The Importance of Colour in Packaging


Some interesting facts:

  •  70% of buying decisions are made at the shelf.
  •  5 seconds is the average decision making time.
  •  65% of purchasing decisions involve colour.
  •  60% of people accept or reject packaging based on colour used.
  •  80% of people cannot tell you why they have made these choices.

1. Colour – a leading brand asset in packaging

While there are many factors that influence how and what consumers buy, for many the decision making process is based on visual appearance of the product’s packaging. Of all visual aspects, the strongest and most persuasive appears to be colour. Researchers have found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products are based on colour alone. Colour is therefore a leading brand asset in packaging – it may be the top asset that consumers use to locate, identify and even select a product. So, what makes people connect with some colours and not others? And more importantly, what does this mean for packaging design?

2. The Emotional Impact of Colour

Does colour have the power to elicit emotions? The English language is full of expressions linking colour to emotions. You can be “green with envy”, see the world through “rose tinted glasses”, be “red with rage” or sad and “feeling blue”. Most of the research into colour and human emotion agrees that colours do have an emotional component. While colours can have an emotional impact, they can also signify feelings that have become associated with certain colour groupings specific to packaging.

  •  While Orange, Yellow and Brown are all “warm” colours, they are also perceived to be “Cheap” or “Inexpensive”.
  •  In contrast, the colours that people associate with “High Quality” are Black, then Blue, followed by White and Grey.
  •  Blue and White are the clear winners for representing “Trust”.
  •  The words “Courage” and “Bravery” show a fairly even split between Purple and Red.
  •  The results for “Fear” and “Terror” are completely dominated by two colours: Red and Black.

3. Gender and Age Differences

People may well have emotional associations to colour but what about differences between people? It turns out that colour preferences vary by gender and that these preferences for certain colours change as we age. While people may have different preferences, men and women also perceive colour differently. Women tend to admit to being more swayed by colour in packaging than men and admitted to favourites, although men had a clear leading favourite colour – Blue. Most men dislike Purple and everybody’s main dislikes are Orange and Brown. When targeting the older consumer, it’s a good idea to try to create visual differentiation for them by using highly contrasting light and dark colours.

4. Colour ‘Context’

Just as important as understanding colour associations with emotion, age and gender is using a colour in the right “context”. Studies have shown that a successful relationship between a brand and a colour is linked to the consumer’s perception of the appropriateness of the colour being used for that particular brand. That is, does the colour “fit” the product or service being sold, for example, a Yellow package for honey or lemon flavours and a Blue package for menthol. These are just some of the considerations to take into account when considering good packaging and labelling design. A company can build a brand identity and develop serious equity through colour, Indeed a brand can almost own a colour or even an entire category eg, Coca Cola Red. From marketing and brand managers, to packaging designers, media companies, and the packaging converter: colour management should be a top concern from the very beginning right through to the very end of the supply chain.

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