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Color Theory in Marketing & Advertising

Color Theory in Marketing and Advertising is a nuanced subject. It is not particularly smart to assign each and exact colors to certain emotions. That is fundamentally opposite to what you would read on most superfluous websites, trying to get traffic to their websites.

Here’s the real deal. Making claims that a certain color will evoke a particular emotion in an individual is a stretch. Why? Because context influences attachments. What makes us associate colors to emotions is our experiences. That is why people are capable of having different favorite colors. It’s subjective.

But despite being complex and nuanced, it doesn’t mean that Color Theory doesn’t work. Far from it. The first impression about a brand is formed within the first 90 seconds. About 60-90% of that is based on the color of the brand alone. That means color has to convey the most meaning. How to do that? By choosing the color that best represents the value that you want to convey. Choosing appropriate color becomes essential.

Colors have been categorized and associated in many different ways. Mostly useless. This becomes more complex when you include cultural bias in that as well. Western cultures associate White with birth and femininity. While in some Eastern culture it represents death. What we can do, is make generalized assumptions such as White brings overtones of sincerity and seriousness.

The better step would be to find what dimension of the Brand Personality should one adopt. This research was conducted by Stanford professor Jennifer L. Aaker. There are five such dimensions. Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication and Ruggedness. Colors broadly align themselves with these dimensions. Like Red with excitement and Brown with ruggedness. Now what you want to represent is the key question. If you want to portray these traits, that would be the generic direction to go in.

In digital marketing, color also plays a role in focus. The Sore Thumb Effect says that things that stick out, are easy to recognize and remember. This has a tried and tested effect of bringing the focus on the Call to Action. Use a complimentary color to the color palette of the web page. It will bring a layered focus to the conversion. Otherwise, your tripwire would blend into the background.

There are no definitive answers in Color Theory but helpful guidelines. And it should be used like that. Colors can also be used for other purposes in Branding. Here’s some food for thought. Coca-Cola uses Red and White, while Pepsi uses Red, White, and predominantly Blue. The Great Distinctor.

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