You may be aware that colours influence the mind and the perception but are you fully aware of the marketing potential and risk behind the way a company uses colour for its products?
The psychology behind colours
The colour impact and perception is not a new fashion but more and more companies seem to rediscover this element for their sales and marketing Before becoming part of the marketing elements, colour impact was already used in therapies and by artists. Depression therapies used «happy colours» to forget the sadness. To keep people quite, the colours white or light bleu were used. Artists, painters and photographers used the «virtues» of colours to change the impression of their work. Goethe even wrote a treaty on colour: "Farbenlehre", it seems to have taken him 15 years.
- Examples of significance and impact attributed to colours:
- Pink: symbol of love, of softness and sweetness and would be a remedy against fear. However, the risk is that too much pink will take you to the bad sides of its effects: inertia and childishness.
- Bleu: colour preferred in general by Europeans, moreover by men. It is the coldest of colours and would stand for surpassing yourself, loyalty and authority.
- White: associated with purity, nature and light but also with coldness. In Asia, this colour is also associated to mourning.
- Violet: a rather difficult colour, between pink and red or blue according to its mixture. Its association is on one hand linked to religion (Christian cardinals’ habits) and on the other side linked to sensual delight. The use of this colour would be advised for trendy products or products that have certain esteem and who can allow to play with limits.
- Grey: associated with technology and efficiency. Moreover a man-colour or high-tech colour. Can in a certain level be distinguished but in overdose it becomes a symbol of sadness and boring. (Remember: the sky is grey, he’s like a grey mouse)
- Orange: a warm colour and not as aggressive as red. It represents cheerfulness and joy. It would be a good colour for impulse purchases. The risk however exists that it can also be seen as too cheap.
- Red: is the colour the eye perceives the quickest. Represents energy and speed but also anger and danger (blood is seen as negative -> as danger)
- Black: symbolises death in the Occident. Nevertheless very often used in luxury products and combined with a vivid colour it can give an impression of «Haut Couture» and chic.
- Green: represents nature and hope. Green is however very little used as a colour by industry since it seems also associated with illness and superstition.
- Yellow: very stimulating colour (Remember the sun) but not advised for very nervous people. It is associated with warmth and plenitude but also with betrayal. Pleases to young ones, when not overdone.
Marketing and colours
«Colour strategy» has become part of today’s marketing life. Trends for each year are no longer only predicted by the fashion industry. Moreover, the psychological value of colour is in marketing more important than in the fashion industry. Some colour associations and reactions can be very dangerous for your product. Be aware however, not to lose track of the origin of a product. On top, some colours can never work for a certain product whereas they will be perfect for another one. (Ever thought of using a entirely black or green toothpaste?)
The list of colour associations we saw above is a standard one. The cultural- , national or religious influences as well as personal and fashion appreciation can clearly influence the impact of a colour. A global marketing approach cannot simply be applied without considering the colour effect.
- Some examples:
- for make up, the preferred colours depend also on the skin type. Lancôme noticed that darker skin types use stronger and warmer colours for lipstick, whereas paler skin types are more likely to use softer colours. Nonetheless, eye colour also influences the effect and some women might prefer a flashy lipstick to brighten their shade.
- High-tech products that are more fashionable, like nowadays MP3 players and telephones are more and more available in fancy colours. The colours are still having their individual impact but being joined with technology it is associated with being trend-setter and innovative. (Purple for example becomes a trendy colour in this sense)
- It seems that the standards of live and income also influence colour preferences. Flashy colours would rather attract lower income classes, whereas upper class prefers more sober colours
- Accordingly, SEB (brands Rowenta, Moulinex and Seb) uses colours to specify their different positioning strategy: flashy colours for entry scale of products, and sober colours – grey and dark blue - for their range of more designer products.
- Trendy colours and fashionable colours can also very well apply for people or products aiming to be noticed. We same the same in the clothing industry, flashy colours are worn for those wanting to be noticed. These colours attract the eye.
- Geographical differences and the way people live influences to a certain level also the colour preferences: Latin America would prefer stronger colours, more vivid and linked to their life outside. Northern countries would be more tempted to have neutral colours.
- Religion and cultural heritage represent a life style that accepts different types of colours. Catholicism is more likely to use strong and expressive colours though Protestantism represented more strict way of life and therewith combined the corresponding sober colours.
- Some samples to finish with: white gives the impression of more space, drinking out a red glass would make a drink warmer than from a bleu glass and elderly people would prefer sober colours.
There is a mass of possibilities as long as you are sure how to use it. You can combine as you like while keeping in mind that exceptions are there to confirm the general rules. So why not try to be the exception and succeed in your positioning? Today we notice so many products, that each brand will need to find its way to be noticed. The mineral water brand «Badoît» launched its new bottles with a red packaging in 2004. In the market for bottled water, this was completely new. Their studies proved that it would precisely attract young people looking for something new and original. Combined with a good message it worked.
The packaging with colours
Packaging becomes more and more an important element in marketing. It is no longer sufficient if it just protects the product. The luxury products know this already since long time. Nowadays, trendy products will obtain more and more a suitable packaging, not only corresponding to the product but also including a colour that reflects the product and the positioning. Imagine being in a shop buying a product, if you want it wrapped up as a present, the colour of the wrapping counts as much as the wrapping itself. The colour is the outer shelf of the product and reflects its impression. Therefore colour in your packaging should not be neglected.
The trends for 2005
Each year however states some colours that will be more suitable to increase your marketing results. These colours are influenced by trends from previous years, or sometimes are simply predicted by magic. I found a colour forecast for 2005 and leave it up to you to see how they may turn out useful for you: Colour forecast 2005 by Adam Polselli
Bear in mind that whatever colour you might want to use for your product, have it tested upon a sample of your target population. Should you have any doubts on the effects of a colour, verify with a communication or colour specialist. The wrong choice can make your product a flop.