The problem with conversion rate optimization advice is most of what’s doled out doesn’t work. Following guides blindly without doing due research may not bring you desired results.
Most of the advice revolving around colors is plagued with the same problems. There’s plenty of bad advice. But what is color psychology in the first place?
“Color psychology is the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior. Color influences perceptions that are not obvious, such as the taste of food… Color can indeed influence a person; however, it is important to remember that these effects differ between people. ” Wikipedia
The impact of colors on brain function
Colors can impact how we feel and either heighten or down our senses. It can impact a wide range of responses including Research shows that color and light can affect our mood, heart rate, sleep and even our well-being.
A 2015 study found that the color blue reduces stress, slows down heart rate and lowers our blood pressure. Many countries use these techniques to their advantage, for example, the government of Tokyo has been known to use the color blue in their train stations to reduce suicide rates, resulting in 74% fewer suicides. However, this research is still inconclusive and gets challenged all the time by different scientists.
While the question of what color creates which effect continues to be a debate, one thing is clear to all scientists: Color does indeed affect our physiology, our brains and our emotions.
Their effect on emotions
Have you ever noticed that when brighter colors surround us like in the Spring with the clear blue sky, lush green grass and a multitude of colors on trees and flowering plants we feel happier?
Colors do effect emotions. Be it the nature around us or the clothes we decide to wear on a certain day.
The right colors can lift out moods and send us bursting with energy. The important thing is by playing with emotions they can affect decisions.
Antonio Damasio, a leading researcher in the field points out that emotions are what drive decisions, without which we wouldn’t be able to carry out the simplest or the msot inconsequential of decisions..
But if colors are so good what’s stopping us from being able to utilize them?
The biggest color psychology myth
Interestingly enough, when I talk to my clients about emotional targeting one of the first objections they bring up is that not all people feel the same, so how could we use only a few specific emotions to target everyone?
Their biggest concern is that people are different and don’t respond to the same emotions as everyone else, however they never stop to consider the same with color psychology.
People rush to determine that each color has one specific emotion connected to it and use those colors in all their funnels. However, a lot of research shows that color psychology just doesn’t work like that.
The biggest myth in the world of colors is assigning certain colors to certain people based on what somebody wrote a 100 years ago. The same color and definitions that were set in stone years ago are still applied today.
Just like we change messaging and include geographic parameters for different people visiting from different regions of the world so do different colors affect different people in different ways.
The misconception is far-spread and just to see how far here’s an example. Whether it be a retail approach that classifies all things pink for girls and counterparts blue for boys or in how we paint rooms for boys in blue and for girls in pink. Babies don’t show any particular preference for blue over pink or viceversa. Similalarly it’s false to assume that girls love the color pink.
Most studies point out that gender differences rarely extend to color choices. But since someone decided to have that color chart it was finalized that girls and boys should be segregated by colors even though there’s no scientific bias for the same.
Here’s how it happened:
Research on the subject shows that about a century ago all babies were dressed in white dresses, the idea of blue for boys and pink for girls was created by retailers who wanted to get parents to buy new clothes for their kids and not depend on what they had previously bought for their first child.
Such decisions that have no scientific merit result in us expecting outcomes that have been glorified in color charts.
Also different properties have been assigned to different colors. Green is associated with jealousy. THe color blue has been said to have a calming effect and so on and so forth.
But what a person feels when they see a particular color isn’t something the color alone decides. Even though people are individuals they share factors as common descent, culture and upbringing which strongly influences what they feel on seeing certain colors.
If you understand that then color psychology is easy to grasp.
The factors that influence our response to colors
Based on your dominant audience, the color choice would vary by a lot. The key is to understand how your target audience assigns colors to emotions. Understanding this makes everything else easy.
The Culture they were born in
When man evolved and settled out of Africa all over the world they created different cultures for themselves.
Some settled in the desert with camels, milk and honey their primary sources of sustenance. Others settled by large rivers giving rise to Indus Valley and Egyptian civilization. Religions and religious beliefs evolved out of these places hinting at the background of where they came from.
As such one color that may represent something for people in one culture means something diametrically opposite for people in other cultures.
The color black is associated with mourning in western cultures. You better not show up with anything else than a black suit and possibly black tie to a funeral.
In Hinduism black is associated with anger. The color associated with mourning is white for at least 80% of the people in the country who practice the religion in India.
- In the Western and Japanese culture, red symbolizes anger while in Hindu anger is represented by black
- In Japanese and Hindu culture purple represents wisdom, while for Native Americans you would use brown and for Eastern Europe you’d use the color blue.
- Love takes on different colors in different cultures too: red for Western and Japanese, green for Hindu, Yellow for Native American and blue for African
The same exact colors with completely different emotions and meanings all over the world.
#2 Emotional Experiences
The connotations assigned to different colors can also be borne out of the emotional associations one has made. And the stories behind these may not always be in one’s mind.
While it’s not possible to scour for individual preferences, if we can take time to understand audiences better we will be able to discern these associations.
By going deeper into customers’ minds, by understanding their culture we can obtain a better handle on colors.
How to choose the right colors for your audience
Analyze on site data
Google Analytics is your best friend. Assuming that it’s already installed you would want to start analyzing how visitors to your site behave.
Firstly, see the geographical location from which they’re coming to the site..
- Find data on the age and gender of the visitors
- Google conceals the exact search terms that are driving the visits but some data will be available. These keywords reveal their concerns, primary drives and motivations.
Now that you have cultural data at hand you can tie that with search terms report to find the major motivations of your site visitors. If you want to create excitement and fun, say a travel site then you might want to use colors that represent fun in the dominating culture. However the colors red and orange don’t represent fun in the Irish culture and for most tribes in South Africa. And that could be a mistake.
Age is another factor that changes tastes. You might have noticed it yourself. Few things you’d have killed for in your childhood no longer make much sense to you. Color preference too undergoes grand changes as people age. Milder colors like blue and green tend to become the favorite as we age. Color Psychology and Color Therapy, 176
If your audience belongs to a very specific age group, you may want to consider the chart above. Specifically with a more elderly audience, the colors will also impact their ability to read your content and feel safe.