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The Science of Colors in Marketing : Why Facebook Is Blue
by Leo Widrich
Apr 25, 2015
Last updated: Sep 17, 2017
Why is Facebook blue? According to The New Yorker, the reason is simple. It’s because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colorblind. This means that blue is the color Mark can see the best. In his own words Zuck says:
“Blue is the richest color for me; I can see all of blue.”
Not highly scientific right? Well, although in the case of Facebook, that isn’t the case, there are some amazing examples of how colors actually affect our purchasing decisions.
After all, the visual sense is the strongest developed one in most human beings. It’s only natural that 90% of an assessment for trying out a product is made by color alone.
So how do colors really affect us and what is the science of colors in marketing really? As we are also trying to make lots of improvements to our product at Buffer, this was a key part to learn more about. Let’s dig into some of the latest, most interesting research on it.
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First: Can you recognize the online brands just based on color?
Before we dive into the research, here are some awesome experiments that show you how powerful color alone really is. Based on just the colors of the buttons, can you guess which company belongs to each of them:
Example 1 (easy):
Example 2 (easy):
Example 3 (medium):
Example 4 (hard):
These awesome examples from Youtube designer Marc Hemeon, I think show the real power of colors more than any study could.
How many were you able to guess? (All the answers are at the bottom of this post!)
Which colors trigger which feeling for us?
Being completely conscious about what color triggers us to think in which way isn’t always obvious. The Logo Company has come up with an amazing breakdown which colors are best for which companies and why. Here are 4 great examples:
Especially if we also take a look at what the major brands out there are using, a lot of their color choices become a lot more obvious. Clearly, everyone of these companies is seeking to trigger a very specific emotion:
On top of that, especially when we want to buy something, the colors can play a major role. Analytics company KISSmetrics created an amazing infographic on the science of how colors affect our purchases.
Especially the role of “Green” stands out to me as the most relaxing color we can use to make buying easier. We didn’t intentionally choose this as the main color for Buffer actually, it seems to have worked very well so far though.
At second look, I also realized how frequently black is used for luxury products. It’s of course always obvious in hindsight. Here is the full infographic:
How to improve your marketing with better use of colors:
This all might be fairly entertaining, but what are some actual things we can apply today to our website or app? The answer comes yet again from some great research done by the good folks over at KISSmetrics.
If you are building an app that mainly targets Women, here is KISSmetrics best advice for you:
Women love: Blue, Purple and Green
Women hate: Orange, Brown and Gray
In case your app is strictly targeting men, the rules of the game are slightly different. Here it goes:
Men love: Blue, Green and Black
Men hate: Brown, Orange and Purple
In another amazing experiment Performable (now HubSpot) wanted to find out whether simply changing the color of a button would make a difference to conversion rates.
They started out with the simple hypothesis of choosing between 2 colors (green and red) and trying guess what would happen.
For green, their intuition was this:
“Green connotes ideas like “natural” and “environment,” and given its wide use in traffic lights, suggests the idea of “Go” or forward movement.”
For red, their thinking went like this:
“The color red, on the other hand, is often thought to communicate excitement, passion, blood, and warning. It is also used as the color for stopping at traffic lights. Red is also known to be eye-catching.”
So, clearly an A/B test between green and red would result in green, the more friendly color to win. At least that was their guess. Here is how their experiment looked like:
So how did that experiment turn out? The answer was more surprising than I had expected:
The red button outperformed the green button by 21% !
What’s most important to consider is that nothing else was changed at all:
21% more people clicked on the red button than on the green button. Everything else on the pages was the same, so it was only the button color that made this difference.
This definitely made me wonder. If we were to read all the research before this experiment and ask every researcher which version they would guess would perform better, I’m sure green would be the answer in nearly all cases. Not so much.
At my company Buffer, we’ve also conducted dozens of experiments to improve our conversion rates through changes of colors. Whilst the results weren’t as clear, we still saw a huge change. One hypothesis is that for a social media sharing tool, there is less of a barrier to signup, which makes the differences less significant.
Despite all the studies, generalizations are extremely hard to make. Whatever change you make, treat it first as a hypothesis, and see an the actual experiment what works for you. Personally, I’m always very prone to go with opinion based on what I read or research I’ve come across. Yet, data always beats opinion, no matter what.
Quick last fact: Why are hyperlinks blue?
This is something that always interested me and is actually a fun story. It’s to give the best contrast between blue and the original grey of websites:
Here is the full explanation:
“Tim Berners-Lee, the main inventor of the web, is believed to be the man who first made hyperlinks blue. Mosaic, a very early web browser, displayed webpages with a (ugly) gray background and black text. The darkest color available at the time that was not the same as the black text was that blue color. Therefore, to make links stand apart from plain text, but still be readable, the color blue was selected.”
I think it is extremely fascinating that simply changing something as small as color can completely chance the outcome of something. What have been your findings in terms of colors and marketing? I’d love your ideas on this.
Solution to the riddle: Example 1: Facebook, Example 2: Google, Example 3: Flickr, Example 4: LinkedIn
Download their page in PDF (right click/Save Link As...) : The Science of Colors in Marketing.pdf
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