Colors that Yell

With the trend of minimalist, stark packaging still going so strong, some brands are pushing back with designs that scream from the shelf. Hot pink, blood orange, teal – all are showing up in product categories that have never gone so bold. We know that color choices evoke different emotional responses for consumers, and playing with combinations can help shoppers connect with brands. Clashing colors are also usually more memorable and therefore are great for brand recall, especially when the colors are unique to the product.

Using loud, expressive colors is a way for brands to differentiate a special edition product, allowing them to break out of their standard molds and appeal to new groups. This can be highly effective for brands looking to target younger consumers, who are appreciative of companies that are willing to take on a little edginess and aesthetic risk. Large brands looking to emulate the look and feel of small brands should take note of how the following companies have successfully crafted exciting packages by taking chances with color.

 

Harper Macaw

Last spring, D.C. chocolatier Harper Macaw released a series of bars inspired by the election. Naturally, the wrappers use bold reds and blues, and the result is gorgeous and striking. Rather than feeling like political cartoons, the chocolates are elegant and find the beauty within the absurdity of our current political climate. For a time that has been so stressful and dividing, at least we got a little something sweet out of it.

 

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Bud Light

Bud Light is now the official beer sponsor of South by Southwest, and the funky, psychedelic cans that they issued in limited release last year were such a hit that they are coming back for the 2017 festival. With bright blues, orange, yellow, red, purple, green, and a shock of black, the packaging perfectly captures the vibe of the festival and of the famously “weird” city of Austin.

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Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP

Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP sticks out like a sore thumb among competitors, with a heavy fuchsia font that pops (pun intended) against solid feminine backgrounds. This is a great example of how color clashing can be used in a way that is playful without being childish – this design communicates maturity while remaining effectively eye-catching. The color choices here indicate that the snack is something indulgent and luxurious, a cut above all of the Orville Redenbachers and the Act IIs.

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Wild Leaf

Most tea brands try to communicate the same themes: tranquility, peace, smoothness, etc. Wild Leaf has decided to take an entirely different approach, with wild colors that would be striking on their own and are even stronger when put together. Energetic and youthful, with a large callout for its specific properties, it’s certainly more fun than your grandma’s Lipton.

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Ciao Bella

The bright, beautiful color palette that Ciao Bella used for their line of gelatos is a great example of risk paying off. Brands of ice cream and similar treats often struggle with how to clearly target adults, and the rainbow of color could have easily made it seem like it was a dessert for children. Instead, the careful color pairings elevate the packaging to a new level of sophistication, while still looking just as visually interesting and trendy as competitors like Ben & Jerry’s.

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Color Theory & Package Design

Custom Packaging & Color Theory

When it comes to branding and packaging, color is crucial.  Colors are often used to trigger sensory reactions and emotions, and to prompt consumers to make assessments about brands.

In an article in the Journal of Management History entitled Impact of Color on Marketing, researchers found that 60-90% of people make snap judgments about products within 90 seconds based on color alone.  “Prudent use of colors can contribute not only to differentiating products from competitors, but also to influencing moods and feelings – positively or negatively – and therefore, to attitude towards certain products.  Given that our moods and feelings are unstable and that colors play roles in forming attitude, it is important that managers understand the importance of colors in marketing.“

Marketing studies suggest that our habits prefer instantly recognizable brands, which makes color incredibly important when creating a brand identity.  Color Research & Application recommends that new brands choose colors that specifically differentiate them from established competitors (Coca-Cola’s can is red, Pepsi’s is blue, 7-Up’s is green… see where this is going?).

All that said, it is important to note that the symbiotic relationship between brands and color can work for you, but it can also work against you.  The reason is that there are hardwired connections between colors and the products they represent.  Yellow is often used to trigger hunger (Golden Arches, anyone?), possibly due to the fact that starches and breads are often yellow and brown.  Blue is subdued and suppresses appetite, and dominant blues and greens are historically unpopular in food packaging design (save in generic household cleaning products and cereals).

Researchers at the University of British Columbia showed fake ads to a group of students, and studied their feedback after seeing different colors.  Red produced a positive evaluation of the imaginary product.  Blue evoked images of water and tranquility: oceans, openness, peace, calm.  They found that blue in product packaging was successful to accomplish specific goals in consumers’ minds—a whitening toothpaste that stops tooth decay –– while red was best to illicit an emotional response and trigger memory.

While certain colors are closely associated with specific traits (e.g., brown with “ruggedness”, black with “sophistication” and “luxury”, red with “passion”), most design and branding professionals agree that it’s far more essential for a brand’s colors to support their personality and messaging rather than reinforcing color association stereotypes.  There is a strong correlation between the use of colors and consumers’ perceptions of a brand’s personality.  Predicting consumer reaction to a product’s color and custom packaging design is far more important than the color itself.  Remember, branding and packaging design can be aspirational… purchasing decisions reflect how the consumer wants their lifestyle to be, not as it actually is.

There are no absolute, concrete parameters or set of guidelines for choosing a brand’s colors and packaging color scheme.  Shoot instead to capture subtle feeling, mood, and brand image, because this has the ultimate power of persuasion.

With all that said, here’s an infographic from First Site Guide that speaks to many of these issues, as well as many others! 

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