Marketing Best Practices: Are You Leveraging the Power of Color?

Think about it, color appears everywhere in your business. It’s in your logo, it’s on your website, it’s in literally every piece of marketing material you produce. Clearly, it’s important, so don’t you think you ought to know how it works?

You don’t have to be an artist to understand the inner-workings of color or how to create beautiful color combinations that win your customers’ hearts. You just need a little bit of color theory to help you out.

Let’s start with the basics!

Color Theory 101

Primary Colors: You might remember these first two terms from your grade school art class. Primary colors are the three colors that serve as the foundation of all other colors on the wheel — red, blue and yellow.

Secondary Colors: These colors – purple, green and orange – are created via a combination of two of the primary colors.

  • Red + blue = purple
  • Blue + yellow = green
  • Yellow + red = orange

Tertiary Colors: You get the tertiary colors by adding a little more of the primary color to the secondary ones, resulting in your “two-name” colors such as red-orange, blue-green, etc. They’re not true secondary colors and are a little closer to the primary colors, so they get their own category.

Hue: This is basically just a fancy word for color. All of the colors, red, orange, red-orange — these are all hues.

Shade: A shade is simply a lighter or darker version of a hue (i.e. color). The darker versions are made by adding black to the mixture. The more black you add, the deeper the shade.

Tint: A tint is the exact opposite of a shade. These are the colors you get when you add white to them. Most people think of everything in terms of shades, but technically the art world separates these two.

Tone: And finally, you have tone. You get a tone of a color when you add gray (black + white) to the mix.

The Psychology of Color


The thing about color that makes it a powerful marketing tool is that it can actually make us feel something. That’s right. Colors are not just pretty to look at, but it can change the way a customer responds to your brand and products.

To show you just how powerful color can be, consider this:

  • Research shows that 93 percent of shoppers consider the visual appearance of your brand before deciding to make a purchase
  • Eighty-five percent of consumers base their buying decisions on color
  • One study found that up to 90 percent of snap judgments made about a product could be based solely on its color
  • Color can increase brand recognition up to 80 percent

So how do we decide which colors are associated with particular feelings? The truth is that someone’s personal preference, experiences and culture are going to play a big part in how they react to a particular color. There will never be a universal feeling attached to a color, but some patterns have emerged that can guide your choices.

Here’s a look at how some of the most popular colors affect us.

Red: Associated with a sense of urgency, this color can actually stimulate your body by raising your blood pressure and heart rate. It’s the color often associated with passion and excitement. Red also has been known to increase the appetite, which is why you see it so often in fast food chain branding.

Blue: Here we find the opposite effect. Blue is known for evoking a sense of calm, peace and tranquility. It also creates a sense of security and is used by brands who want to create trust with their product or service.

Green: When we think of green, we tend to think of nature. It promotes feelings of health and productivity and is known to stimulate harmony in the mind.

Purple: This color has long been seen as a symbol of wisdom and royalty. Take a look back through your history book and see how often you find this color in the halls of kings and queens. Purple is also known to stimulate creativity.

Yellow: One of the most cheerful colors, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that yellow is associated with happiness and optimism.

Black: As such a bold color, black is seen as denoting power, authority and strength. However, it is also the color we associate with mourning and many see black as a symbol of greed. It can go either way and largely depends on the context.

White: Purity, cleanliness, safety — this is what most people see when they come across this color. It can also represent a clean slate, which makes it perfect for sparking creativity.

Creating Color Schemes for Your Business

OK, you’ve got the terminology and you know a little bit about the psychology behind color. Now it’s time to bring it all together.

Rule number one: When creating color schemes for your business, keep it simple. While there are cases of companies successfully using four or more colors in their brand — think Google and NBC — you’re much better off sticking to two, three at the most. The simpler your brand, the more cohesive it will appear as you create your logo, website and supporting marketing materials. It’s also much easier for your consumers to digest.

So how do you choose which colors to use? Start by going back to the color wheel. Think about what colors you think will best communicate your message and locate that color on the wheel. Now look directly across from it. What do you see? That is your complementary color.  For instance, if you picked blue, you’ll notice that orange sits opposite it on the other side of the wheel. Blue and orange are complementary colors.

Haven’t you heard the phrase “opposites attract”? It’s true with color! Using complementary colors in your brand and marketing materials is a smart choice because they provide a nice contrast to one another. The opposing color creates a sort of visual break for your eyes that makes the content stand out, and that’s definitely something you want.

But what if you’re looking for a softer vibe? This is where an analogous color scheme comes into play. Analogous colors are ones that sit next to one another on the color wheel. If you chose red for your main color, the analogous colors would be red-orange, orange, yellow-orange and yellow.

Or you could go one step further and create a monochromatic piece. This is the ultimate minimal look because it uses shades, tints and tones of a single color. Let’s say you chose green for your project. The colors you would use would be a blend of dark and light greens — perhaps a deep forest green, standard green, leaf green and a lighter yellow-ish green.

Choosing the right colors for your business is a great first step. But what happens next? If you think you need a little help with the marketing side of things or simply don’t have the time to dedicate to it, it might be time to partner with a digital marketing agency. If you’re ready to take your business to the next level and you’re looking for a marketing partner you can trust, we’d love to chat.