How colour selection can improve your marketing results

Choosing colours for your logo, website and advertising campaigns may seem simple enough.  For experienced designers, colour selection may even seem like second nature.  However, colour selection is more than picking out a favourite colour and using it in a layout. Some businesses go to great lengths to pick the right colour.  Google once tested 41 shades of blue for the background colour of their toolbar to determine which shade creates the greatest user interaction.

What colours can symbolise

Colours can have varying psychological, emotional and even cognitive effects on people.  Researchers at the University of British Columbia conducted a test to see if cognitive performance differed if people saw red or blue on their computer screens.  The study found that participants seeing the colour red did better on tests of recall and attention to detail while participants seeing the colour blue did better on tests requiring imagination1.

The colour red represents stimulation, urgency, excitement and even increases the appetite!  This is why we see red as the dominant colour of Coca-Cola as in the screenshot below.  Red is also the dominant colour used by McDonald's and other major fast food restaurants.   


Blue can symbolise honour, professionalism, peace and tranquillity, so we see it often used as a dominant colour of corporates and hospitals.  Green represents nature, freshness and harmony.  Orange symbolises cheerfulness and creativity.  Black represents elegance and formality while white symbolises cleanliness and simplicity2.  However, it is important to note that not all colour associations are universal.  Cultural backgrounds and personal associations can also affect how people experience colours.

Colours and call-to-action

Colour selection is not only important in choosing dominant colours for branding, but are also essential online in the creation of call-to-action buttons (buttons that uses click on).  In a colour conversion optimisation test ran by, they created two web pages that were identical accept for the colour of the call-to-action buttons.  One page had a green button while the other page had a red call-to-action button.  At the end of the test, they found that 21% more people clicked on the red button and it created more conversions and interactions compared to the green button. 

Colour selection is also important in "buy now" buttons used in online stores. Several studies have indicated that an online shopper is primarily persuaded by visual cues and the most persuasive visual cue is colour. Colour can attract specific types of shoppers and change shopping behaviour3. Impulse shoppers respond best to red-orange, black and royal blue. Shoppers who stick to their budget respond best to pink, teal, light blue and navy. Traditional shoppers respond to pastel colours such as pink, rose and sky blue. However, before you go ahead and change the colours of your call-to-action buttons, analyse how it would look against the dominant colours of your website. In some cases, it may be best to test first to determine which colours work best for your target audience.

Making visual elements stand out using colour

Making visual elements stand out in a design needs more than just the right colour.  It is interesting to note that using a colour that clashes with your branding colours can actually help a call-to-action button stand out and get clicked on.  Using discordant colours can help break visual expectations of most viewers so that your call-to-action stands out.  The amount of negative space or white space around it, its shape and layout are also important factors to get a call-to-action noticed and clicked on by your website visitors.

In the example below from, the main call-to-action button is orange, which contrasts strongly from the dominant colours blue and grey.


In another example from, the call-to-action buttons on the right use the colours green and blue which clash against the dominant colours orange and yellow, so they stand out from the rest of the page.


Some final words   

When it comes to colour selection, there are no absolutes as not everyone reacts the same way to a specific colour.  Colour selection must not solely rely on what colours mean or how colours can affect behaviour.  When creating designs, be it for a logo or website, keep the business' branding colours in mind.  In an infographic from discussing the effect of colour on online purchase, it was noted that colours can increase brand recognition by up to 80% so make sure your selected colours clearly reflect your brand and your business.  Effective design is being able to take the business' brand colours and translate these into something that appeals to your target audience and results in more business, leads and enquiries.


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