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Comment: Small retailers should leverage colour psychology says Remy Van Donk of Vistaprint

Colour is one of the factors that influences how customers respond when they encounter your brand. It’s important to recognise common colour associations, to ensure consumers think in desired ways about the product or service you sell.

Vistaprint recently analysed which colours were popular with business owners designing their marketing materials. We learned that the top choice was overwhelmingly blue, followed by black and red.

We also partnered with Dr. Sally Augustin, a leading authority on the psychology of colour, to get her insight on how small business owners could leverage colour to evoke specific feelings and associations to benefit their business.

Our customers’ top colour choices were unsurprising, as rigorous scientific investigations demonstrate how these three colours can influence the way consumers think and behave.

Blue is the world’s favourite colour. This may be because several things our distant ancestors valued were blue, such as clear skies during good weather. Blue conveys competence, trustworthiness and dependability, and those associations make blue colour schemes a good option for businesses whose customers demand high reliability, such as financial services providers, travel agents, or pet grooming stores.

Black is a widely used and preferred shade, associated with sophistication, tradition and formality. It is often used by fashion retailers in their branding.

Red is linked to love, danger, and excitement. Seeing red gives customers a burst of strength. This makes it the perfect choice for spaces outfitted with fitness equipment. This colour also signals danger, so it is a good option for warning labels.

The colours retailers select to promote their business clearly conjure strong feelings from their customers, so these decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly. So, what steps can retailers take to ensure they are sending the right message?

While it could be tempting for retailers to play it safe by selecting a universally popular colour like blue to promote their business, it’s more important that you choose through the lens of your customers. Review any colours you consider with a sample of people you’d like to respond positively to your marketing materials before finalising any selections.

You also need to consider how your target audience perceives your brand personality, and ensure the colours you choose echo the nature of your business, supporting the positive attributes of your reputation.  

Different shades convey and conjure different associations for customers. For example, researchers have found that looking at sage greens with lots of white mixed into them is relaxing, as these colors are not very saturated but relatively bright. More intense shades such as Kelly greens, which are saturated but not too bright, have an energising impact.

If your goal is to encourage customers to act immediately, then using colors similar to Kelly greens in marketing materials and store design makes sense. A spa could use a diluted sage green in its materials to make a relaxing vibe top-of-mind for customers.

Colours are interpreted differently across the world, and stores that attract a more international customer base should pay close attention to this.

While in Western societies green is often associated with nature, sustainability and rebirth, in some parts of Asia it is linked to rot and decay.  

Your colour choices need to make sense from the perspective of your customers and brand identity, but there is an argument for going against the grain and choosing a less familiar approach to stand out from your competitors.

By varying shades you can elicit different responses from consumers.

Also, consider different combinations to enhance the impact of your store’s branding. You could combine two colours with complimentary qualities. A business that sells pharmaceutical and wellbeing-related products needs to evoke customers to feel healthy, and confident that the retailer can solve any problem they’re facing. An appropriate combination might be green, thanks to its association with rebirth, and blue, which suggests trustworthiness.

The colours retailers select send important messages to their consumers – choose wisely and apply what psychologists have learnt about the science of colour. You can learn more about how colour associations can be applied to your retail business through this infographic.  

Remy Van Donk is Art Director/Creative Manager at Vistaprint