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"WeListen" Blog

Color Me Sold: Tapping the Power of Consumer Color Preferences

Brands have not always had as much control over product colors as they do today. For example, when Walter E. Diemer of the Fleer Chewing Gum Company invented bubblegum in the 1920s, pink was the only food coloring the company had. Hence, bubblegum became, and has always been, associated with the color. 

There is a reason bubblegum is pink: convenience. 

Consumer marketing plays a greater role in product development today, and one aspect of consumer marketing that brands have to pay close attention to is color, both in how it is used in products themselves and in their packaging designs. Moreover, how colors are combined is as important as the color choices themselves, particularly on the web. Remember those retina-burning color combinations people used for the earliest personal websites back in the 1990s? Here are some facts about color perception in consumer marketing to help you make smart color choices. 

Differences in Color Perceptions Between Men and Women

In general, men do not notice as many color nuances as women do. This has to do with many factors, including testosterone exposure during fetal development, and it is what causes a woman to see four different shades of blue on paint chips when a man looking at the same ones only sees basic blue. The good news is, if you are marketing to men, you do not have to spend time overthinking color choices. If your consumer marketing targets women, however, you will need to take more time to determine the exact color you want, because women can discern shades that are quite subtle. 

Age and Color Perception

As people age, their ability to distinguish between colors declines, particularly in older adults who have developed cataracts, which cloud the eye’s lens. By the year 2020, an estimated 30.1 million Americans are expected to have cataracts. Cataracts tend to make things have a brownish tint, making it more difficult to distinguish dark shades from each other. Therefore, if you are marketing to seniors, bright colors are best for avoiding confusion when it comes to brand variations (such as a “regular” and “low salt” version of a food product). 

Cultural Influences on Color Meaning

Red, symbolizing good fortune and joy, is a key color during Chinese New Year celebrations.

Brands now operate in a global economy, and it is important to consider cultural significance of colors when developing an international consumer marketing strategy. For example, purple is associated with mourning in Thailand, while in Europe it is associated with royalty. While Eastern cultures associate yellow with warmth and sunshine, Cherokee tradition associates the color with trouble and strife. It is important to research cultures in which your consumer marketing efforts are targeted to avoid making any cultural gaffes with the choice of your product and packaging colors. 

Typical Emotions Associated with Colors

For the typical American consumer, the basic colors have their own psychological associations. Here is what typical colors broadcast about your brand identity when people see them on retailer shelves or on e-commerce sites:

  • Black – luxury, authority, elegance
  • White – simplicity, purity, cleanliness
  • Red – boldness, passion
  • Orange – fun, low-cost
  • Green – growth, nature, earth-friendliness
  • Yellow – optimism, hope
  • Purple – success, imagination
  • Blue – trust, reliability

Like it or not, brands generally cannot go with whatever product or packaging color is most available, as the bubblegum company did a century ago. Rather, they have to put thought and consideration into color choices as part of their overall consumer marketing strategy. The great news is, packaging designers are readier than ever to meet brand needs for getting colors exactly right. Technological developments are allowing the use of color in new and bold ways that can help a brand, whether its goal is to stand out on store shelves, or to show up best in consumer Instagram posts and unboxing videos. 

Understanding the age range, culture, and gender of your target audience will help you choose colors skillfully, and there are color researchers who specialize in predicting color trends. In other words, there is a wealth of information and technology available to help brands integrate color into their consumer marketing efforts with the highest effectiveness, and brands are smart to research the effects of colors on their products and packaging designs. 

PKG Brand Design is always on the forefront of new CPG branding and packaging initiatives - to read more, please subscribe to our blog to always be current on the latest package design industry news. 

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