Use Color Strategically in Your Commercial Christmas Light Displays
There’s nothing quite like a dazzling display of white Christmas lights. Indeed, it’s a great option for your holiday displays—if all you want to do is dazzle people.
When you stop to think about it, you’ve probably seen white lights decorating restaurant patios and parking lot trees at all times of the year. There’s nothing uniquely “Christmas” about them.
Outlining trees and buildings, wrapping bushes and bundling lights into glimmering bunches may win you some oohs and ahs, but whether they’ll do anything to improve business at Christmas is up for debate.
Your commercial Christmas lighting display isn’t just about decoration—it’s about marketing. It’s about positioning your location as a place that understands the season and everything people want it to be for themselves, their families and their friends.
Since one of the most powerful tools any marketer has for making an emotional connection with customers is color, and since contemporary LED lights produce such pure and vivid color, it makes sense that color should play a role in your commercial Christmas lighting displays.
What’s wrong with a “White Christmas?”
Don’t misunderstand us. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with white Christmas lights. We love them, and they have a very special place in our Christmas Designers tool kit. But think about it this way—there’s already white light in the air and what white lights do best is accentuate that fact; that’s why color pops so beautifully in our display pieces, because shimmering white allows those other colors to take the center of a beautiful stage.
Remember a guy named Bob Ross—the soft-spoken artist who gave painting classes on television? He used a lot of what he called “titanium white,” a striking white paint that did amazing things for other colors, whether it was offsetting them or lightening them into other shades.
The same is true of white Christmas lights. They can offset a concentrated block of color lights, or they can be mixed into that block to disperse the color in a playful and attractive way.
Consider the psychology of color.
Perhaps you’re already using color—the traditional red, and green of Christmas, for instance. Did you know that psychologists have studied the effects those colors have on people? We’re not talking about pop-culture notions about one color causing road-rage and another inspiring world peace; the psychology of color is a lot more interesting than that.
For instance, while red tends to be associated with excitement and energy, it can also indicate intimacy and romance. While green can suggest nature and serenity, it can also be used to make not-so-serene statements about money. The effect of color on a person has to do with context. And in a commercial space, context is an important element anywhere you turn.
One study, out of Canada, found that people make decisions within 90 seconds of an interaction with a person or product—and about 62% to 90% of the assessment is based on colors alone.
Now, we’re not going to give you a lecture on who responds best to what colors; there are too many variables. For instance, design expert, Joe Hallock, found that blue is by far the most popular color among both men (57%) and women (35%), but that doesn’t mean you should switch from swaths of white lights to swaths of blue. In fact, that may make your retail space look more like a nightclub than a place for Santa’s helpers to do their shopping.
What we do want you to understand is that color can help you do more than just pretty up your space for Christmas.
Color is at the heart of emotion.
What does all of this have to do with what color your Christmas lights should be? It’s about remembering that the season means different things to different people and that not everyone is in the exact same mood or frame of mind when they walk into your place of business.
A sea of white lights may feel like a star-filled sky to you while you’re sitting at your planning table, but it may also be the last thing some harried shoppers want to see. Creating a few havens of color here and there provides a little something for everyone AND can be very helpful in directing shoppers around your space.
Have you ever gone to tree farm on a snowy day to pick out a Christmas tree? Think about how great it is to see those glimpses of evergreen peeking out of that white blanket. Have you ever watched a nature TV show, where beautiful, blue glacial ice gleams amid an ocean of snow?
We’re not saying you’ll be able to compete with the wonders of nature, but you can use color to create a very pleasant and entertaining shopping experience for people.
Let’s talk about blue for a minute.
We’ve already mentioned that blue is the top color among both men and women, so it may be a good idea to start infusing blue in areas where you want people to slow down and browse. Sure, keep the spaces between locations bright and white, but when it’s time to slow down and start savoring the shopping experience, a bit of blue can be just thing to get people to slow down and stay a while.
And then there’s red.
While we’ve already said that red isn’t always about being frenetic, it does tend to indicate urgency. For instance, what message is more urgent than a big red, heart-shaped box or Valentine’s Day candy or a big, romantic bouquet of long-stem red roses? On the other side of the spectrum red’s urgency lets us know when to stop in traffic or where to find first aid.
What might that mean in your retail space? Where do people want a sense of urgency? At checkout, perhaps? A little island of red at information kiosks and cash registers may be just the thing to let a busy shopper know that he or she can count on getting some quick help and a quick path to paying for their purchases.
Okay, let’s talk about green, too.
Again, there is no one way to use green. Depending on the shade, researchers have connected it to everything from love to fear. But here’s an interesting thing: when design expert, Joe Hallock, did some research into the favorite colors of men and women, green came in at 14% for both groups. That tells us that you may want to consider green for areas where you’re hoping women and men will shop equally.
Now that you know all that…what?
First of all, don’t overthink it. Because even if you don’t buy into the psychology of color, the very fact of color can still be very important to the success of your Christmas decorating.
By simply placing color in the places where you want people to stop and spend time, you’re helping them know where to go in your space to find what they’re looking for. If you decide on amber for your power tools section, for instance, start working that color into the pathways leading to that section. Use it to point people in the right direction.
But use it boldly. Don’t just mix it in. Make sure it can be noticed—perhaps an entire amber tree here and there—and that the department, as the customer approaches it, becomes something of an island where amber is a dominant theme. You can use other colors to do the same thing for other departments. Our team at Christmas Designers will be happy to help you plan a color strategy.
What about playing it safe with multi-color lights?
There are great reasons to use multi-color as part of your overall design strategy; it can, for one thing, be very helpful in transitioning between areas that have a very specific color theme. But we strongly recommend not falling into the trap of “color for color’s sake.”
Also, in the attempt to provide “something for everybody,” there’s a strong temptation to simply throw a lot of color around and hope for the best—that people will feel gratified by the inclusion of a particular color. But all that does is make every color fade into the background.
To use a somewhat stereotypical example, the existence of some green in a multi-color light string is not going to make the shopping-averse Irish American husband more likely to relax in the jewelry department. If anything, a sea of multi-color can have a similar effect as a sea of white lights, calling attention to nothing in particular. A much better idea is to provide a strategic color theme that properly highlights the places where a gift-seeking guy can find what he’s looking for.
One more thing.
There’s another, much more simple reason to infuse your commercial Christmas lighting display with color: it’s fun! Think about the most entertaining residential displays in your home neighborhood at Christmas. It’s the people who aren’t afraid to have fun and make some bold statements who get folks from other neighborhoods driving by to see their displays.
By using color strategically and purposefully, you can enhance the shopping experience for guests while building a reputation for taking people’s enjoyment of the season seriously.