When you look online at big companies – successful ones – you’ll find color patterns. Amazon.com uses a simple black bar at the top of the page, but its logo is white and orange. GoDaddy.com (not my favorite registrar / hosting company, but arguably the most successful) employs bright green and orange. The eBay logo is simple text in the three primary colors plus bright green. CNN uses a black bar, but their logo is clean red and white, and a top red bar highlights breaking stories.
Next time you go to a website, pay attention to its color scheme. Not one of those colors was an accident. Each one was chosen deliberately based on the intent behind the website. The Big Players select color based on target audience and what the website’s selling – whether products, services, news (ads), or something else entirely. They know giving their site the right feel will translate into higher conversions.
What does color have to do with conversion?
Countless studies indicate that human beings respond to color. Workplace studies, for example, show that yellow walls contribute to increased productivity, whereas blues cause people to grow sluggish. Red stimulates the emotions, which in a work environment can contribute to friction.
Red does capture attention, though, and can be a great punch for advertising. But do you want all red advertising, all the time?
Not so fast.
Some experts tell you definitively if you’re selling to women, you should only use a given set of colors, while sales to men should only be done up in another group. That’s not how real psychology works. According to an article on Psychology Today, optimizing color choices isn’t so cut-and-dry. Several variables affect color perception, ranging from color blindness to associated experience. In short, one person may see red as hip and exciting, while another may feel it’s downright threatening. (The one known exception is purple. It’s given high marks by women. Not one group of men identified purple as a favorite.)
You can’t control a person’s individual history, but you CAN present your product or service using the right color(s) to capture attention and point it in the right direction. Choosing the wrong colors, unfortunately, can drive people away – and if they leave, you’ve lost all hope of conversion.
Color conversion by branding
Look at Harley Davidson. Harley drew its logo with colors in orange and black. If someone mentions orange and black in conversation, the first thing that comes to many peoples’ minds is Halloween! Yet HD took those colors, combined them with their shield and flourish, no one who sees their emblem would mistake it for a Halloween decoration.
In a different direction, NBC television has used some variation of a peacock as its logo for decades. The rationale was simple: its first use of the symbol came when television moved from black and white to color. In one stylized symbol, NBC branded itself as the full-color channel. No single color would have done the job in their situation.
The first rule of business is a single word: branding. Without branding, no company can survive. Even supermarket generic products wear the store’s in-house brand name. Branding equals conversion, particularly repeat conversion. And branding requires color for recognition.
What’s the magic color or colors for conversion?
That’s the sticky wicket in this mess. There’s no perfect set of rules, though there are some guidelines that can help to point you in the right direction. Of course, guidelines don’t count for diddly when they don’t match up with your product. The goal is attention and conversion, which sometimes means tossing rules out of the window.
One website article on color recommendations screams out the advice, “NEVER use pink in advertising!” Yet Mattel turned pink into a gold mine with its Barbie doll line, and Mary Kay does millions of dollars on pink labels, even giving pink Cadillacs to its top performers. It’s all about choosing the right color for what you’re selling. Use pink for the right product and it sells big.
Browns tend to be off-putting, unless your target market is hunters, or someone preparing for Thanksgiving. Grays are blah on their own; but when blended with red and black, gray can convey elegance for the right product line. The combination in the tuxedo logo at left illustrates how gray can work well as part of a set, though it wouldn’t work well on its own.
The best branding is all in how color is presented and paired not only with the product, but with other colors and imagery. Use almost any hue in the right context, with the right combination of accents, and it’ll turn the key to conversion.
Developing color schemes for conversion
Think about developing a product line. Let’s pick pet products, organic, healthy, for happy dogs and cats. What colors would work best to promote this line? There are several options, but among the most obvious ones are shades of green with pops of yellow. Green ties into the organic nature of the product, and yellow is an intrinsically happy color. Since the focus is pets (happiness, family) and a natural product, the colors should range to hues leaning toward the natural, such as a grassy green and sunflower yellow. For the target audience, a choice of rich green and yellow work on your behalf to drive conversion. Neon tones might work if the target audience is kids or teens; however, pets tend to straddle the age markets, so clean shades are the better bet.
Now imagine launching a different line of business, a costume jewelry store aimed at teens of all genders. The desired image is hip and fun. What colors work here? It’s a lot less defined than the organic pet food store, but one possible mix would be orange and blue. They’re opposites on the color wheel, which makes them pop against one another.
Pairing an electric blue with neon orange makes both colors pop. Incorporate those colors into a logo aimed at youth, and it’s a slam dunk. (Just be sure to use together with enough white that the colors don’t merge. This is particularly important since someone who’s red-green color blind would see blue and orange as virtually the same color.)
Use the right tones to engage and turn attention to conversion
The chart at left illustrates why one option might work better than another when dealing with logo and website design. Can you think of a better choice for a pool company than light blue? Also keep in mind that the colors used in the website and logo should be carried over to any promotional materials, digital or print.
This isn’t a comprehensive display. It’s just the general idea of how different shades of the same color family can convey a very different feel.
One hue missing from the chart is turquoise, which is both versatile and a hot color of the moment – which brings up another point. When working with advertising, trends count. Companies periodically tweak their logos to follow current tastes and styles.
When building the brand, keep trends in mind. Don’t let trending tastes dictate all color choices, though, because fashions can change quickly. You don’t want a logo that’s outdated a year after you paid to have it designed. Select combinations and test for maximum conversion rates, you may be surprised at what you find works best for your offers & target audience.