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shopper research: colour psychology in packaging

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In today’s cluttered and saturated retail environment, there are endless factors which come into play for consumers when making purchase decisions.

Visual cues are a large part of the persuasion, and colour is arguably the most influential cue of all.

Not only does colour help a product stand out from the competition, it creates connotations and connections in the shopper's mind.

The right choice and application of colour allows brands to leverage consumer psychology and in turn, boost product sales.

In this blog post, find out why the psychology of colour is important for your brand and products, how to use and understand it, and what the implications are in today's retail environment.

Making an impression

Colour has a huge impact on our perception of products.
 
KISSmetrics cited that 85% of shoppers give colour as the primary reason for why they buy a certain product and added that colour increases brand recognition by 80%.
 
Researchers in a study called the Impact of Colour in Marketing found that anywhere up to 90% of impulse judgements about products are based on colour alone.
 
As one of the first things we notice about a product, we make snap decisions based on colour about whether the product reflects our needs, and if the brand’s personality is an appropriate fit for us.
 
When implemented well, the colour can be what gets your product noticed first and put straight into the shopper's basket. If used incorrectly, the colour's subsconscious messaging could lead shoppers to veer away from your product.
 

Creating a connection

Colour triggers memories and emotions. The colour of a product's packaging can lead to opinions, feelings and attitudes being developed, even before the product has been tried or tasted.
 
Because of this, it is important to understand your target shopper in great depth, in order to create a match between the message you attempt to convey and how it will be received.
 
What motivates your target shopper? What is their mindset? Put yourself in their shoes. Consider their environment, culture, age, gender, economic status and level of education.
 
If you master this, you will catch your buyer’s attention over and above the competition, and can create a positive connection which leads to a sale.
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Branding & packaging

A study The Interactive Effects of Colours’ found that the brand colour must fit’ the product being sold, in our minds.
 
Psychologist Jennifer Aaker studied brand personalities in great depth and found 5 core dimensions of brand personality (Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication and Ruggedness). Brands are usually closely connected to 1 of the 5, e.g. jewellery brands are often seen as sophisticated and sports cars are perceived as exciting.
 
Further research has found that a brand’s choice of colours affects consumers’ perceptions of the brand’s personality. The majority of studies find that a brand’s colours should align with the desired personality of the brand.
 
Here, it is important to remember how crucial the context is.
 
Sure, red often signifies excitement and is used by Red Bull for this reason but for Vodafone it is sound, talking and passion. Green is used by John Deere for hardy farm machinery but also by Harrods, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, to create wealthy and prestigious associations.
 
Colour choice becomes significant when it can be aligned with a brand’s perceived personality.

Colour in theory

So - with a pinch of salt - what do we generally attribute certain colours to?

  • Red: According to Packaging Innovation, red gets our appetite going more than any other colour. It's used in signage for discounts and specials. It can signify passion, energy and danger. It can provoke action in your shopper.

  • Yellow/gold: The first colour seen by the retina. These tones are commonly used in food packaging and can evoke feelings of hunger. Yellow has also been considered an aid for decision-making, which makes it a good choice for saturated markets. Yellow is cheery, positive and can attract a younger audience.

  • Blue: Releases trust hormones. Universally the most liked colour by both males and females. Can make a product come across as effective and reliable.

  • Orange: Fun, adventurous, warm, playful and full of vitality. Can be seen as cost-effective, for example in the case of airlines like easyJet and Tigerair.

  • Pink: Calming, inspirational and empatheticGenerally used in female targeted products such as beauty and cosmetics. Different shades connect with different age groups. For example, neon pink could imply 'trendy' to teenagers, whereas a softer hue would attract an older market.

  • Green: Freshness, wholesomeness and health. Environmentally friendly. Darker tones imply luxury and wealth.

  • Purple: Luxury, royalty and quality. Purple can also be linked to spirituality, so is a good choice for yoga, meditation or 'wellness' products. Is more commonly preferred by females over males.

  • Black: Authority, mystery, sophistication and elegance. Frequently used to signify a premium positioning but Richard Palmer (Little Big Brands) argues that black is overused and predictable - could it be time for brands to branch out?

  • White: Pure, innocent and clean. A good choice for brands like Apple that want to convey efficiency and simplicity.

  • Brown: Comfort, earthiness, ruggedness and security. Brown can be used for tough outdoorsy products or natural, wholesome products.

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Today’s rainbow

There are countless theories on the meaning behind certain colours and their associations but it is important to remember that they are not static.

As people, culture change and our environment changes, a colour's significance and implications also change. Brands must consider and review this on a regular basis, in order to stay connected to their target shoppers.

Richard Palmer, Little Big Brands:

Our colour preferences as a society overall are changing as our world is changing. As gender roles are being redefined, men and women are becoming more aligned on colour choices. And as cultures are colliding, there is a direct influence on the colours that are becoming our new normal.

Still, in categories such as personal care there continues to be more of a gender divide than in the grocery store.

Dove, for example, use grey to symbolise masculinity in their men’s ranges and white to imply femininity in their ranges targeted towards women. Although Dove's brand colours are neutral, they still use traditional colour cues to reach their target market.

Grocery items tend to have a broader appeal but even still, products such as energy and functional drinks are a good example of where colour implies a male or female target.

Further, due to the cultural melting pot that is Australia, the notion of an 'average' colour psychology is quite dated. Fashions also change, which of course has an influence on shoppers' choices.

Completing the puzzle

Purchase decisions are, of course, based on a complex combination of factors. Selecting the right colour is just one element involved in producing a pack that successfully cuts through the noise on shelf.

In packaging, the shopper's senses and all components of the pack must be evaluated.

Our pals at Jam&Co - packaging design & branding agency:

Great packaging is combination of identity, typography, illustration/photography and language - all underpinned by a solid brand strategy.


The most important takeaway here, is to always consider the mind of your shopper when making decisions about any element of your product.

This way, when all of the pieces come together, you'll have the best shot at connecting with the shopper and being on the right side of that final purchase decision.

It's important to test your packaging colour and concept, so you can be sure how your target shoppers will respond. This could include conducting qualitative screening, 3D in-store walk-throughs, at shelf shopper research or even eye tracking exercises.

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Over to you

If you're interested in learning more about how shoppers make decisions and finding out just what's going on inside their heads, you can download our free report 'Packaging: Mind Hack Your Shopper':

Download Now

Alternatively, check out our Shopper and Packaging research solutions.


get the playbook

packaging: the silent salesman

 

Packaging is arguably the most valuable consumer touchpoint; after all, we all judge books by their covers.

 

The risks of poor packaging design are huge, and customer alienation can lead to severe losses in sales.

 

Do you understand the mind of your shopper, and what leads them to purchase? Packaging research is the essential first step in the pack design (or redesign) process.

 

Download our 8 top tips to help you navigate the difficult journey, maximise opportunities and avoid the common pitfalls.

 

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