Imagine heading to a local café and ordering hot chocolate. They serve it to you in a white cup. Chances are, you won't like your drink. That's not an indication of the quality of the café or the hot chocolate, but rather the color of the cup.

This conclusion is based on a study by the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the University of Oxford. The universities served hot chocolate in white, cream, red, and orange cups. The drinks were identical, but volunteers claimed that the flavor was better when the drink was served in an orange or cream-colored cup.

Surprised? You might not think much about it, but we experience the world through colors. Every day, in all we do, we respond to the colors around us.

Imagine landing on a website filled with clashing blue, orange, and pink. It would be difficult to focus on the page, and you'd likely leave right away. Alternatively, visit a beautifully designed website like, with white, silver, and gray, highlighted by beautiful, crisp photos, and you'll enjoy spending significant time there.

When prospects arrive at your website, see your display ad, or click through to your landing page, they make decisions within seconds. Color combinations influence their reactions and behavior significantly. Therefore, it's critical to carefully select the colors in your marketing materials.

Here are three ways to juice your marketing results using color.

1. Branding

Your branding dictates prospects' expectations of your company, helping them decide whether to do business with you. According to the University of Loyola, Maryland, color increases brand recognition by a whopping 80%. Therefore, pick the right color for your business and maximize your revenue potential.

In the West, for example, and particularly in the US...

  • Blue is typically associated with strength, trustworthiness, and loyalty. That's IBM, Lowe's, AMEX, and Hewlett-Packard use blue logos and color schemes.
  • Orange is associated with fun, excitement, action, warmth, and passion. Nickelodeon, Amazon, Fanta Soda, and Firefox focus on orange.
  • Red stands for energy and power. It's youthful and bold. Check out the red logos and color schemes of Coca-Cola, Virgin, Target, and Netflix.
  • Green is the color of wealth, and many financial services firms, including Fidelity, H&R Block, and TDAmeritrade, embrace it. It's also the color of nature—think Animal Planet, Greenpeace, and Whole Foods—and can represent natural strength: Think Starbucks, Tropicana, and Monster Energy.
  • Yellow conveys happiness, optimism, and friendliness—while grabbing attention. Among the logos that use yellow are those of McDonald's, Hertz, Nikon, Best Buy, and IKEA.
  • Pink is (stereo)typically seen as romantic and feminine, representing love and warmth. Pink logos include PINK by Victoria's Secret, Baskin Robbins, and Barbie.

Consider—and, if necessary, rethink—your identity, brand, and values, and then select colors to convey those attributes. With a color palette that evokes your brand's true DNA, your marketing will achieve greater success.

2. Websites and Landing Pages

Your website and landing pages are perfect places to communicate your branding—and influence prospects' behaviors—via color. Websites and landing pages are highly visual, with sufficient "real estate" to incorporate effective color combinations and high-impact visuals.

Use color to help visitors immediately connect with your site and company. According to CCICOLOR, people make subconscious judgments about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds, and up to 90% of that assessment is based on color alone!

Color is instrumental in driving site and landing page visitors to specific actions. A remarkable 85% of shoppers cite color as a primary reason behind their product purchase decisions, according to Color Marketing Group.

Test the colors on your page repeatedly. That doesn't mean you should change your brand's look and feel. Instead, test different color elements within the framework of your brand identity.

For example, test different call-to-action button colors, but be careful with your conclusions. A software company tested green vs. red call-to-action buttons and found that a red button outperformed the green button by 21%.

However, the predominant color on the page was green. Therefore, the right conclusion was most likely that a contrasting color would beat a non-contrasting color, and not necessarily that red converts better than green. It's possible that another contrasting color may have outperformed the red buttons, so test thoroughly.

3. Advertising

Color plays an important role in advertising. Depending on the campaign you're planning, consider using colors beyond your company's core color palette.

If you're running a campaign focused on a social mission, use colors associated with that cause (such as pink for breast cancer charities) to increase audience recognition. Running an ad tied to a national holiday? Consider the colors associated with the holiday (such as the usual orange and black for Halloween). Admittedly, it's a balancing act as you contemplate the emotions that each color typically evokes.

Advertising is a great opportunity to test colors in photography, illustrations, fonts, and calls to action. Your ad's color scheme should be well-coordinated with the associated landing page, though. Otherwise, you risk a disconnected user experience and abandonment of your page.

Remember that online display advertising is different from your website or landing page. Display ads will be competing with many other elements on the page that are out of your control. If you're advertising directly with a publisher, discuss color combinations that will work effectively on the publisher's page, and create mockups to ensure your ad stands out.

If you're conducting online display advertising using a demand-side platform (DSP) , remember that the vast majority of sites use a white background with black text. Therefore, avoid using a lot of white space in your ad, or risk getting lost on the page. If you must use a white background, encase it in an outline, or otherwise your ads may blend in with the rest of the page or, worse, be mistakenly seen as part of the adjacent ad.

Color Matters

Color is powerful. It evokes emotional responses, helping customers and prospects make associations with particular brands. In fact, color helps people remember brands longer and decide what to buy.

Rethink your company's use of color in your marketing, and experience a colorful display of increased conversions.

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image of Tom Shapiro

Tom Shapiro is the CEO of Stratabeat, a branding and marketing agency. He is also the author of Rethink Your Marketing: 7 Strategies to Unleash Revenue Growth.

Twitter: @tomshapiro

LinkedIn: Tom Shapiro