Color Psychology in Direct Mail

Color Psychology in Direct Mail

July 30, 2021

Surely as a salesperson or marketer, you've had to make a thoughtful decision about a color choice. It may've been limited to the brand colors of your company, or it may've been boundless. Nonetheless, color has a substantial impact on our behavior and decision-making process in any situation.As more sales and marketing teams look to incorporate direct mail into their omnichannel approach, taking color schemes into consideration can be a huge factor influencing success.

Many B2B companies have implemented an account-based approach as well. This involves sending personalized content to create more authentic engagement. Understanding your prospect is a huge factor that should influence this content, as well as the colors you choose.

Direct mail and gift campaigns should all have an end-goal to them. Whether that be boosting conversions or increasing revenue, the foundation should always be some sort of goal.To compliment this, a mail campaign should always have a theme to go with it. This would be a design concept or color scheme that reflects what message you aim to resonate with your potential customer.

Is it a campaign targeted at raising brand awareness? In this case it may be wise to stick with your brand colors. Is it a follow-up to a webinar invite that you sent via email? Keep the color scheme consistent with the parties associated and what you used in the invite.

While all this may seem like common sense, each color has a unique psychological affect on the brain. The experiences we have from color in our surrounding environment has the greatest impact on how we perceive them. Salespeople and marketers should be cognizant of this and apply it to their direct mail design concepts.

Take something as elementary as the use of bright versus cool colors for instance. 20th century color researcher, Faber Birren, discovered something interesting regarding this. He found that bright light and colors promoted “big muscle” activity, while softer and deeper colors promoted mental and visual tasks better. Most postcards and letters for B2B purposes are designed for the contact to make a decision, so soft colors might be a better approach in general.

However, predicting the performance of a certain color over another is nearly impossible. In his book, Color Psychology and Color Therapy, Birren states that it's rather our perception of color, not the colors themselves, that has a direct impact on our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Conclusively, understanding how each person is going to perceive the color in a message is impractical; yet understanding the basic stimuli of each color is a good starting place. Color association will always vary from person-to-person, but the foundation remains similar.

marketing psychology

Here's a breakdown of what we associate with each color

Red in mail


One of Birren's findings he talks about in his book is that red stimulates our nervous system and has the capability to overestimate the passage of time. HubSpot found similar results in a button color test and found that a red CTA (call-to-action) button outperformed a green one by 21%. Ever think about why you always see red used for clearance sales? It's highly associated with excitement and passion but can also be quite deterring in some circumstances. Too much red can seem like visual screaming. To avoid this, use red sparingly to emphasize a phrase or two that summarizes your primary message.

Orange in mail


Many of us perceive orange as the color of light or warmth. It conveys physical safety, comfort, and enthusiasm. Darker shades of orange (think autumn colors) often work well with earthy concepts. Compared with red, orange doesn't induce passion or danger but similarly grabs attention and is commonly used in advertising. If you want your message to convey energy with the recipient, consider having an orange graphic or CTA. For an upbeat message, see how a light tone of orange would work for the background. Going for a full orange color scheme may come off as too upbeat for some people.

Yellow in mail


While red and orange are certainly the most attention-grabbing colors of the spectrum, yellow can do this as well yet can be abrasive when overused. The thoughts and emotions yellow evokes reflect this entirely. Like sunlight, yellow is often perceived as radiant and intense. It can makes people feel optimistic about what is being communicated with them. For some, yellow is too bright and can induce a sense of anxiety. If your message is positive, yellow can be a great accent within a design, but overuse may lead to visual fatigue. We recommend using yellow in small doses when designing your mail, but be mindful of the fact it can come off as aggressive. It's definitely an extroverts color, so understanding your contact's personality can help you decide how much to use.

Green in mail


One of the strongest color associations is the connection people have with nature and the color green. It resonates feelings of tranquility, growth, and for some, excitement. Because green is a natural color, some perceive it as a symbol for new beginnings. If you start a new mail campaign, a green color scheme could be very effective to evoke the idea of a fresh new start. This also may create feelings of trustworthiness, wealth, or responsibility. Darker shades of green are sometimes associated with jealousy and greed, so use it faintly if you are looking to evoke positive emotions. If you are looking for a natural design concept, it's hard to go wrong pairing blue and green. When addressing the solution your product or service is providing, green can be a very effective color to reduce stress and promote the long-term well-being that would come with making a purchase decision.

Blue in mail


Similar to green, people have a strong color association with nature and the color blue. One difference is blue occurs much more expansively (think water and the sky) which leads to different emotions. The color blue can evoke feelings ranging from distance and sadness to stability and calmness. Blue is also the most preferred color by men and is the least appetizing color as it rarely occurs naturally in food (aside from blueberries and plums). If you are looking to inspire and speak with a sincere tone, try going for a blue color scheme. As it's one of the most commonly used colors, you can use blue for many use cases.

Purple in mail


Historically the symbol of wealth and royalty, purple holds a lot of symbolism. It has one of the strongest electromagnetic wavelengths, and as a result, is used in many visual illustrations. Less common in nature than green and blue, purple can often convey a sense of prestige, imagination, and wisdom. Women favor purple more heavily than men, who tend to have a negative reaction to it. When designing mail, use purple wisely as too much can sometimes evoke extravagance. Some shades of purple can seem moody which is something you would want to avoid as a salesperson or marketer.

Pink in mail


Without a doubt, magenta or pink is the most widely used color to portray femininity. It has very few natural occurrences aside from flowers and induces senses of romance, care, passion, and hope. Some companies have had success using pink when they are trying to break the mold with a new concept. It certainly stands out from the rest of the colors on the spectrum, but when use extensively, can feel intrusive and immature. Using pink for B2B mail purposes is most effective when the receiving party has previously seen association between your brand and the color.

Black in mail


One of the few colors that can be a real sensation, black can be produced with a simple absence of light. It's synonymous with power, mystery, luxury, and seriousness, but can also be reminiscent of death and evil. Using a single bright color with black can provide a sense of sophistication in some cases. An entirely black color scheme might come off as cold to some people. Obviously, black-colored text isn't going to have a negative effect, yet excessive use of black icons and graphics can become depressing. Certain industries where trust and relationships are essential to success (health and real estate) might want to avoid using black color schemes to avoid feelings of mistrust.




Many know white to be the standard background color for just about any blank canvas. We associate white in Western cultures with weddings and hospitals, giving it a sense of purity, innocence, and cleanliness. Some perceive white as cold or bland if they associate it with spacious, uninviting rooms. However, brands such as Apple and Tesla use white to convey an innovative, modern message. In direct mail, using white as the background is effective only when you leave enough whitespace. This means avoiding too much clutter. Leaving little whitespace between elements will often give the consumer too much input and deter them from your primary message. As a text color, white works well with darker backgrounds, but again, should be used sparingly. Pure white text on black backgrounds is known to cause a visual fuzzing effect called halation. If anything, use a dark grey background instead to avoid creating contrast sensitivity.

What does all this mean?

Each of us are going to have different associations with each color. Nailing down how a specific person will respond to a color scheme is impossible without knowing them personally. Is it even worth optimizing color schemes in direct mail in this case?

Absolutely! Sales and marketing organizations who take an account-based approach already focus on personalization within their omnichannel approach. This takes getting to know each prospect individually and figuring out what they enjoy.

Especially for B2B organizations, getting to know the culture and interests of a target account will give you some direction for what color scheme to run with. Like Faber Birren talks about in his book, perceptions of colors themselves has more impact on our thoughts, feelings, and emotions more than anything. Past experiences, personal taste, and cultural influences have the greatest influence on how a person feels about a particular color.

Patty DuChene
Patty DuChene

Patricia DuChene (also known as Pat, Patti, Patty, Tricia, and PD) is the Vice President of Sales at Postal, an Offline Marketing Automation platform that generates leads, increases sales, and improves customer retention. Prior to joining Postal, Patricia was the Vice President of Int'l Sales & Managing Director for a work management software company called Wrike, where she built out client facing teams in Dublin IRE, Melbourne AU Tokyo JP, and Kyiv UA. A native of the 805, she was thrilled to join the Postal team with the promise of delivering an authentic, scalable engagement platform in San Luis Obispo. She is a passionate advocate for women in technology and takes an active approach when encouraging women to consider careers in technology. When she isn't in the office, Patricia can be found hiking with her husband and princess pug, Hammond von Schnitzel.

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Want to deploy and scale high-ROI direct mail campaigns?
Let Postal automate the boring stuff and build highly efficient direct mail campaigns in minutes.
Show Me How