Getting an Edge on the Competition with Color Theory
Colors are one of the most essential elements in advertising. While the casual consumer may overlook a color scheme’s significance and impact, color theory is an effective framework for marketing and branding that has withstood the test of time.
Color theory can be defined as "the collection of rules and guidelines which designers use to communicate with users through appealing color schemes in visual interfaces." Put simply, humans experience different psychological reactions to colors. For example, lime green is often associated with energy and fun; purple carries undertones of wealth, luxury, and royalty; and red often represents power, danger, and excitement.
Marketers can leverage the psychological and cultural implications of color to engage with customers in a very subtle yet powerful way. In this article, we'll discuss why color theory is so critical and how you can make the best use of colors in your advertising.
Why Is It Important?
People are hard-wired to respond to color. This is true in entertainment and also in advertising. Colors can quickly evoke powerful emotions in humans, often without them even noticing.
Colors can also play a massive role in the decision-making process around purchasing a new product. A study from the secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo found that a whopping 93% of buyers focus on visual appearance, and almost 85% claim that color is a primary factor in their purchase decisions!
While the right colors can add appeal to your ads, the wrong colors can detract from them. For example, colors representing fun, excitement, and even danger may be appropriate for outdoor brands or companies that sell energy drinks, but not for banking institutions. Very few customers expect their bank to be fun — and no one wants to experience excitement or danger when they're withdrawing money from their account!
The point is, an understanding of color theory can help you to produce ad creative that's stylistically on point and doesn't drive away potential customers through improper use of colors.
How to Implement and Test Color Theory in Your Advertising
Now that we've established why color theory should be an essential part of your ad creative process, the next question is: How can you incorporate color theory into your marketing initiatives? Moreover, how can you test the results?
Many marketing leaders may be tempted to "go with their gut" and use the color scheme they believe will be most effective. However, it is much wiser to take personal bias out of the equation and listen to the data instead.
For instance, you can form a panel of unbiased users and survey them. Ask these users simple questions such as: "Which color captures your attention? Which color would motivate you to make a purchase?" Examine the data afterward as you develop your branding strategy. You can also form focus groups to explore preferred color schemes in more detail.
Once you have selected a color scheme for your ads, you'll need to A/B test it for the best results. A/B testing (or "split testing") gives you a preview of how customers will react to your color scheme in the real world. You'll need three key elements in place to ensure the successful operation of an A/B test: 2 ads with a vital variation between them (namely, a different color or shade of color) and enough traffic for a large sample size. Run this A/B test until you pinpoint a difference in the performance of at least 95% statistical significance.
Keep in mind that colors may carry different associations depending on your consumer base’s culture and background. Red traditionally means very different things to groups of people. For example, Chinese culture sees red as good fortune, compared to South Africans who categorize it with mourning. As you run your A/B tests, don't forget to take cultural sensibilities into account, as they may have a powerful effect on the results.
Using Color Theory in Your Advertising
In summary, humans have an instinctive, emotional reaction to color. When developing your ad creative, you want to highlight colors that positively resonate with your target audience, reinforce your brand image, and attract consumers to your company. If you implement a color scheme in your ads based on complex data and then A/B test your marketing materials for continued refinement, then you'll be setting yourself up for sustainable success.
Of course, it may not be easy to pick the best colors to represent your brand. This is another area in which the expertise of a professional marketing team can indeed prove invaluable.
With support from experienced designers and analysts, you'll be able to make the best possible for your overall brand moving forward. You won't be stuck with a color scheme that doesn't work; instead, you'll enjoy brand colors that will be attractive to your customers and effective in growing your business.
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