Design 101 | Harness the Power of Color in your Marketing

Ahhh, color. What else in the design arsenal is as powerful and as dangerous as color?

brand strategy includes choosing color wisely

Dangerous? Yes! When properly implemented, color can give your marketing materials a polished, cohesive look. But if you don’t handle color with care, your stuff will look terrible, or worse – be confusing.

Your Visual Message Should Speak the Same Language as Your Words

Color can support what you say in your marketing messages, or it can have an odd, disconcerting effect.

Here are some imaginary businesses. Can you pick the best color palette for each? [Hint: Visit this page for questions to ask about each group].

  • Your business sells products to a high-end demographic group. These folks are big spenders who buy luxury items and are used to elegant environments. Which color palette do you choose?
    brand strategy includes choosing a color palette that suits your business and clientele
  • Your business is geared toward 18-24-year old males who devote every spare moment of their time to surfing. Which color palette will “speak” to these dudes?
    brand strategy includes choosing a color palette that fits your business and its clientele
    Here’s one more: you have created a line of products you hope to sell to eco-conscious women in their 30s and 40s.
    brand strategy includes choosing a color palette that speaks to your clientele

Were you able to see the best combinations? In all cases, the second color palette is more effective. The colors in the second group support and reinforce the marketing message because they appeal to what motivates the audience.

The high-end luxury buyers will associate rich, deep hues with quality. The surfer dudes see the ocean blues contrasted with bright color as a reflection of seaside living and excitement. The eco-conscious women equate green and brown with the environment they want to protect.

This isn’t science, of course, and you may have a different opinion. Do spend some time thinking about what colors naturally appeal to your audience. Make sure your colors “speak” the same language as your words, so that everything works together to communicate a cohesive message.

Design 101

This is the fifth in a series of ten lessons called “Design 101.”

The next lesson will be about using white space, and why leaving some areas blank can be the best use of space.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great tips, Pamela. When you’re trying to do your own design work (and you’re not a trained designer), it doesn’t always occur to you that it’s not about the colours that appeal to you, but the colours that appeal to your customer base.

  2. Paula Pavlik-Douglas says

    I always like to refer to “Tide” detergent as a prime example of packaging/color in marketing. It’s been the same for probably 100 years. It jumps off the grocery store shelves. It’s orange and yellow and the lettering is dark blue (contrast w/ the orange) and to finish it all off… it’s a spiral design. It doesn’t get much more perfect than that.

    I was thinking though, that eco-friendly/conscience should really be more blue and white (clean) than green or brown…

    • says

      Hi Paula!

      That’s the thing: color is subjective to a certain extent, and definitely influenced by culture. Blue and white could work perfectly in some circumstances: it would depend on the project and the audience you were trying to reach.

      What I really want people to do is think about their audience before they choose colors, and make sure their color choice enhances their message.

  3. says

    I’m excited! I picked all of them correctly!

    Of course, it might help that I have an eye on the high end, while being a surfing and dedicated follower of fashion. Ok not really, but I’m always up for a Project Runway, Vogue or V Magazine.

  4. says

    Hooray, Dave! You know the best colors are an opinion, of course, but it’s based on common sense.

    I want to encourage people to think about their audience, and what they will respond to, rather than the color crayon they’ve always liked best since they were 3 years old!

  5. says

    Uh oh, that means my new site will appeal to surfer dudes, lol :) I just chose the colors because I like them, and I have to look at my site everyday. But I did read somewhere that sky blue is soothing and builds trust. I figured that in order to market more effectively to my ideal client, I would have to be myself and not pretend to be something I am not, so I wanted to use colors that really resonate with me!

    • says

      Hi Kathleen! You’re right: most people think blue builds trust, which is why you see so much of it in the corporate world. You chose a nice high-energy blue. I think it looks great!

  6. Leon Noone says

    G’Day Pamela,
    I’m really enjoying your stuff. It’s just astonishing how colours are misused. I was recently referred to a consultant as someone who could help me with a technical/design problem. I checked his website first.

    The whole site was in reverse–white on black! I didn’t proceed.
    I reckon that good design is a marriage of what it reads like and what it looks like. And if it it doesn’t look OK, it wont be read. “Looking Right”has many elements. Colour is one. The”OK” judgement is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

    Sadly awards for “good design”rarely take effectiveness into account. Keep flying the flag. And…..

    Make sure you have fun.

    Regards

    Leon

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