The topic of color seems simple until you find yourself in charge of a print campaign with thousands of Pantone colors to choose from. That’s when you realize that color selection requires specific knowledge, context, and imagination.
Experienced marketers know that color sells—increasing brand recognition, improving readership and comprehension, and ultimately motivating consumers to purchase one product or service over another. The United Parcel Service, IBM, Home Depot, and Breast Cancer Awareness are all synonymous with specific colors because their creative teams have gone to great lengths to weave these hues into every facet of communication. Some companies even trademark specific colors as brand assets. Think Tiffany’s robin’s egg blue.
If you’re utilizing direct mail to deliver your message, consider a study by G.A Wright Marketing that found that the use of high-quality paper and color applications alone can increase your response rates by nearly 50%. Specifically, their study showed that a four-color promotional mailer printed on a heavy gloss paper stock had more than a 40% higher response rate than an identical three-color version printed on a lighter matte paper stock.
The cost of custom color matching is a minor investment in a powerful resource. Colors summon emotions and create connections with the people surrounding your brand. Unfortunately for marketers, reactions can be quite subjective. Warm colors such as red, orange, and yellow are associated with a range of emotions, from simple optimism and excitement to strong violence. Cool colors like green, violet, and blue can be calming and nurturing, but can also be impersonal and antiseptic. Select colors that will elicit a positive response from your stakeholders, then balance these colors in a visually appealing way.
The Color Wheel
Using variations of a single color will create a visual effect that is classic and easy on the eyes, but not as vibrant as it could be. Enrich the scheme by introducing analogous colors, selecting three colors next to each other on the color wheel. Examples include red/ orange/yellow, green/blue/purple, and yellow/yellow-green/green. Consistently use one shade as the dominant color.
For higher contrast, select a complementary color scheme, choosing colors across the wheel from each other. This works best when you place a warm color against a cool color, such as red and green, blue and orange, or purple and yellow. Any tint can be used. Midnight blue and tangerine or royal purple and gold are effective combinations.
Most any color mix can work as long as you retain harmony and richness in your presentation and avoid the hues used by your competitors. Test combinations until you find the scheme that sends the message you want associated with your business. Your customers make split-second decisions based on color, so use it to your advantage.