A careful curation of colors in the workplace environment is proven to improve mood and productivity. And color psychology is just as powerful a tool for marketers. The Institute for Color Research reports that 90 percent of the judgments people make about content is related to the colors in which that content is presented. What's more, 85 percent of people base their buying decisions on color.

That's why choosing the right color palette for your next motion graphic, social media infographic, or interactive landing page may spell a huge improvement in engagement and sales. Sure, you might need to follow brand guidelines or your brand visual language. But a knowledge of color psychology in marketing can help you determine when and how to veer from those guidelines, or which brand colors to make dominant in certain pieces of visual content.

Here are six essential considerations when you're looking for the colors that will make your next content marketing push a success.   

1. Legibility is key.

The right colors are, first and foremost, those that ensure your visual content is legible. That means pairing colors that are relatively high-contrast; no light gray on white, please. On the other hand, don't go too high-contrast -- a combination of, say, orange and blue might strain the eyes.

Accessibility is a key consideration here, too. Up to 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women of Northern European descent have a form of color blindness that makes red and green hard to distinguish. Avoid this combination to reach as many people as possible.

2. Color palette says who you are.

Color inevitably communicates a lot to potential customers. More carefully choosing the color palette for each piece of visual content will help you better control the image your company projects.

In the following sections, I'll outline the best approach depending on the kind of image you want for your brand. Keep in mind, though, that context matters. You may want to vary your color palette depending on the audience a particular piece of content is targeting, or what platform it's appearing on.

3. B2B or B2C?

Orange is a color that we associate with light and the sun. It communicates warmth and connection. For this reason, B2C brands that want to avoid a "corporate" look and feel -- from Amazon and Harley Davidson to Nickelodeon and Penguin books -- opt for orange. A similar psychology underlies the color yellow.

Blue, meanwhile has a calming effect, which is why it invokes wisdom, strength, and trust. This is why it's employed in so many B2B contexts. However, it's equally effective for brands in which you may be entrusting your money or your health. You want to know that you can trust companies such as Volkswagen, Visa, Nivea, and PayPal with your future wellbeing.

4. Luxury or approachability?

Neutral color palettes such as white, silver, and black are a favorite of many luxury brands, which want to exude an elegance that is often associated with a minimalistic design style. Black, for instance, communicates power and sophistication and so is associated with such luxury brands as Ralph Lauren and Moët & Chandon.

Purple, given its traditional association with royalty, can also be a good choice for brands seeking to communicate luxury.

But what if your brand wants to be perceived as accessible and fun-loving? Brighter, more festive colors are your best option. People associate red with excitement and energy, while yellow is optimistic and happy. Green is authentic and friendly. If your product or service aims to inspire such feelings in your customers, these might be the colors for you.

5. Contemporary or classic?

The white and silver in brands such as Apple, Tesla, and Zara offer up a clean, contemporary look and feel. Looking modern is key for brands that want to be on the cutting edge in their field, and that's why so many technology companies opt for this color scheme.

Purple, meanwhile, can exude a more classic look and feel because of its royal history. Likewise, black projects the kind of security and sophistication associated with classic brands such as Chanel.  

6. Your target audience.

Surveys find that different audiences tend to prefer different colors, so you may want to choose your colors based on who you want to reach. One survey posted on the Kissmetrics blog found that, while blue is the favorite color of both male-identified and female-identified people, 57 percent of men prefer it while just 35 percent of women do. The second-favorite color for men was green while women preferred purple.

Color preference and perception is also cultural. The Guardian reports that in Liberia, the Bassa people perceive only two colors: a combination of red, yellow, and orange grouped under the single word ziza, and a purple-green-blue combination called hui. Similarly, the Shona of Zimbabwe have just four different color words, grouped together in distinct ways. 

Perception of color, then, depends on where and in what cultural contexts you're living -- so take this in consideration when determining how your audience will interpret the colors that you use. For example, red stands for love and passion in the United States, but in India it symbolizes purity.

Keep these six considerations in mind and your next visual campaign will reach all the right audiences -- and evoke the response you're looking for.

Published on: Sep 24, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.