Article Published: August 22, 2011
Color our world
You don’t have to be colorblind not to realize that manufacturers and marketers are waging a war for your attention—and thus your dollars—from every aisle of almost any store where you shop. Colors and packaging cues aren’t just aimed at what you can see but at your subconscious as well.
Although the connection between color and psychology is decades-old, it’s only been in about the last 10 years that companies have deployed color in a strategic way to get you to choose their product, says Cheryl Swanson, who is managing partner of Toniq, which is a brand strategy firm that developed the look for Gillette’s Venus and Fusion razors.
That’s an approach that will only expand in the future as companies fight for your dollars in an uncertain economy. DayGlo Color, which customizes color for packaging and consumer goods, is straightforward about it: Color, the company says, “is paramount to building brands and, ultimately, driving sales.”
A 2009 University of British Columbia study revealed that both red and blue are effective in stimulating your brain, depending on what message is being sent. The study found that red tones proved more effective in detail-oriented tasks. When used in fictional ads and product packages, the study found, the color red caused people to react favorably to specific details such as “cavity prevention.” Blue, which was linked in the study to thinking creatively, succeeded in messages that were more goal-directed, such as “teeth whitening.”
In the past, a company might have chosen a color just to be different from the competition (think Coca-Cola red and Pepsi blue). But now it’s more strategic: If a company’s product isn’t a leader, Swanson says it’s likely that it will co-opt a successful company’s color first, then encroach on the shape of packaging and logos—“As close as they can without being sued,” she says. That’s why you’ll find a lot of private labels that appear similar to national ones, and why you’ll find a lot of peanut butter-related candy that have adopted orange as a color—riding on the coattails of the popular Reese’s brand.
Green, which was little used for years, Swanson says, has found new legs to define anything that’s seen as nature-friendly, ecological or organic.
Expect future attempts to get into your head—and wallet—to tug at your heartstrings. One of the trends is to play on nostalgia to take advantage of our psychological yearning for simpler, more stable times, Swanson says. For instance, several Pepsi-owned brands are rolling out throwback packaging that looks similar to what they used 30 years ago. That’s aimed not only at Baby Boomers but also Gen Xers and Gen Yers who have a fondness for retro images.
“The next wave [in branding] is for companies to focus on what they do well,” she says. “Focus on good storytelling.”
– T. Williams
Please click here to read the article: Consumers Digest