What's in a colour

Tags: Knowledge

A recent study reveals that most people understand new ideas better when presented in colour, this could help firms get a leg up in competitive differentiation and sales

What's in a colour
In a volatile economy, businesses of all sizes are squarely focused on two things: sales and productivity. But, in this era of information overload, where the average person is exposed to nearly 3,000 marketing messages every day, the burden is on the consumers to segregate meaningful information from the noise. So, how does one reach out to their potential customers in the hyperinformation era?

Even employees are not spared from the hyperinformation era; they face a similar challenge as many struggle to stay focused on priorities amidst constantly refreshing social media feeds, a 24x7 news cycle and phone calls that serve as a pocket-sized entertainment system. However, the remedy to both these challenges, for bottomline-oriented businesses, lie in colour?

Did one pay as much attention while deciding colour for the marketing campaign as much as for the slogan and other materials? And when one chooses a certain colour, what triggered the choice for it. Did one have a certain marketing message in mind?

As per a colour survey conducted by Xerox, 69 per cent of people said that they understand new ideas better when presented in colour. While 76 per cent of those surveyed say they can find information faster if it’s presented in colour.

And the benefits don’t end with productivity – colour can also give companies a leg up in competitive differentiation and sales.

For Bing, the right colour choice was a million dollar difference – or $80 million to be precise. Microsoft’s research team found that blue engaged people the most, so they tested various shades of blue in user groups, and determined that Bing’s previous paler shade of blue lacked confidence. As a result, Bing decided to switch to a shade of blue similar to the one used by Google. Based on user feedback, it is estimated that Bing’s blue could generate $80 million to $90 million in advertising sales.

According to Jill Morton, colour psychologist and branding expert, when colour is used correctly, businesses can draw the right attention to marketing collateral, signage and business documents. It’s tempting to select colour based on personal preference, but keying in on the colours that elicit the desired emotional response can pay dividends.

By using Morton’s colour symbolism and selection tips below, businesses can create documents with the appropriate emotional impact to incite reader action.

One needs to understand the basic formula for all colours - dark colours are professional and trustworthy; bright colours are youthful and energising; light colours are peaceful and delicate while muted colours are sophisticated and calming.

Colours resonate differently across generations. The colour purple for example, an older generation may look at purple as mysterious and magical simply because it is a hue that rarely occurs in nature. A younger generation may automatically associate the colour with Barney, the purple dinosaur.

Bright colours like yellow reflect more light and are great for grabbing the reader’s attention on a flier promoting a sale or a document with an urgent task. Yellow and black combined attract more attention than any other colour combination out there. Colours like blue or gray are soothing and would be appropriate for use on customer documents that report on annual charity giving or a letter on customer appreciation.

Most document designs only need two to three colours to deliver a consistent look – three being the best. Using more than four colours causes visual clutter for the reader, which can lead to confusion and distraction.

Documents should have a strong contrast between the text colour and the background to ensure readability. Yellow text on a white background would be considered a bad contrast because they are both very light colours and cause strain on the reader’s eyes. A deep purple text on an off-white background would be an example of a good contrast because of the ease the reader will experience while reading dark text on a light background.

Businesses can engage their readers, create a positive first impression and help their message stand out from the marketing noise by creating colour harmony in document design. A document with smart, strategic colour application will ensure communications are delivered with maximum value – impacting the company’s bottomline with increased productivity and sales. zz

(Author is the executive director,

Tech­nology Channel & International Business, Xerox)


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