How to Use Color in Your Advertising

Nov 1, 2020 | Business

Using color is a powerful way to impact the how customers behave, think and buy.

By Mike French

I was designing a business card for a new client and asked the business owner to provide the usual information for her card. I asked if she wanted any particular look. She said, “No, just use your creativity and make me look good.” So, I designed her card with a beautiful blue background. It looked wonderful and I emailed her a proof.

Her response was, “This design is okay, but it’s not quite what I want.” I asked what she wanted different, but she said she would know it when she saw it. I redid the card and sent her a second proof. But, once again, she asked for another design. Again, I redesigned the card and sent her a fresh proof. She didn’t like that one either! In frustration, I said, “I still don’t know what you like.” Then, I asked, “What is your favorite color?” She said, “I love orange!”

I took the first design and replaced the blue background with an orange background, emailed her the proof and held my breath. She responded immediately with, “I love it! It is exactly what I wanted!” I could have saved a lot of time and effort if I had asked for her favorite color from the get-go.

Color Impacts Emotions and Sales

While you may think this is inconsequential to the bigger picture, evaluating your website, business cards, advertising, bill boards, and more, could reveal why you are not attracting the customers you are pursuing. Every indication you can provide to current and potential customers that you are the parts provider for them helps a sale close.

Studies have proven that a buying decision is an emotional response, when presented with a choice, even in auto parts. Anything you can do to trigger the right emotion in your marketing helps sales.

Color is a big part of it. Color has an impact on how customers behave and think. It is a powerful communication tool because it ignites emotion and can be a primary reason for a purchase.

Color is what people notice first in advertising and don’t even realize it. It can often be the lone reason someone makes a purchase. In a Small Business Trends survey, 93 percent of buyers said they focus on visual appearance. Close to 85 percent claim color is a primary reason when they make a purchase! Another study titled “The Impact of Color on Marketing” found that, depending on the product, 90 percent of snap judgments can be based solely on color.

Color in Your Marketing Projects

The following is a list of colors and how they are generally perceived.

Red: This is the color used for iconic brands such as Coca Cola and YouTube. When you use this color, you convey a message of excitement, passion, danger, energy, or action. Red evokes appetite, so it is frequently used by fast-food chains. Red is the first color noticed because it is the color of blood. Because it triggers a message of danger, you want to use this color sparingly and strategically. In marketing red is often used to signal SALE.

Use red for important things such as your call to action like “Call Us Now!,” or for critical headlines and messages you want to draw attention to such as, “Save 40% to 60!” or “Hurry, Offer Ends Soon!”

Use red for warnings such as, “Danger, Flammable Liquids!”  

Yellow: This color is used by brands such as Ferrari, Ikea, Denny’s and McDonalds. This sunshine color conveys happiness, positivity, optimism and fun. Yellow is often used in backgrounds, bursts and as a highlight behind text to call attention.

Black: This color is used by companies like Chanel and Nike. This color gives the feeling of mystery, power, sophistication and elegance. Black can also evoke emotions such as sadness and anger. Black is easy to see and read, so it is often used for text, headlines and logos.

Blue: This color is used by companies like Facebook, Twitter, Gap and Walmart. Blue invokes feelings of harmony, peace, stability, calm and trust. Blue provides a sense of security, curbs appetite and stimulates productivity. Blue is considered a masculine color so most men feel comfortable with it and prefer blue. Many retailers print things like their guarantee, warranty, or free shipping icons in a blue color to strengthen the trust that blue represents.

Green: Brands such as John Deere, Starbucks and Roots use green. This is the nature color and gives off feelings of growth, generosity, fertility and health. Green stimulates harmony in your brain. It encourages balance leading to decisiveness. Green is the color of finance. Green is one of the most seen colors in nature, so it is used by brands that promote themselves as environmentally-friendly.

Orange: This color is used in logos like Nickelodeon and Home Depot. This color gives people feelings of creativity, adventure, success, balance, and enthusiasm. It is associated with affordability. Orange is found to stimulate, motivate and lend a positive attitude. It is often used in educational materials, courses or blogs. Orange is not as commanding as red, but many marketers use it for calls to action or for areas they want to draw the eye.

White: You may think of white as a non-color, but it evokes emotions such as innocence, goodness, humility and cleanliness. Apple, Adidas and Tesla, use white in their logos and marketing. Most pages have a white background and a black font as that combination is best for readability.

Pink: This color is used by Mary Kay Cosmetics and Think Pink breast cancer awareness. This color gives feelings of femininity, playfulness, immaturity and unconditional love. Women generally like this color and most men do not.

Purple: Yahoo, Taco Bell and Hallmark use purple. This royal color evokes power, nobility, luxury, spirituality and wisdom. It stimulates problem-solving as well as creativity.

Brown: UPS uses this color in their advertising and on their vehicles. This color evokes feelings of security, protection, structure and being down-to-earth. Many businesses use brown instead of overusing black.

By using colors strategically, you help customers and prospects perceive your products and services the way you want – which is one step closer to a sale!  

First Impressions Using Color

When you want to say you are:

Honest, trustworthy or serious – blue

Passionate and excited about your product – red

Giving a corporate image – dark blue, dark red or black

Creative or imaginative – purple, yellow or orange

Happy or playful – yellow

Affordable or sociable – orange

Conservative – blue

Eco-friendly or financial – green

Compassionate and caring – pink, blue, green or turquoise

Elegant – black, silver

High quality – black, silver, gold or purple

Luxurious – gold, black, silver, or  purple

Sophisticated – black, silver

Powerful – black

Light hearted – pastels, pale yellow or light blue

 Mike French, president of Mike French & Company, Inc., can be reached toll free at 800-238-3934, or visit his company’s Web site at

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