Color is a nonverbal form of communication that provides visual cues to the consumer that can signal action and influence mood. It’s a meaningful constant for sighted people and a powerful psychological tool. The use of color can send a positive or negative message, encourage sales, calm a crowd, or increase enthusiasm. In fact, research has shown that 60% of consumer purchases are based purely on color. While this behavior may be based on an unconscious rather than a conscious decision, it’s powerful information that should instill the use of color as a strategic tool rather than a decorative whim. Used strategically, color can have many roles in developing a brand’s visual language that furthers differentiation in the marketplace.
In the hierarchy of human visual perception, color is the first element that the consumer perceives on a package, followed by shape, numbers, and finally words. Great brands exploit this hierarchy again and again to create a winning visual language that engages the consumer, differentiates it from the competition, and influences purchases and trial.
A brand is a promise between the customer and the company, and color is an inextricable element in that equation. The go-to example of a brand owning color that connects with consumers on a functional and emotional level and translates it into brand equity is Tiffany & Co. The particular shade of “robin egg” blue, or registered trademark Pantone 1837 over time, has become so closely identified with the brand that it is often called Tiffany Blue. The sight of that little blue box evokes an emotional response that is very real and silently whispers “Tiffany’s” before it’s opened. This color association has real value and is an asset that the brand takes great care to protect.
Color is also employed as a versioning or segmentation strategy within a portfolio of products to denote different flavors, scents, or conditions. In certain categories, color-versioning norms are so prevalent that some colors are inextricably tied to the flavor or scent of the product. It’s important to recognize these benchmarks in the package development process to ensure you’re leveraging color as a communication tool.
Retail environments are visually complex, and consumers are inundated with visual information. Do the colors in your logo, package design, and website differentiate your brand and communicate the message you want? If not, it may be time for a color makeover.