In a study entitled “The Impact of Color on Marketing,” researchers found that consumers made about 90% of their quick decisions about a brand based on color alone, including whether a color was appropriate for the brand or not. With this knowledge, color becomes central to discussions about brand, including how to display the brand at a trade show booth, and we can use color therapy to determine our best choices.
Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, is based on the idea that color can cause subtle changes in our moods and biology. We already intuitively know that color affects us because we each prefer certain colors in our clothing and in our homes. We notice that medical offices are painted with neutral, soothing colors. Restaurants and bars tend to go bolder and darker with their colors.
Just as the cool grey in your dentist’s office makes you feel calm and the dark red in your favorite jazz bar makes you feel festive, many marketers have embraced the idea that color evokes specific emotions in consumers. We’ve heard that yellow conveys cheer, red evokes passion and green promotes peaceful feelings. Similarly, the color choices for your booth have subliminal, psychological overtones that affect your booth staff and especially your visitors.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF COLORS
- Red is a powerful attention-grabbing color that instantly captures viewers’ focus. Red inspires passion and excitement but can also convey danger and fierceness. Since it is such a dominant color, overusing true reds can be a visual overload for consumers. Instead, use it as a border or for messaging rather than making it the prominent color. Using red as an accent color is a great way for key areas within your booth to be noticed without being overly ostentatious.
- Orange – another attention-getting color -- makes people energetic and inspires a playful mood. Outside the primary color set, this mildly quirky color conveys fun and coolness. Used with savvy, it can even identify the brand with a modern, cutting-edge vibe. However, like with red, don’t overdo it because your display may be too visually loud for some visitors. Also, used carelessly, orange can easily be viewed as gaudy or cheap.
- Yellow is a cheerful color associated with positivity and light-heartedness. It subliminally brightens and lifts the mood. Yellow should be used carefully in your booth for a few reasons. First, although it is a jolly color, it can also subliminally cause caution, and that’s something you don’t want to encourage when you’re trying to inspire confidence in your customers. Second, although it won’t overwhelm your visitors’ eyes, it can be hard to read as a prominent color. Third, yellow is best as a coordinating or complementary color – it helps other colors pop and do their best work.
- Green – one of the most versatile and usable colors – evokes feelings of cool, easy, refreshing relaxation. It’s ideal when you want attendees to feel comfortable and calm rather than excited. It supports almost any industry – medical, environmental, financial, academic. It goes with a lot of other colors and can be used as a primary or an accent color.
- Blue is a slippery color to use. Initially, people will feel trust toward the brands using the color blue, which can then lead to a calm, subdued feeling. However, then emotions can slide toward discontent or melancholy, and you don’t want that! Blue will always be trending because it’s visually pleasing, most people don’t abhor it, it coordinates with almost every other color, and there are a billion shades of it. If blue fits your brand and industry, go to the effort of working it wisely into your booth design.
- Purple – the color of royalty -- inspires respect and feelings toward your brand of dignity and sophistication. Depending on your brand, purple can elevate your look to a prestigious level. (Think of Crown Royal’s excellent branding with their velvety purple drawstring bags.) It looks great with gold and takes the elegance up another notch. Purple looks classy as a background if you have text in brighter colors and is a refined alternative to black. One drawback is that if you are using a lot of purple and the carpet and walls of your surrounding areas are also dark, you’ll need to increase your lighting.
THE POWER OF COLOR – Color is a more powerful tool than you might think when it comes to creating your trade show booth. You have about 5 seconds to grab a trade show attendee’s attention, and marrying a creative booth idea with the perfect blend of colors will help you catch your audience’s eye. Look for colors that inspire action and create a lasting emotional connection between your brand and your customers.
When thinking about potential exhibit color ideas, remember that your color scheme plays a large part – both consciously and subconsciously -- in your exhibit’s design and visual aesthetic and your visitors’ reactions to it. There are a few general rules and guidelines to remember before you start brainstorming and thinking about specific colors.
Augment your brand. – Yes, choose colors to attract notice. Yes, choose colors that elicit the emotions you want folks to feel when they interact with your brand. But, by all means, STAY ON BRAND. Selecting a color that provokes an emotion but that is not suited to your brand will end up either confusing your customers or turning them off. Imagine if a bank were trying to get its customers excited about a new interest rate and used the color red in their branding because red evokes excitement. Bad move. Red also signals danger and the worst situation to be in financially is “in the red.”
Leave it to an expert. If you’re not sure which colors will work well together or really enhance your brand, consult a graphic designer. Graphic designers often get hired because they are excellent at spacing and design and lettering and imaging. But color analysis and color scheme is Graphic Design 101. Get professional help so it looks professional.
Think outside the booth. Most of your design effort probably goes into the booth itself. That makes sense. However, think beyond the booth to make sure there are no subliminal color barriers in your exhibit. Remember the subtle messages colors send and the emotions they bring up while you’re choosing your carpet or flooring colors, table runners, banner stands, and other smaller parts of your display. Are you up against an event hall wall? Do you need to disguise that color with your own display? What about a hanging display that’s eye-catching from across the event hall and also supports your branding.
Whether you’re considering using color to refresh or update your booth or if you’re implementing it to completely overhaul the effect your brand has on trade show visitors, you can’t go wrong using color theory to make your best decisions. After all, as designer Celerie Kemble famously quoted, "There's a reason we don't see the world in black and white.