Coca-Cola, Tiffany & Co., and John Deere have all leveraged color to a point where it has become synonymous with their brand identities. But just how does a brand go about identifying color and trends that generate relevance in order to connect with consumers in a meaningful way? Start by using color resources and listening to what consumers have to say about their favorite brands.
One such resource is the Color Marketing Group (CMG), a non-profit association that provides color direction and forecasting for a broad range of industries, products and services—including branding and packaging. The group’s forecasts, which are released under the NEXT moniker, detail colors that have made their way into the marketplace or are about to be introduced.
“CMG forecasts are considered color directions and are not directives,” John West, vice president of color forecasting explains. “They show the course that colors are likely to take and are open for interpretation across industries, products and packaging.”
West goes on to explain that CMG members collaborate at regional color workshops called ChromaZones which take place throughout the year to determine the NEXT colors. These outputs are then collectively shared at an end-of-year international summit conference. Members interpret the direction of color based on many types of global influences. These are consolidated into a final color forecast of about 60 to 70 total colors that will influence Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and Latin America regions.
Differentiation and disruption
“Memory structures in the brain are what cause us to recall a product, package or an advertisement,” Donna Sturgess, executive in residence at Carnegie Mellon University, and president and co-founder of Buyology, says. “Color is an aid to creating and refreshing the memory structures that are an important component of decision-making and buying. Our non-conscious mind processes color at a subliminal level and reinforces a brand framework and cues that leads to long-term distinctiveness. Brands need to look towards distinction and to find a place to be. This can be achieved through the use of form and color choice.” She goes on to add, “Brands must stand out with distinctiveness, and without confusion for customers to recognize and recall the brand in buying situations. Color is a meaningful element to deliver upon this distinction.”
Back in black
One color making a bold statement across several categories is black. In combination with bright, vibrant colors, or with spot varnishes, patterns and textures, black is showing up in unusual verticals—such as personal hygiene, produce and nuts, and dairy— to convey a sense of luxury, youthfulness, beauty, fashion, power, and in some cases, masculinity.
Danone Yogurt for Men is a perfect example. When Danone wanted to release a yogurt specifically marketed to young men, it found that men not only had specific preferences when it comes to product—a distinctive taste, higher fat content and thicker consistency—but also wanted clearer, simpler and bolder packaging.
Working with development partner Greiner Packaging, Danone created a stylish, sleeved yogurt cup with a deep black color scheme. The minimalistic graphics and text combinations applied to the cups communicated a sense of strength.
The black packaging used by Wonderful brands to market its pistachios and almonds makes the brand stand out in the food aisle. The solid black packs combined with neon green and orange copy offers a minimalistic, impactful brand blocking presentation at shelf. This youthful, bold-and-upscale looking approach is something that has gained noticeable traction with the millennial audience.
Cutting through a sea of sameness
When Kimberly Clark enlisted CBX as the branding firm to design its U by Kotex line of women’s personal care products, it became evident to them that to compete with brands such as Always and Carefree, the packaging was going to have to find a way to connect and relate to 18- to 24-year-old females. Consumer research found that the target market had an innate sense of collectivism and characteristic of sharing everything. It became imperative that the brand become something worthy of being shared.
In an effort to break through traditional conventions and the preconceptions of women’s personal care products being branded in pink and pastel color palettes, CBX developed a black pack design that felt more like a beauty cosmetic, trendy and fashion forward that challenged the category norm and created disruption. “Research results suggested that consumers were giving us permission to go with the black packaging,” Allison Koller, creative director at CBX, says.
Combined with distinctive patterns, vivid accent colors and consistent brand messaging, the packaging and colored product wrappers offer up an unexpected surprise and delight. Taking this contrarian approach has paid off.
Koller reports that consumer feedback showed that women would be comfortable displaying U by Kotex products in their bathrooms or taking the women’s personal care products out of their purses in public, which was really something the category had not experienced before.
In today’s marketplace, it is becoming more and more difficult for brands to be distinctive and standout on shelf. As the retail space becomes more and more saturated with competing brands and private label offerings, product packaging needs to be disruptive in order to capture the attention of consumers. When done in the right manner, this can be achieved through the use of form and color. While color can often be a subjective topic of debate, especially when developing packaging and branding, it is hard to argue the fact that it holds the power to persuade, stimulate and connect with consumers, on both physical and emotional levels.