Did you know that 62% to 90% of our opinions about products, brands, and even our clothing, are based on color? This means that when your target audience first sets eyes on a piece of direct mail or marketing collateral, the very first impression likely isn’t created by the headline, call to action, or the offer. It’s the colors you use.

Despite the amount of time psychologists spend studying the impact of color on our moods, shopping behavior, and response to environmental stimuli, there is limited consensus on what different colors mean to different people. However, certain conventions still hold true.

For example, here in the United States:

  • Blue = Trust / Security
  • Red = Danger / Love
  • Orange = Cheap
  • Black = Quality / Luxury
  • Green = Wealth / Environmental Friendliness

But these are conventions. Not every consumer will respond to color the same way, and colors can be perceived differently in various vertical markets.

Color will also be perceived differently in different cultures. For example, in India, red can represent power, purity, and fertility. In South Africa, it is associated with violence and mourning. In the United States, yellow is associated with youth and fun. In France, it signifies jealously, betrayal, and weakness.

How can you be sure that the colors you use are sending the right messages?

  1. Identify the underlying message you want to portray. Is it financial security? Adventure and freedom? Enhancement of self-image?
  2. Know your target market. Understand not only the demographic make-up of your audience, but the cultural and ethnic one, as well. Then identify how color is perceived in those markets.
  3. Get feedback. Especially if you’re doing a major roll-out, such as a new logo or new template for direct mail or marketing collateral, conduct focus groups. Ask about perception of all elements of the campaign, including the colors you use.

If you are unsure about how certain colors may be perceived or which may be most effective for different customer groups, test them. Pay attention to the sub-trends that may only show up in sub-demographics, such as ethnicity, gender, and geographic location. Color is a powerful tool in attracting and engaging audiences, but one size may not fit all.