What Are The Best Colors for Postcard Marketing?

March 19, 2014

The 40/40/20 rule of direct-mail marketing states that 40 percent of your success is dependent on the quality of your mailing list, another 40 percent on your offer, and the remaining 20 on “everything else.” I think it’s a good rule of thumb because it emphasizes the fact that you need to reach the right people with the right incentive in order to maximize your return on investment; however, at the same time lumping everything else together into the remaining 20 percent is somewhat of an injustice to the integral role graphic design plays in postcard marketing. Let’s say, for example, you have an awesome offer targeted to the perfect mailing list, but you print that offer in 4-point font. Ludicrous? Perhaps, but it also demonstrates how important graphic design is to your success. That’s especially true when it comes to color. The color of your postcard will largely determine whether your campaign commands the attention of the human eye; it will also set the mood for promotion and speak volumes about your brand without the benefit of the printed word. Thus, your choice of postcard color is critical to your success – which begs the question, what are the best colors for postcard marketing?

Three theories for postcard color

Selecting the best postcard color ultimately depends on the overall goals of your postcard campaign.  There are three basic considerations to take:

  • color for attention
  • color for emotion
  • color for brand

You can decide whether to select a color based on one of those considerations; alternatively, you can try to identify colors and color combinations that are good fits for all three.

Color for attention

One of the foremost goals of postcard design is to command attention. Your postcard must be noticed before it can effectively market your products and services. If getting noticed is the primary goal of design, it stands to reason that you would select bright, attention-getting colors for your postcard design: fluorescent yellow, for example. You would then select a color that has high contrast against that base, such as black against yellow, to make your message stand out. Black and yellow certainly aren’t the only colors that command attention, but they do represent the theory of coloring for attention well. Any bright color matched with a dark, contrasting color will work. However, such colors might not fit with your brand or emotional theme. Notice how road signs that warn you of upcoming turns, animal crossings, and other potential hazards are always in yellow and black; while stop signs are always red and white. These colors were chosen to command attention. medium_33413040-Optimized

photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopincc


Color for emotion

Customers buy on emotion, justify with logic. This isn’t the first time you’ve read that statement, and if it is to be believed then it means you should print postcards with colors designed to elicit the right emotion from your customer base. Do you want them to be excited? Scared? Do you want to promote feelings of well-being, responsibility or security? A lot of color theory research has gone into determine just how colors affect our moods, thoughts and emotions. Many brand colors are selected on that basis alone, which is why it’s very possible to print postcards that feature colors that reflect both your campaign theme and brand values. However, those colors might not be the most attention-getting, depending on what your theme and values are. This infographic by Attwood Digital sums up the meaning of color and color psychology in marketing. Check it out to see what colors best align with your postcard message. The Meaning Of Colour In Marketing Visual.ly - Google Chrome_2014-02-18_10-28-12-Optimized  

Color by brand

This is the simplest postcard color choice to determine because it’s based solely on your brand, which already has a set of defined colors. Deciding to print postcards that reflect your brand colors can be more difficult, however, as your brand colors might not be all that attention-getting and they might not even match your campaign theme. Still, if you send a lot of postcards (and you should, given the fact that repetition can vastly increase brand awareness and response rates), it’s a good idea to make sure customers instantly recognize your brand when they see your postcards. This infographic by ColourLovers.com, you can see how some of the web’s major brands are represented in color. The Most Powerful Colors on the Web - Blog About Infographics and Data Visualiza_2014-02-18_10-45-52-Optimized  

What what are the best postcard colors?

Ultimately, the best postcard colors are those that satisfy all three theories: attention, emotion and brand. If you can’t identify colors or color combinations that are capable of satisfying all three, then you should determine what aspect of your campaign is most important: getting attention, eliciting emotion or promoting your brand. Then, select the color that best represents that goal. Also, consider alternative ways to satisfy all three theories. For example, if you want to command attention but your logo is a subdued hue, simply print it on one corner of your postcard and use an attention-getting color combination for the rest of the postcard. Finally, don’t forget the 40/40/20 rule. If your offer and mailing list are the most important factors, drawing attention to them has to be more important than drawing attention to your brand or eliciting emotion. If you can’t get noticed, you can’t earn leads or sales. What do you think is the best color for postcard marketing?

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About Brian Morris

Brian Morris serves in various capacities as a freelance writer, content developer and public relations specialist for growing small businesses. When he’s not writing, he can be found on the racquetball court - usually getting his tail kicked by guys 20 years older.

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The PsPrint Blog is a resource for graphic designers, freelancers, small business owners and fans of print marketing. You'll find helpful techniques on printing everything there is to print, including business cards, postcards, brochures, stickers, invitations, greeting cards, door hangers, magnets and more. The PsPrint Blog shares creative ways to improve your design and layout skills, and useful tips for marketing your business in any medium. We also like to have a little fun, sharing design inspiration and spotlighting some our favorite customers' printed pieces in our "Hot Off the Press" series.