As marketers, we spend a lot of time talking about content. And while the actual words and visuals you use to connect with your customers are important, don’t forget about one all-important aspect of your digital marketing campaigns: color scheme. The colors you choose will have a direct impact on how your content resonates with your target market.
A Review of Color Theory 101
Most marketers don’t have a very good grasp on color theory. It’s something that’s traditionally taught in art classes – not business school. And if you do know a thing or two about color theory, your knowledge is probably very limited. That’s not a knock on your intelligence; it’s simply the truth.
The problem is that color theory plays a very big role in digital marketing success. So the fact that the average marketer is deficient in this area is a big problem.
Thankfully, you can learn the fundamentals of color theory fairly quickly. All you need is a basic understanding of some important principals and you’ll be well on your way.
Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors
At the heart of color theory is the idea that there are three major categories of color. For starters, there are primary colors – red, yellow, and blue. These colors can’t be created by mixing other colors. They exist on their own. Then, you have secondary colors – green, purple, and orange – which are formed by combining primary colors. Finally, there are tertiary colors. You get tertiary colors from mixing a primary color with a secondary color.
If there were only 12 basic colors, then color theory wouldn’t be so complex. However, there are thousands of different combinations. And in order to explain unique colors, there’s a set of terminology that artists (and marketers) use. Here are some words that are commonly tossed around:
- Shade. The word “shade” refers to how much black you add to a color. There are light shades and dark shades of every possible color.
- Hue. The word hue is just another term for “color.” Each of the primary and secondary colors are hues.
- Tint. A tint is actually the opposite of shade. It’s what happens to a color when you add in some white. When someone asks to tint a color, they’re essentially asking for a lighter hue.
There are plenty of other terms used in color theory, but these are some examples of words you’ll hear a lot. While the difference between some of these words may seem subtle, they do matter if you’re talking with someone who knows what they’re doing.
As you know from your own personal life, the same color can appear different based on the way it’s used in conjunction with other colors. For example, the same light green color is going to look different depending on if it’s coupled with a dark blue or a dark green. Since it’s often hard for the average person to know which colors pair well together, logical rules – known as color schemes – have been developed.
Color schemes are based on the color wheel, which was originated by Sir Isaac Newton all the way back in 1666. The color wheel contains all 12 of the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors and makes it easy for designers (and marketers) to quickly pick out colors that go together. Here are three of the basic color schemes you’ll hear about:
- Analogous. If you’re looking to play it safe, an analogous scheme is great. It pairs one main color with two colors directly next to it on the wheel. This creates a soft and subtle design that complements rather than contrasts.
- Complementary. A complementary scheme uses two colors that are directly opposite from each other on the wheel. This creates a high level of contrast, which really makes the different elements pop.
- Monochromatic. A monochromatic scheme uses various shades and tints of one hue. This creates a consistent look that’s conservative and easy going. It’s most often used in the background.
Other common color schemes include triadic, split complementary, tetradic, and square. You won’t use all of these but it’s worth understanding the various connections.
Choosing the Right Color Scheme for Your Campaign
Now that you have a basic understanding of color theory and how individual hues come together to create unique visuals, let’s examine some tips and tricks for choosing the right color scheme for your digital campaigns.
Choose Colors That Connect With Your Target Audience
When looking for a powerful color scheme, you have to keep your ideal customer in mind. “Remember, you’re not designing your campaign for you. You’re designing it for your ideal customer,” marketing expert Pamela Wilson reminds her readers. “Think about what’s important to them, and what their lives are like. Think about the kind of consumer products they interact with, and what colors are used on those products.”
Different colors ignite unique emotions – i.e. blue is tranquil and red is energetic. Depending on the message you’re trying to convey, one color may be more appropriate than another.
Take this infographic from renowned guitar instructor, Tom Hess, as an example. The goal of the graphic is to show them that they’re doing something wrong – thus, the selection of red and black. Now check out this infographic from designer Sandra James. The topic is mediation so the colors – shades of blue and white – are peaceful. Flip flop the color schemes between these two infographics and they wouldn’t be nearly as powerful.
White Space is an Effective Tool
The more you study color theory, the more you may be inclined to utilize all of your knowledge and create complex schemes that abide by tried and true design principles. But just because colors work together, doesn’t mean you have to use them.
The concept of minimalism is currently one of the biggest trends in modern web design and marketing. Today’s customers dislike busy designs and would prefer simplistic visual experiences. Thus, one of the most powerful “colors” you can use is white. A simple two-toned color scheme with lots of white space will perform well in almost any situation.
Use Color to Convert
Did you know that the colors you choose on your conversion buttons and opt-in forms may have a direct impact on how much success you enjoy? There’s conflicting data on which color is best – and much depends on the context of the page – but make sure you spend time thinking about how different hues move users to action.
Don’t Forget About Color
You can’t underestimate the value of color in your digital marketing campaigns any longer. Research shows that color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent, improves readership by as much as 40 percent, increases content comprehension by 73 percent, and is up to 85 percent responsible for why people decide to buy one product over another. In other words, color matters to you.
As you look for ways to give your marketing a jolt this year, be sure to consider the role color is playing in your current strategy. You’ll most likely discover that it isn’t being relied on enough.
Instigate some change in this area and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.