The science of colors in marketing

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Why is Facebook blue?

According to The New Yorker, the reason is simple: Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colorblind. Blue is the color he can see best.

That’s not highly scientific, is it? However, there are some amazing examples of how colors can affect our purchasing decisions.

After all, sight is the most strongly developed sense in most humans. It’s only natural that 90 percent of a product’s assessment is based on color alone.

How do colors affect us, and what is the science of colors in marketing? As we are trying to improve our product at my company, Buffer, it’s key to learn more about this. Let’s dig into some of the latest, most interesting research.

Which colors trigger feelings?

The Logo Company came up with a breakdown of which colors are best for which types of companies and why. Here are four examples:

Black:

 

Green:

 

Blue:

 

If we look at which colors major brands use, a lot of their choices become more obvious. Clearly each of these companies wants to trigger a specific emotion:

On top of that, colors can play a major role when we want to buy something.

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How colors can improve your marketing

This information is entertaining, but what can you actually apply to your website or app? The answer comes from some research from KISSmetrics.

If you are primarily targeting women, KISSmetrics says:

  • Women love blue, purple and green.
  • Women hate orange, brown and gray.

If you are primarily targeting men, the results are slightly different:

  • Men love blue, green and black.
  • Men hate brown, orange and purple.

In another experiment, HubSpot wanted to find out if changing the color of a button would affect conversion rates. HubSpot started out with two colors, green and red, and tried to guess which would be more effective.

HubSpot’s hypothesis for green:

“Green connotes ideas like ‘natural’ and ‘environment,’ and given its wide use in traffic lights, suggests the idea of ‘go’ or forward movement.”

HubSpot’s hypothesis for red:

“The color red, on the other hand, is often thought to communicate excitement, passion, blood, and warning. It is also used as the color for stopping at traffic lights. Red is also known to be eye-catching.”

According to the hypotheses, an A/B test between green and red would result in green—the friendlier color—as the winner. Here is what the experiment looked like:

 

The result was surprising: The red button outperformed the green button by 21 percent.

Everything on the pages stayed the same, so it was the button color that caused the difference.

At Buffer, we’ve conducted experiments to improve our conversion rates through color changes. Although the results weren’t as clear, we still saw a huge change. One hypothesis was that for a social media sharing tool, there is less of a barrier to sign up, which makes the differences less significant.

Despite all the studies, it’s extremely hard to make generalizations. Whatever change you make, treat it first as a hypothesis. Then conduct an experiment and see what the results are. Data always beats opinion.

It’s fascinating that something as small as color can change an outcome. What have you discovered about color and marketing?

A version of this article originally appeared on the Buffer blog. 

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