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The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding for Your Association

Written by Christina Green | on October 31, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Your association's color use affects how members see your organization.

What color is your association's logo? Was it something that was inherited from your founding or did you recently rebrand?

Your logo's color, as well as other colors in your branding, have a great influence on thoughts and perceptions of your organization. Colors can be persuasive or off-putting. They can evoke emotion. An artist selects a color palette to convey theme and message. Interior designers use color to open up smaller spaces or create intimacy.

  • Would the Olympic rings be as symbolic if they were all grey?
  • Why do you think McDonald's chose red and yellow for their color scheme?
  • How about Coke's signature red?

The power of color is much larger than you may have previously thought and you should use color just as deliberately as artists and designers. Whether you're rebranding your association or just making a few website changes, color needs to be part of the discussion.

This post won't tell you what colors to choose for your website or logo because that depends on your association, its members, and the brand atmosphere you want to create. We're not even going to list colors to tell you what each means, such as yellow being happy and black being depressing. If you're interested in that information, check out this very Logo Color Psychologycool infographic from The Logo Company.

Instead, we're going to walk you through the psychology of color, including what influences your members' perception of color and how color influences the decisions your members make.

What Influences Our Perceptions of Color

If you took a look at that infographic, you know that colors typically have meanings and feeling associated with them. For instance, yellow is a color that's usually synonymous with happiness. It cheers people up. However, the feelings attached to colors are generalizations. They're true for most people, most of the time. But they're not always accurate.

Color's effect on the viewer is much more nuanced than generalizations may lead you to believe. Age, experience, and culture all affect our perceptions of colors and what they mean to us.

For example, yellow doesn't mean happiness to me. As a child I wanted to paint the walls of my room. I dreamt of rich, vibrant colors, the types that evoke a reaction. My mother believed all walls should be white. After endless begging, she relented. She would allow me a pale yellow. I agreed because a color was better than no color, but to this day yellow feels like a consolation prize to me.

My experience changed how I view the color yellow. Your members' color perceptions will be influenced in similar ways, so before you choose a color, consider your members':

  • Age
  • Culture
  • Experience
  • Job
  • Family status
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Location
  • Industry landscape

These, along with the other unique characteristics of your member base, could influence how your members view your association's brand colors. Take that into account when you're making your design and branding decisions.

How Color Influences Purchases

The corporate world has been using branding colors to influence purchases for years and studies back up the technique. Research conducted by Satyendra Singh at the University of Winnepeg on the "Impact of color on marketing" found that most people make up their minds on people or products within 90 seconds. Furthermore, 62% to 90% of their decision is based on colors alone. Colors were also found to:

  • Increase or decrease appetite
  • Enhance mood
  • Soothe customers
  • Reduce the perception of the length of a wait

That makes color a powerful tool for your association. Choose the right color, and your members may not mind waiting in a line at your conference quite as much as they normally would. Or they may decide to upgrade their membership with less than two minutes of deliberation.

How Your Reputation Influences Color Perception

Since color has such a big impact on your members, you should carefully choose the color that goes into your logo, website, and other materials. The right colors will help you build a certain atmosphere or make your association more recognizable. To make your color choices effective, however, you need to take not only your members' experiences into account, but your own reputation as well.

In the Interactive Effects of Color, researchers found the effectiveness of color in conveying emotion is based on the audience's belief that the color fit their perceptions of the brand. That is to say, if your members don't think of you as innovative, selecting the bold orange chosen by so many tech companies (and associated with innovation) will not change their minds about your offerings. Instead, try to marry your members' current opinions about your association with how you want them to change in the future.

Don't be afraid to mix it up, either. Your branding can incorporate different colors depending on use. For instance, FedEx Ground and FedEx Express use the same font and are both recognizable as part of the FedEx family with a signature purple color, but Express adds an orange accent while Ground has a green accent. The orange accent excites and signals the innovation of faster express service while their ground service's green evokes a homegrown dependability.

4 Additional Places to Use Brand Colors in Your Association

In addition to your logo, color should play a role in all your messaging and materials. Here are four more places to deliberately incorporate color.

1.) Marketing and Communications

Branding and color can be particularly effective in helping members recognize communications from you quickly. If members recognize your emails due to your logo or a signature pop of color, for instance, they are less likely to be discarded without being opened. All your communication and marketing materials should match your association's color scheme so that its easily recognized, bringing your association to mind immediately.

2.) Conferences

If color can be used to minimize perceived wait times, consider how you could use that at your conference. Are there expected waits at a registration table? What about at meal time? The color of your tablecloths, wall banners, and other decoration or signage could help make your members feel at ease, even if they're waiting for service.

3.) Calls-to-Action

Don't assume you don't need to think about the color of your calls-to-action just because you recently rebranded or redesigned your website. The location, size, and boldness of your calls-to-action influence how many people click on your "Join Now" and "Register" CTAs, but so does the color you use. Test different CTA colors to determine which is best for motivating your members and prospects to take action, clicking and following through to your offers.

4.) Merchandise and Promotional Items

The products you sell through should clearly identify your association. Use your logo or your signature colors to make products stand out, or use colors to bring to mind certain feelings. A stress ball that your members squeeze during tough days at work might be blue to make them feel stronger, for example.

The Power of Color in Association Branding Takeaway

The key to strong color use is consistency. Make your first color choices with your current reputation and future goals in mind. Then select an entire family of colors that gives you enough flexibility to differentiate your products and services (like FedEx does) without looking like you've changed your mind.

Incorporate the colors you've chosen into all aspects of your association. Use them to make it easy for your members identify communications from you and train their eyes to go to the calls-to-action on your association's website. This deliberate, informed use of color will help you produce more of the actions you desire.

The most successful membership managers practice these 11 habits.

Topics: Associations, Member Experience, Marketing Automation

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