Who’s Winning in the Polls?

It depends on whom you ask. Really. It also depends on when you ask them. Over the next several months, the news media will report on poll after poll that shows either presidential candidate Donald Trump gaining on opponent Hillary Clinton or Hillary surging against Trump.

red and blue marblesIt depends on whom you ask. Really. It also depends on when you ask them.

Over the next several months, the news media will report on poll after poll that shows either presidential candidate Donald Trump gaining on opponent Hillary Clinton or Hillary surging against Trump. There will be polls on what’s happening in different swing states and among different demographic groups. How accurate they are depends on the methodology used, how the sample was derived and the margin of error associated with the sample size – not to mention how today’s events in the 24/7 news cycle can throw the results of yesterday’s poll into turmoil.

Many years ago, I remember playing with a low-tech exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia that was the best illustration of how sample size can affect the outcome of a poll.

My memory may not be entirely accurate on this, but the concept is simple. There was a box that contained 100 marbles: 45 red marbles and 55 blue marbles. You would tilt the box so that all the marbles ran to the top. Then, you would tilt the box the other way. As the marbles rolled to the bottom, 10 were captured in little cups — while the rest fell to the bottom. Sometimes, the cups captured more red marbles than blue marbles. Other times, the blue marbles far exceeded the number of red marbles. Do it enough times, and the blue marbles will eventually win.

Nate Cohn draws a comparison between polls and the national pastime in the New York Times:

It’s a lot like baseball. Even great baseball players go 0 for 4 in a game — or have rough stretches for weeks on end. On the other end might be a few multi-hit nights with extra-base hits, or a spectacular few weeks.

Sometimes, these rough stretches or hot streaks really do indicate changes in the underlying ability of a player. More often, they are just part of the noise inevitable with small samples. Taking more polls is like watching more at-bats, and you need many if you want to be confident about whether a candidate is ahead or tied.

That’s why baseball is a statistician’s favorite sport; it has a large sample size. Thirty teams each play 162 games in the regular season for a total of 2,430 contests. As the wins and losses converge toward the mean, the best teams win about 60 percent of their games and the worst teams win about 40 percent.

So be wary of placing your faith and trust in the poll du jour. It’s a long season.

Stimulating Action With Color

There is growing scientific evidence of how the brain processes color and how color impacts our feelings and how we respond. Over the years, some direct marketers have wondered about color’s contribution to the overall success of direct mail. However, color usually isn’t high on the list of test priorities. But you don’t have to go with your gut, considering what research

There is growing scientific evidence of how the brain processes color and how color impacts our feelings and how we respond. Over the years, some direct marketers have wondered about color’s contribution to the overall success of direct mail. However, color usually isn’t high on the list of test priorities. And unless you have great flexibility to test colors, most direct marketers simply go with the colors they feel will work best. But you don’t have to go with your gut, considering what research is telling us.

Today I’ll share with you recent research from university studies, along with The Theory of Colours by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, first published in 1810.

Goethe published one of the first color wheels and shared psychological impact. His theories are still widely used:

  • Red conveys gravity and dignity.
  • Yellow connotes brightness and soft excitement, yet noble.
  • Blue is at odds with itself, being both exciting and retreating.
  • Green is reassuring.

So how do these 200-year-old conclusions stack up against recent research that expands into more colors? A 2014 study of logos by the University of Missouri-Columbia suggests additional consideration:

  • Blue logos invoked feelings of confidence, success and reliability.
  • Green logos invoked perceptions of environmental friendliness, toughness, durability, masculinity and sustainability.
  • Purple logos invoked femininity, glamor and charm.
  • Pink logos gave the perception of youth, imagination and fashion.
  • Yellow logos invoked perceptions of fun and modernity.
  • Red logos brought feelings of expertise and self-assurance.

Other recent studies from the University of British Columbia in 2009 and Dartmouth College in 2011 make these observations:

  • People have emotional responses to color, and linking color responses to our brain’s neural processes. The brain is most triggered by red, then green, then blue.
  • Red can make people’s work more accurate. Blue can make people more creative.
  • People tested with red, blue or neutral backgrounds on computer screens found red to be more effective for recall and attention to detail. Blue was better for creating imagination.
  • If you seek “avoidance” action (for example, toothpaste for cavity prevention), studies show red to have greater appeal. Conversely, if you seek “positive” action (for example, “tooth whitening”) then blue holds more appeal.
  • Across cultures, red represents “no.” It’s a common emotional association that is innate. A study involving monkeys (who don’t process the meaning of a red stop sign) found that the animals avoided humans who wore red.
  • Red is also credited with helping people focus.
  • Red is a color of stimulation.
  • Blue is more relaxing and calming.

Remember, though, when considering colors: You must consider context. The visual impact of words or images in isolated environments can be different than when you are trying to connect a user to a brand, website or direct mail package.

Bottom line: As you prepare your next direct mail package, print ad, website, landing pages or video background, consider your environment and desired reaction from your prospective customers. Use colors that can stimulate, then calm, your prospective customer’s minds.