Colors evoke different feelings. Pink—often used in mental and criminal correctional facilities—is associated with calm. Red—the favorite tie color of politicians—is associated with power. Purple—often used on album covers and fairground attractions—is associated with zany. And so on.
But what about intentions to purchase? Is there a color combination that makes consumers ‘feel’ like purchasing? To answer this question, we first need to begin with color theory. And then, an experimentJ
First, we need to understand why certain colors evoke different feelings in us. Let’s start with the classic color assignment of blue for boys and pink for girls. Is this simply social conditioning? Or is this attraction of color matched to gender from biological programming. Theory tells us it’s related to the latter. Traditionally the male role was to go out and hunt for food. The dominant colors associated with hunting are blue (the sky is the largest feature), green (animals are found near plants), and brown (soil). These colors are considered masculine colors. Blue it seems has dominated in its assignment to male gender because of its dominance in nature—the sky is the biggest feature. Pink on the other hand is associated with feeding—the mouth is pink, and arguably babies are also. The traditional role of the female was of course food preparation and child rearing, while the male was out hunting.
Ok, so it seems there could be some biological programming behind the mechanisms evoking color response. So which color (or colors) have the best chance of evoking feelings to spend money? We did an experiment (official results will be published at a later stage), and found the answer was…Green. And here’s why:
Green is the dominant color in nature related to life. Plants are predominantly green, mammals need plants for survival. This is why desert cities like Las Vegas install artificially cultured grass—the green foliage soothes us. A walk in the forest soothes us far more effectively than sitting in a room with no plants. Whereas once the symbol of a person’s wealth was their crops and livestock, it is now money. We associate the color green with well being, survival, and freshness. Our responses to colors are automatic, operating at a level below our consciousness. Green is the strongest candidate to prime those feelings of well-being and natural instinct to ‘bring home the bacon’.
I believe there are several examples of green websites that have been incredibly successful, that add evidence to our hypothesis. Of course we cannot wholly attribute their success to being green, we can only note that they were. Example one is Mint.com, a website that is predominantly green. Mint.com had an enormous challenge to overcome: they needed their customers to agree to give out their bank account details, and sign up to have Mint organize their finances. Their main competitor had a similar idea, but was not green (wesabe.com). Mint was an enormous success and sold for USD 170M in September 2009. Wesabe shut down in September 2010 from lack of money. Another example outside of the USA is http://www.woolworths.com.au, Australia’s most successful online grocery store. They have managed to outperform their main competitor Coles (not green color) on almost all levels, despite their similarities.
We’re interested to hear of other examples. Let us know what you think!