The Email Design Element You Haven’t Considered

You feel it in your gut every time you hit

You feel it in your gut every time you hit the “queue email” button: the eager (or perhaps nervous) anticipation of response.

You do, of course, directly ask your readers for that response, whether it’s replying, sharing on a social network or purchasing. And your marketing copy has an encouraging effect.

But have you thought about what effect, direct or indirect, the colors in your emails have? Choosing colors may feel fun and carefree, but the hues you choose can actually affect your readers’ responses.

You Mean Colors Really Matter?

best color for emailKissmetrics, which focuses exclusively on customer conversion, explains that color has more effect than any other visual cue in marketing.

They pulled data from marketing journals to create a visual representation of how colors perform (shown on left).

For a specific example, one company found that switching a link from red to blue prompted significantly more clicks on the link.

So, Consider Creating A Mood With Color

The Color The Mood Inspired
dark blue grave, intelligent, sated
purple elegant, mysterious, exotic
red exciting, dangerous, hungry
light yellow breezy, optimistic, carefree
dark yellow oppressive, overpowering
pink gentle, soothing, pacifying
gray practical, timeless
green restful, uplifting
brown stable, genuine
black elegant, classy
orange ambitious, cheerful
white clean, safe

Every color triggers a unique psychological response. So while you’ll want your emails’ colors to fit with your usual branding, you’ll also want to consider the mood you’re creating within your readers.

  • A cafe may want to use red. It’s reported to increase appetite. If their logo and signs are usually hunter green and navy, they could use a dark maroon to match. If their branding is bright, they could use crimson.
  • A financial planning might want to choose a combination from white, blue, brown and grey – colors that build trust in a brand by suggesting intelligence, safety and stability.
  • A childcare center may want to use greens, pinks, browns or whites to soothe anxious parents and indicate its trustworthy and nurturing nature.
  • Clothing retailers could use purple to suggest their clothes are uncommon or exclusive, light yellow to put the customer in a carefree “buying mood” or black to sell business or formal wear.

You can incorporate colors to create any mood. Choose from the chart on the right, or find more information on colors in marketing from ColorMatters or ColorCom.

Case Study: Blood In The Mail

fake blood in mailBlackcoffee helps companies develop brand expression. Last Halloween, as a way to express their own brand, they mailed bags of fake blood to their prospects.

The bag offered to help put life back in the recipients’ marketing campaigns and encouraged them to “B positive.”

This campaign had a 25% response rate – remarkable for a direct mailing. The costs of the mailing were paid for by the 3rd call.

Now, part of the campaign’s success was undoubtedly due to its shock factor. It’s not everyday you open your mailbox and pull out bright red blood.

But that bright red color, I would argue, added to the effect. The bold crimson commanded attention, and it also triggered urgency.

Fact Or Foolishness?

While countless studies have shown the psychological effect of colors, it would be presumptive to say that every single person will react to a color in the same way.

In fact, some may think color has no effect at all. Others may think the effect is minimal enough to not bother incorporating the approach in emails.

So as a marketer, I’m asking for your opinion: how much do you think color affects whether or not your email readers respond?


  1. Randall Magwood

    1/30/2013 1:10 am

    The “blood in the mail” concept is genius. I personally use alot of red and blue (along with black of course) text on my websites. In my emails though, I just stick to plain black text only – due to the style of my email marketing. I think colors do affect the amount of response that you get from your leads and customers. The trick is to take a step back and make sure that everything looks good – and persuasive.

  2. Gabriella

    1/30/2013 8:58 am

    Mailing a bag of blood was quite creative in my opinion. It’s usually something different that catches one’s eye before simply tossing it in the garbage along with other junk mail you receive.

  3. Amanda Gagnon

    1/30/2013 9:30 am

    Randall – Absolutely; it all has to look good. May I ask, why red, blue and black?

    Gabriella – Exactly. The trick is coming up with something that hasn’t been done. 😛

  4. Randall Magwood

    1/30/2013 7:47 pm

    Hi Amanda, I generally use “red” for my headlines to really get my visitors to catch the main idea that I want them to wrap their brain around… “blue” for my sub-heads throughout my sales page, and “black” for my text. And I also use black only for my emails that I send out.

  5. Chaz DeSimone

    2/1/2013 2:44 am

    I have no choice but to punch up or draw back the amount of color in my monthly (or more frequently if I’m on a roll) email announcements. Each one announces my latest AmperArt edition, graphic design prints and posters that feature the ampersand “as fun & fabulous art.” The only constant is that each one contains an ampersand — the colors run wildly from shocking pink and lime green to subtle grey and tan to simple black and white. I am sure all the elements combined either turn on or turn off a different segment of subscribers each month. The subject matter, the design , the fonts, all of that forms a thumbs up or thumbs down after a few moments of consideration…but I bet the color is the first, instantaneous trigger as to which way that thumb is gonna go. To keep some consistency I design everything else in the announcement with only black and grey (although I can’t control the blue hyperlinks, and that’s okay, as ugly as they are: people know it means “click”).

  6. S

    2/1/2013 5:30 am

    What color would be catchy for wedding and body shop? Any clue?

  7. Amanda Gagnon

    2/1/2013 10:06 am

    Chaz – I think it’s great that you’ve created a neutral layout for your artwork to pop out of. With that approach, the colors of the artwork will appeal to/push away the readers who are likely or not likely to buy them, anyway, so if you offer a variety differently colored pieces, you’re going to end up appealing to everyone at some point anyway. 🙂

    S – I assume you’re talking about a wedding shop and an auto body shop? I’d say for wedding, you want to think elegant and luxurious, so check out some research on what colors those would be (I’d say purple and black, plus maybe pink to reflect the feminine, but that’s just my opinion.) For a body shop, you’ll want to create a sense of credibility and trustworthiness. Whites, grays and browns are likely to work well there.

  8. Krista Salvatore

    2/6/2013 9:43 pm

    email marketing should be made well and artistic. It is important that you also know your target so you’ll know what you’ll do or what kind of letter to make.

  9. EM

    2/15/2013 4:48 am

    I totally agree with the point that the landing page should be given a proper color to attract the human eyes. if they don’t find anything interesting in the Landing, our total effort is going to be waste.

  10. Melissa Curran

    2/22/2013 8:31 am

    Color plays a huge role in branding. I thought long and hard about color when designing my book cover. I wanted to express serenity and peace so I chose a range of blues from soft to royal.

  11. Amanda Gagnon

    2/22/2013 9:30 am

    Melissa – Great example.
    Krista – Good point; it’s not only what you want to project about your business that should affect your color choice, but who you want to attract as well. Thanks for bringing that up.

  12. Rich

    2/24/2013 6:29 pm

    Thanks Amanda for the post. I love hearing the psychology behind people’s buying decisions and I think color is usually my last consideration when looking at campaigns. Definitely an area that most people seem to play it safe in.

  13. marklouis

    3/6/2013 1:38 am

    In my opinion colour does play a vital role in creating the mood of their reader.A colour combination may act as a theme of your emails.So the colour should be chosen wisely as it will affect the respond rate.