The advertising industry has been experimenting with color for decades, with impressive results. Behind every ad, every billboard and every poster there is more than just an advertiser’s intuition. A whole host of research goes into every decision, based on academic studies on color psychology that’s used to make precise and pointed decisions about design.
According to analytics company KISSmetrics, 85% of consumers put visuals before everything else when deciding what product to buy. This means that, compared to smell, hearing and the other senses, sight and visual perception reign supreme. This helps explain why so much importance is placed on color in marketing activities.
A person takes only 90 seconds to form an opinion about something or someone, and during this process, between 62% and 90% of the time, that judgment depends solely and exclusively on the predominant color that they see. However, more nuanced conclusions can be drawn from this data which was derived from the 2006 study “Impact of color on Marketing”.
We are all influenced by the brain’s interpretation of colors, but experiments show that “personal preferences, education, cultural differences and context cloud the effect that color has on us”. There is, therefore, no universal rulebook for the effective use of color. Rather, it is an experimental area of study with concrete conclusions yet to be defined.
Given the subjectivity of color, a company might decide to go for monochrome printers to reduce costs and avoid perceived risks. If color is based on an inexact science, why bet on it? Paul A. Bottomley and John R. Doyle answered this question in a 2006 study: “The interactive effects on colors and products on perceptions of brand logo appropriateness”.
Through various sensory tests and questionnaires, the authors were able to identify a previously unknown quality of color: congruity. The effects of the color yellow, for example, can vary wildly. It is believed that the very association with a brand logo without prior knowledge or familiarity often creates “inherent and immediate” value.
In order to anticipate this effect, the company only has to carry out a preliminary study on the nature of the image it is conveying: the target market, the tone of communication and brand positioning, in relation the general context in which it will be seen.
"85% of consumers put visuals before all else when deciding what product to buy.
If it is a functional brand, then it should use functional colors. Likewise, if it is an emotional or sensory brand, it should use emotional shades. Why is this?
The psychologist Eva Heller determined, based on the famous color theory of the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, that the relationship between colors, feelings and reason is not random: the relationships are based on universal experiences intrinsic to our language and our thinking.
To those aspects, Angela Wright adds a biological component. It is what the scientist defines as “the effects of electromagnetic radiation from light on human mood and behavior”. It is a universal psychophysical reaction, which is not so much influenced by culture, gender or age, but by the moods of people in general.
Under this approach there would be four psychological primary colors: red, blue, yellow and green. Each of them would relate respectively to the body, the mind, emotions, and the overall vital balance between all three.
“In simple terms, each color (wavelength) is focused on a particular part of the organism, evoking a specific physiological response, which in turn produces a psychological reaction,” he adds. “Particular colors have very different effects on each individual.”
Therefore, instead of defining a complex color strategy, companies should choose colors that reinforce the values predefined during the development of the brand. They should avoid stereotypes and understand color not as a goal, but as a way to reach that goal.
As psychotherapist Amy Morin reminds us, green awakens creativity, red reduces analytical thinking, blue evokes satisfaction, yellow tends to generate rejection, orange is associated with luxury, purple with relaxation, and white makes us feel apathy. Yet, she warns that “color cannot work miracles”.
It will never make sense to buy multifunctional color printers if you are not clear about what you want to achieve with them. Choosing color print implies an investment that is more than justified by the overwhelming evidence found in these scientific studies.
The best strategy requires the best knowledge.