How to Incorporate Color with Your Ads

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Digital or print, the colors you choose for your ads can make a tremendous difference in their impact. Do you want to arouse excitement, project reliability or evoke tranquility? Knowing which colors to use can add subliminal punch to an already effective ad or enhance the viewer’s impression of your brand.

As a matter of fact, there’s an entire science built around the psychological, emotional and sensory effects of various colors. In other words, researchers are not only able to link specific color families to specific responses, they’ve determined which colors work best for which industries.

Generally, colors are grouped into three categories: warm, cool, and black and white. Warm colors include reds and yellows, blues and greens are cool. Warms create excitement and stimulate the senses, while cools tend to generate tranquility. Stark though it may be, black-and-white can evoke a powerful sense of professionalism.

Your choice of color depends on a number of factors:

  • your target audience
  • the response you want to incite
  • the medium you plan to use

Does your ad target children or adults? Men or women? Maybe you’re marketing to a specific ethnic group. It pays to know which colors appeal to which audiences. Did you know, for example, males prefer blue to red? Environmentally-conscious people respond well to blues and greens. Plus, you don’t want to forget cultural differences when it comes to color symbolism. Purple may evoke an impression of wealth in the west, but in India it’s the color of mourning.

The response you want to create will also determine which colors you choose. Restaurants frequently use shades of red and yellow in both their ads and their decor, because these shades suggest friendliness and stimulate the senses, even to the point of increasing appetite. Darker shades of blue—like those used in police and mail carrier uniforms—evoke a sense of dependability and integrity. Combine black and white to suggest power, black and gold if you’re after polished glamor.

Finally, ask yourself where your ad will appear and adjust your colors accordingly. Those exciting reds and yellows may require tweaking if you want to achieve the same effect in your digital and newspaper ads; electronic media reflect colors differently than print media. If you’re marketing to beach goers or sports fans via an aerial banner, you may want to stick with black and white, because colors don’t show as well from a thousand feet up.

If you’re unsure about which colors will best suit your advertising purposes, you’ll be relieved to hear you can find all kinds of help on the Internet. Help Scout offers a handy infographic, and this article from Business Insider provides both guidelines and nine concrete examples of the ways famous brands use color in advertising. Empower Yourself With Cultural Psychology’s business section includes information on target audiences and culture-based color symbolism.

As you can see, using color effectively isn’t difficult, and it can exponentially increase your ad’s impact by eliciting a desired reaction and/or enhancing the customer’s response to your brand.