For brands to effectively engage, captivate and compel consumers around the globe, they must understand the impact of color.
Brands must visually express their story through use of color, imagery, materials and textures to deliver a truly sensorial and evocative experience. To do this well they need to understand the deep-rooted neurological and cultural dynamics of color. We shop instinctively using color and shape as our primary triggers for recognition.
Color is primal and can trigger basic survival responses in us; we are pre-programmed to react to it in ways we are not fully aware of. Yellow and black are natures warning colors. If it’s yellow, black and buzzes, crawls or slithers, chances are it may hurt us. It’s no coincidence that black on yellow is the color combination that the human eye registers first and scores highest for memory retention. Which is why we use these principles to signal danger or to create a sense of urgency. Red similarly is a powerful elemental trigger, on one hand signalling warning or threat and danger, and on the other a symbol of ripeness, or even sexual maturity and availability in the animal kingdom.
We have innate reactions to color that are embedded in who we are as human beings. Brands can harness these baser instincts and desires with the use of color to trigger emotional responses and reactions. Use of vibrant red in lipstick can heighten attention to the mouth, a symbol of desire. Christian Louboutin has cleverly used and appropriated the color to become an ownable and iconic brand property. The fleeting flash of red has become synonymous with Louboutin shoes; see their new line of cosmetics and how the brand has leveraged red in its packaging.
We also respond instinctively to colors that are rare in nature like purple and white, imbuing them with greater meaning and importance. We elevate their role in our lives placing higher value and worth on such things even giving them mystical status. Think of the Native Americans and the white/ ghost buffalo, and the use of purple to denote spiritual energy. These colors like purple are elevated to take on globally recognized status as signifiers of power and status such as British royalty, or religious symbolism.
Our appreciation of color must also reflect and overlay the cultural nuances and interpretations. Culturally, color means different things to different people in different parts of the world. In Asia, red is a religious color denoting prosperity and happiness, while in the West it’s associated with the language of sales and value, or with global brand icons like Coca-Cola.
White in the west is a color that can signify cleanliness and sterility, bridal purity or even peace, whereas in the East it can signify death and mourning, so the use of a high volume of white may connote a negative meaning. Hence brands must understand the dynamics of color perception across geographies and cultures in order to be able to translate communications across borders, strategically carrying color cues from market to market. According to The Color Association of the United States, 85% of consumers point to color as a primary driver for purchasing behavior.
Pink, for example, is a perennial favorite, ranging from pastel hues to rich shades of fuchsia. In times of economic uncertainty, pink is seen as a comfort color. Its dewiness and vividness conveys the possibility of a bright future. In apparel, pink in India is relied on as a neutral, basic wardrobe color, much as black is in the Western world. Westerners assign pink to the female gender, however countries like Belgium have typically used pink for baby boys. Regardless of gender, pink represents calmness, nurturing, innocence and beauty from the very first stages of life.
We also need to understand and embrace the difference between the sexes in their approach and response to color. Although limited to seven distinct colors, human vision has the acuity to see a range of subtleties in the spectrum. Understanding the differences in the sexes is also a key factor in the visual armory of brands. Women have a far more sophisticated appreciation of color and a much wider vocabulary to describe it, so understanding and using the subtle nuances of color can be a useful part of a brands toolkit to create differentiation and standout in marketing to women.
Taking ownership of a color can be a key to success, think Tiffany blue. The key to color use is not only volume of color, but consistency of color usage over time. Chanel No. 5 and the black and white color palette along with simple use of typography and color, over time has created something so restrained and recognizable, it’s iconic. Color can be used in iconic brands to stretch the brand’s elasticity and to reach new audiences with holiday or special edition packaging. Prada Candy uses a large volume of fuchsia in its fragrance packaging, connoting a stronger scent while Candy Florale, a lighter scent, uses pastel pink and white flowers to convey the difference.
Other visual cues and techniques such as the use of metallics (gold, silver, copper) and techniques like foil, hot stamping and textured varnishes, help to signify a prestige brand. Nearly every prestige fragrance and cosmetics brand uses some level of metallic color strategy along with high-end printing techniques to elevate quality perception. It is not enough to act premium, the design must be premium. Using precious metals and special print techniques can add richness and a sense of ritualistic luxury to the brand experience.
Color, especially in volume, sets the tone and influences mood, connecting emotionally with consumers anywhere in the world. In the mind of the consumer, color is a dynamic trigger for a brand. Color strategy used as an integral part of the brand narrative can engage the consumer at a deep psychological level. It can trigger interest, and even simplify the shopping experience. Effective translation and understanding of the power of color is key to influencing consumers across the globe.
As featured by Beauty Packaging