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Why Color Theory Matters to Marketers

Do you remember mixing primary colors (red, yellow and blue) to make secondary colors (orange, green and purple) in middle school art class? It turns out that your art teacher really was preparing you for success in the business world. Color theory impacts the effectiveness of all areas of business on a subliminal level, especially those around marketing and advertising.

What is Color Theory?

When you scroll through social media feeds, what tends to catch your eye? When you’re reading a blog post or on a website, have you ever stopped to notice the color of the buttons being used?

There’s an entire philosophy called color theory that guides designers’ and marketers’ decisions about which colors to use. Color theory influences everything from logos to infographics.

How to Use Color Theory in Your Marketing Tactics

Hubspot ran an excellent, in-depth article on color theory. In it, they provided recommendations around ads, websites, infographics, email campaigns and more.

  • Consider your color context.
  • Refer to a color wheel to identify analogous colors.
  • Use a color wheel to identify complementary colors.
  • Focus on monochromatic colors in the same hue.
  • Use a triadic color scheme to create high contrast.
  • Create a split complementary color scheme.
  • Think beyond presets but start with just one color.

Tools to Take Advantage of Color Theory

They also recommended tools like Adobe Color, Illustrator Color Guide and Preset Color Guides as some of the best out of the box tools for marketers looking to make a positive impact with color in their ad executions.

After reading the post, we were inspired to discuss color theory and color schemes with OBI Creative Director/Design, Erica Rowe. Here are highlights from our conversation!

What executions of color or color schemes are you appreciating right now that you’re seeing designers use either here at OBI or out in the wider marketing world?

Erica: “Brighter, more saturated colors feel more in right now. It’s not a full tilt toward the neon of the 80s, but it is more pronounced. For a while, the trend was to use subdued or muted colors because the 80s were so bright and colorful.

“Today, readability matters even more than it did before. Everyone used to want a black background with white copy because it looked cool, but then we all realized how hard that was to read and so now we’re seeing a lot of white with pops of color.

“Another thing that’s trending right now is brightly-colored gradients. Where flat colors used to be more popular, gradations, as well as photographs or videos, are being used more predominantly on websites across a range of business industries.”

How do you decide which color scheme is right for a client?

Erica: “You need to start with an analysis of your competitor set. What colors are they using? Then, choose something that will differentiate you from your competitors. From there, you want to match your color to your tone.

“For one of our clients, an insurance company focused on serving churches and organizations in the nonprofit and healthcare sectors, we tried many different color treatments before landing on a rainbow gradient feel that captured their optimistic worldview and brand promise.

“The colors told a story visually that their brand promise and messaging told verbally. They brought many different people together to provide hope and coverage after storms. We further pulled blue tones out of the rainbow to communicate a calming and peaceful tone across their website and marketing materials.”

What kind of impact does color make on the effectiveness or overall feel of a website?

Erica: “Color is a good way to provide an updated look. Some colors are overused and dated, so simply changing them or adding a fresh accent color can revive a website and make it feel new.

“Nobody wants to look dated. When it comes to color, it’s important to be cognizant of recent history. In the 80s, country blue and mauve were popular; in the 70s it was all green, orange and brown.

“Colors are cyclical, but the things that are hot right now will be out in five years.”

“When you’re choosing a color for your website, be careful not to get too trendy, unless you plan to update your website more frequently than businesses typically do. It’s also important to remember that while your color scheme may feel dated to you, your customers may not see it that way.

“You might be visiting your website daily, whereas they are coming less frequently and therefore, may not feel tired or bored with the colors you’ve chosen.”

What do you think is more important — color or typography?

Erica: “They are equally important. Both say something about your personality.

“The words in your headline can be accentuated by the font you present them in. Websites offer less options in terms of what fonts will display correctly, but the way words come to life through a font are really important.

“The color those words are sitting on are equally important.”

What questions do you have about color that our insightful professionals can answer? Leave a comment and let us know!