characteristics:
Your niche, your personality, and your ideal buyer persona.
Stray far from what is generally expected, only when conducting color experiments — and actually communicate this to the public. It’s an amazing chance to gain some positive press attention (you just knew it had to be the Heinz story).
In addition to the website optimization tools I mentioned earlier, check out Google Analytics to view the demographics of visitors to your website — and how they may be reacting to different messaging and split-tested color schemes.
You can use a tool like Hotjar (in conjunction) to display a pop-up survey that asks visitors if they like the current colors on the website, and/or what they would prefer.
Once you have a bunch of data to hand, it’s time to consider color opportunities and pitfalls.
Here is a prime example of why you absolutely must not second-guess your brand colors, visual website cues or product designs:
(Infographic Source: Amara)
STRIKING! The meaning behind the color green translates very differently across the continents — opposites as extreme as life VS death…
And blue ranges from religion, to healing, to mourning.
Probably not the best idea to market your new health supplements throughout South America — with all-green packaging.
This is exactly what ‘inappropriate’ color choice would entail!
Summing up: For glowing sales, ensure a similarly gleaming record of data-driven branding that touches the minds, hearts and senses of your target customers.
[For tons more color inspiration and ideas, check out this resource.]
[PLUS: Here’s what you need to know about color blindness!]