Color Trends and Influences in Men vs. Women
Color is an extraordinarily powerful and equally complex marketing tool. Although the way in which any particular individual perceives, processes and reacts to color is deeply personal – and heavily dependent upon personal experiences, cultural background and myriad other influences – there is no question that color evokes emotion in all of us and plays a huge role in how we interpret a brand and what that brand stands for.
One of the most interesting aspects of the effects of color in marketing is how it’s used to target men versus women, and how the sexes each respond to certain colors. As a result, it’s critical to understand the demographics of your target audience before attempting to build a brand. Understanding the colors that are likely to not only catch your audience’s eye, but also to evoke the desired response in them, is a huge step toward creating a successful branding strategy.
According to Joe Hallock, a University of Washington alumnus who studied and wrote an undergraduate thesis on color association and preference in 2003, there are some striking differences – and, actually, more similarities than you may think – in the ways in which men and women respond to color.
Let’s start with the similarities: Quite overwhelmingly, blue is the preferred color across the sexes. In fact, 35 percent of women noted it as their favorite color, while 57 percent of men did the same. However, in a separate study conducted by the Department of Applied Human Ecology at Bowling Green State University, the biggest difference here is in the types of blues (and other colors) that are favored by men versus women. For men, it’s the darker, bolder shades – ones that have black added to them. For the women, it’s the softer hues – ones with white added.
Men and women also tend to agree on their distaste for orange, with 22 percent of men and 33 percent of women choosing it as a least favorite.
And then there’s purple, which is one of the most polarizing colors between the sexes, according to Hallock’s study. Exactly zero percent of his male respondents listed purple as a favorite color, though 22 percent of them did mark it as their least favorite. Meanwhile, 23 percent of women consider purple a winner.
So, what does this mean for your brand? Well, that depends. Ask yourself these two questions:
1. Do you want your brand to blend in or stand out?
2. What sort of message would you like to convey?
3. What gender dominates your target audience?
Sure, as we’ve learned, lots of women like purple, so it’s a pretty safe choice for many female-centric companies. But that doesn’t mean that every brand that caters to women has to use purple in its branding. In fact, maybe green is a better choice. Not only is it a complementary color to purple – allowing your brand to stand out in a sea of lavenders, violets and plums – but it is also known to evoke feelings of tranquility, environmental awareness and financial acuity, all of which create positive associations in most people. But then again, maybe your business is more free-spirited than that. Perhaps a vibrant yellow is better suited for your purpose.
And the same is true for male-dominated industries as well. Blue is a wonderful color – especially when taking into account its association with sincerity, calmness and reliability. But there are plenty of other colors that men relate to just as well.
Simply put, the use of color in marketing is anything but straightforward. Both men and women overwhelmingly report their dislike of the color orange, and yet, Harley Davidson, Amazon and Fanta are some of the most well-known and highly respected brands in the world, and all three use orange in their logos. Maybe on its own orange isn’t the most desirable color, but it does tend to invoke a feeling of excitement in both sexes. For Harley Davidson, it’s the thrill of the open road. For Amazon, the anticipation of a package delivery. And for Fanta, the refreshing buzz of sweet carbonation.
At the end of the day, every color has its place; it’s figuring out the right color for your particular place in the market that’s the challenge. With so many pieces to the color puzzle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to figure out the right color for your brand. Luckily, we can help. Contact Paradigm Marketing and Design today to schedule a consultation with our branding team.