Harness the Psychological Impact of Colors for Maximum Sales Impact

Your prospects don't buy for logical reasons. They buy your product out of emotion. This happens when you – as the graphic designer – and the copywriter have deliberately targeted some deep psychological need the prospect already has.

Winning copy and design must work together to elicit an appropriate emotional response – maybe a feeling of pride, security, belonging … even fear or anger. This comes from understanding your prospect's wants, fears, desires, passions, and dreams.

If your copywriter has done his job well, he can tell you exactly what emotions he and the client feels are the appropriate ones for the package to target.

Your design must subtly touch on these emotions. And color is a critical player in that regard.

Here are 10 colors that carry strong emotional impact.

Red = danger, excitement. Red sparks “hot” emotions, such as fear and anger. It also revs up the metabolism and makes people feel hungry – which makes it great for food ads and restaurants.

Black = serious, heavy, deep. Put red and black together with fear-based copy and you have one scary message.

Dark blue (especially royal blue) = stability, trustworthiness, maturity. Blue is good for reassuring prospects and underscoring security. Light blues energize, but they can also feel distant and unfriendly if overused.

Note: Blue is often used in the insurance market and to promote financial services and products.

Green = positive, organic, comforting. Hunter green makes an especially strong impact since it's equated with money. It is good for projecting a successful, growing image, or for making prospects feel like they're welcome to “put their feet up on the coffee table.”

Note: Green is also often used to promote vitamins and health and fitness books and products.

White = purity, honesty, cleanliness. But too much white can seem cold and sterile. Be aware, however, that if your promotion is being sent to Asian prospects, white often signifies death in their culture.

Gray = honesty, maturity. Gray is good for projecting a stable, knowledgeable, “executive” image.

Brown = wholesome, down-to-earth. Brown encourages openness. Dark browns suggest masculinity. Light browns suggest femininity.

Yellow = brilliance, encouragement, high spirits. Yellow can set people on edge, though. Yellow on black gets attention and works well for discount sales. But using yellow for text can be a huge problem, because it is difficult to read.

Purple = youth, royalty. Pair purple with gold for an upscale, rich image.

Gold = warmth, wealth. Gold offsets and counteracts cold colors. Use it to trim jewel tones like burgundy, emerald green, or royal blue for a classic appeal.

Note: The book Color Index by Jim Krause (How Design Books) is a good resource for seeing how colors work together to enhance emotions.

So, before designing any project, read the copy several times to see which emotions it hits for you. Then talk to the copywriter to find out what his intentions were. Combining that information, decide how you're going to use colors to set just the right mood.

For example, do you want the headline to appeal to your prospect's fear? For a headline that shouts “Judgment Day Is Near!” you might use red and black.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: October 19, 2006

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