The Role of Color in Marketing

Welcome to this edition of Core, an industry newsletter with news, nuggets, and information on best practices in business-to-business technology marketing and public relations. With it, we hope to share information vital to any organization looking to generate revenue and accelerate growth through intelligent strategy, messaging, branding, public relations and demand generation.

The role of color in marketing

Sure, color is important if you’re marketing fashion, cars or even candy, but in a B2B market? B2B buyers are all purely rational decision-makers, aren’t they? So just how important is color?

Since color is something people react to instinctively, typically without deliberation, it is a powerful tool for creating an immediate impression. That’s why color can be a great differentiator, even in a B2B environment.

Choosing unconventional colors can give your company a competitive edge: walk into a trade show and your booth will be spotted across the hall. In a trade magazine or any other place where your organization is lined up against its competitors, why not use color to your advantage?

And when we say “unconventional colors,” we don’t mean they have to be crazy; it’s just a matter of avoiding the “default” colors used by most companies in your market. For example, many financial institutions tend toward dark greens, blues, golds and burgundies. In that market, a bank like ING stands out through its bold use of orange.

Color has meaning, but what does that mean?
There is plenty of conventional wisdom on the subject of colors and their “meanings.” From a graphic designer or feng shui master, there are some common color themes – red means passion or fire; green denotes health, the environment or financial gain; blue is calming and restful… the list goes on. But these color clichés can only get you so far.

Since color is highly subjective, it can be difficult – but it’s important – to set personal preferences and associations aside. Just because there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to color, doesn’t mean every opinion is valid. For example, basing color choices on your alma mater’s football team may make you feel good, but has no rational basis.

Another reason to set personal opinion aside is that many opinions about color are culturally determined. In an era of increasing globalization, many B2B companies are marketing overseas, so marketers always need to be cognizant of color’s relation to religion, taboos or other belief systems. For instance, while red means “stop” or “danger” in the West, in China it’s the color of good fortune.

The perfect palette: not too big, not too small
As with so many aspects of marketing, consistency is key to making the most of color’s potential to differentiate. Everyone likes choices, but too many choices can be overwhelming. Defining a palette with a limited range of pre-defined colors avoids the use of color becoming a free-for-all.

In our experience, an ideal color palette consists of two or three “primary” or “lead” colors – which typically appear in the logo – with between four and six supplementary colors. Black and white typically don’t count as colors in the palette, but are available for use as well. Palettes of this size provide adequate variety for multiple applications, but are limited enough to show consistency across different marketing materials.

Establishing a corporate color palette saves time because marketers don’t have to dream up a new color each time one is needed. They also provide a convenient framework for using color coding to distinguish between product lines, industry verticals or solution types.
When is a color not a color?
“The color looks correct on my screen, so why doesn’t it print right?” How often have we heard those words? The problem is that monitors and printers create colors in entirely different ways. In fact, a computer monitor can display many colors that no printer can reproduce. What’s more, different printer models render the same colors differently, and different monitors will too.

The answer is not to get hung up on color consistency between different monitors and printers – simply ensure that colors are consistent in the same media, and accept that differences are inevitable between media.

It is also important to remember that color is not always available. That’s why, when designing a logo, we recommend testing how it will look when faxed or printed on a black-and-white printer. If the different colors come out as shades of gray that are very similar, the entire design will be lost.

Color trends: the self-fulfilling prophecy
Color forecasting is serious business. Several organizations regularly predict color trends we can expect to see in fashion, car colors, paints etc. The members of these organizations – fashion designers, retailers, automative, textile and paint manufacturers, for the most part – help generate these predictions, typically two or three years out. They then base their new products on those same “trends” and – voilà! – the predictions come true.

How is this relevant to B2B marketers? Well, these color trends become part of the world around us, in the colors we see in stores, cars, paints, websites and magazines, and they eventually trickle through to our field too. Colors which were once unusual, or even unacceptable, for business, gradually become mainstream.

So the next time you walk into a trade show, ask yourself if your color palette is helping you stand out or blend in with the competition. It may be time to create your own new color trend.

Want to learn more? Check out these cool sites all about color:

The role of color in marketing was developed to provide insight into the importance of understanding color and its role in B2B marketing. We created Core with the goal of enhancing your marketing and PR practices. We hope you enjoyed this edition.


Arketi Group

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