shopper research: colour psychology in packaging

by: Sarah Kneebone

In today’s cluttered retail environment, there are endless factors which come into play for consumers 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 of colour allows brands to leverage consumer psychology and, in turn, help boost product sales.

If you're curious how to optimise colour for your brand and products in today's retail environment, we're here to help.




Making an impression.

Colour has a huge impact on our perception of products.

Engagement analytics company KISSmetrics found that 85 percent of shoppers cite colour as the primary reason for buying a certain product and acknowledged that colour increases brand recognition by 80 percent.

When implemented well, colour is often what gets your product noticed. If used incorrectly, colour's subconscious messaging could lead shoppers to veer away from your product.

Packaging colours affect shoppers


Connecting within context.

A brand's colour must fit’ the product being sold in our minds. Stanford professor and psychologist Jennifer Aaker has identified five core dimensions of brand personality: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness. Brands are usually closely connected to one of the five. Jewellery brands, for example, are often seen as sophisticated while sports cars are perceived as exciting. 

In saying this, it's also important to remember how crucial context is in the mind of a consumer. Sure, red often signifies excitement and is used by brands such as Red Bull for this reason. But for other brands, such as Vodafone, it signifies 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 wealth and prestige associations. 

So, what do we attribute certain colours with? 

  1. Yellow or gold: This is the first colour seen by the retina. Yellow is commonly used in food packaging and can evoke feelings of hunger. It's known to prompt decision-making, which makes it a good choice for products in saturated markets. 
  2. Red: Typically used in signage for discounts and specials, it's no wonder red prompts action in your shopper. It can signify passion, energy but also danger. Use wisely!
  3. Blue: Known to convey effectiveness and reliability, blue releases trust hormones. It is the most liked colour universally for both males and females. 
  4. Orange: Can be seen as cost-effective, such as in the case of airlines like easyJet and Tigerair. It's known to be fun, adventurous, playful and full of vitality.
  5. Pink: Different shades of pink can connect with different age groups. It can be calming, inspirational and empathetic. For example, neon pink could be considered trendy to teenagers, whereas a softer hue may attract an older market.
  6. Green: Naturally, green is considered environmentally friendly. Lighter tones can convey freshness and health and darker tones imply luxury and wealth.
  7. Purple: With its ties to spirituality, purple is a good choice for yoga, meditation or 'wellness' products. It's also linked to luxury, royalty and quality (think Cadbury).
  8. Black: Premium, classy black often alludes to authority, mystery and sophistication. Careful, this one can be quite overwhelming if overused.
  9. White: Known to symbolise purity, innocence and cleanliness, white is a natural choice for brands like Apple who want to convey efficiency and simplicity. Android fans may think otherwise!
  10. Brown: This can be used for tough outdoorsy products or natural, wholesome products. It symbolises comfort, earthiness, ruggedness and security, much like those faithful boots you always return to.


What shoppers attribute colours to


Play with different shades.

As our culture changes, a colour's significance and implications also change. Just as pink is no longer solely feminine, the same colours you've always used might not remain relevant with your target shoppers.

Richard Palmer, Creative Director of Little Big Brands agrees:

"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."

Completing the puzzle.

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

Contrary to the age-old advice, we all judge books by their covers. Great packaging builds strong brand recognition, acts as a clear differentiation from the competition and, crucially, positively influences purchase decisions online and in store.

It's important to test your packaging colour and concept, so you can be sure how your target shoppers will respond. With the help of our PLAY experts, this can include qualitative screening, sensory product clinics,  eye tracking exercises or even co-creation with your consumers.


Packaging design


Ready to unpack your packaging?

With colour sorted, what about pack design and standing out on shelf? Packaging research is one of our specialties (and passions!) and we love to share the love.

So, if you're interested in learning more about how shoppers purchase based on packaging, you can call get in touch with us using the orange enquiry button to the right.

Keen to know the critical bits you need to nail? Read our 8 packaging research tricks now!






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about the author

Sarah Kneebone

Sarah is PLAY’s go-to content writer with a passion for marrying creativity and communication with clever strategy. A former marketer with PLAY and for international brands such as QBE Insurance and General Motors, Sarah moved home to the UK to raise her little family and start a health coaching business. Luckily for us, she continues to share her talent for the written word with the team in Australia.

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