To use color for your marketing goals, you need to understand how color works. Colors mean various things so choosing the right one for your visual, email, etc. that says what you mean can be tricky.
Psychology of color or color symbolism is how colors play on our subconsciousness to trigger certain associations. It is especially important in ecommerce, which heavily depends on visual branding. 85% of people’s buying decisions are influenced by color. This is because they can only see, but not touch or smell or your products. That’s why you should watch the meaning of colors in marketing when creating your visual branding.
We’ll explore the common associations colors trigger so you can find the right colors to use to convey the traits you want your brand to be associated with. Making customers feel or think of s certain thing is called emotional branding. You might already have your logo in certain colors, but you can design your marketing visuals (emails, ads, packaging, collateral, social media images, etc.) and website in colors that make the right impression on potential customers.
We’ll also look at how cross-cultural perceptions of color differ so you use the right colors for your target audience to get the intended idea.
These are the most wide-spread interpretations of colors across cultures.
red – love, passion, sexuality; danger, warning, importance; power, speed
blue – seriousness, reliability, stability, knowledge, trust
yellow – joy, sun, childhood, leisure, optimism
green – nature, health, relaxation
orange – energy, balance, enthusiasm, vitality, fun
purple – creativity, spirituality, nobility, sophistication
pink – romance, tenderness, sweetness
brown – nature, wholesomeness, dependability, utility
black – class, luxury, minimalism, boldness
white – purity, innocence, neutrality, peace
grey – security, modesty, practicality
beige – timelessness, elegance, maturity
Using different colors in your marketing such as emails will create different perceptions of your products in the mind of the customer – a sale and a new product launch will benefit from different colors.
Тhis email from Wonderbly, bursting with bubbly purple (the color of magic and imagination), is a great example how copy, creative and colors should go together.
Here’s what colors to use depending on the purpose of the campaign.
urgency, announcement to be made, promotion, discount – red
reliability, expertise, trustworthiness, know-how – blue
impulse buying, optimism, treat, deal – yellow
eco-friendliness, freshness, healthiness, newness – green
affordability, value for money, urgency to act – orange
graceful aging, luxury, creativity, exclusivity – purple
durability, reliability, authenticity, wood/ leather – brown
high-end, quality, sophistication, class – black
cleanliness, minimalism, simplicity – white
practicality, wisdom, experience, modesty – grey
So if you want to draw attention to your brand’s timeless staple pieces, use white, beige or black. Brown will enhance the authentic feel of a handmade artisan product. New product launch can use green. And if you’re sharing insider know-how content, blue will reinforce you as an authority on the subject.
Look at this monochromatic email from Onsen: it’s not just showing the brand aesthetic here but highlighting the expertise invested in creating a superior product (blue) and how practical and a wise decision it is to get your towels from the them (grey).
Another example comes from Everlane. They used this earthy brown hue to highlight the naturalness, the authenticity of the fiber used in their organic line. Awesome work on subconscious level!
A third example is this Black Friday campaign by plae. They went with orange accents instead of the traditional black for such campaigns and surely stood out in inboxes. Orange signals urgency to shop because the promotion lasts only 48 hours.
Women like blue (35%), purple (23%), and green (14%).
Men prefer blue (57%), green (14%), and black (9%).
Neutrals (grey, beige, black, white) are gender-neutral as well.
This is great insight if you have separate product lines for women and men and want to do segmentation and tailored campaigns. And also shows how our ingrained assumptions are often wrong – e.g. red is for women. The campaign from UGMONK below shows deep understanding of their target persona – the T-shirt colors showcased are exactly the most preferred ones by men.
As for color combinations,
pastel colors – mindfulness, self-care, spring time, elegance
bright, simple colors – kids, family, value for money, simplicity, straightforwardness
darker, deeper colors – richness, luxury, sophistication, expensiveness
So a spring campaign calls for pastel nuances. An exclusive and special offer should not use primary colors. On the contrary, if affordability and accessibility are your values, these colors will signal it to potential customers (see children’s clothing brand Primary).
Al tough most people would agree with these basic meanings of colors, there are regional and cultural differences that deserve attention if you operate on a global scale.
The perception of color is something people learn within the culture they live in – much like their taste in food or what clothing is acceptable to wear. Some cultures draw their color symbolism from religion or tradition, but what’s important is that what looks cheerful and playful in one culture can mean the opposite in another. Your marketing will benefit from tailoring visual branding and color schemes to be understandable by your target audience in the desires way.
warmth – blue (The Netherlands), yellow (USA), red in most other Western countries
happiness – white (Australia, NZ), yellow (China), red (Japan)
femininity – blue (The Netherlands, Eastern), pink (USA), red (most Western)
masculinity – blue (Sweden, USA), red (UK, France), yellow (Eastern), pink (Belgium)
love – green (Japan), red and purple (China, Korea, Japan and the USA)
marriage – red (China), white (Western)
luck – red (China, Denmark and Argentina), green (most Western cultures due to the four-leaved clover)
high quality, trustworthiness, dependability – blue (US, Japan, Korea), green and yellow (China)
danger – green (Malaysia), red (Western)
mourning/ death (just to have in mind) – red (South Africa), black (Western), white (East Asia), yellow or white (Middle East), purple (Brazil, Thailand)
A few ideas:
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