[Research article] How do colors influence packaging creation?


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This Marketing research article was my final assignment in Advances in Consumer Psychology.

In a cross-countries and cross-cultures tone, this article discusses the types of packagings, products and services that are influenced by the use of colors. It also discusses how cultures and genders influence the color choice in the packaging creation process.

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[Research article] How do colors influence packaging creation?

  1. 1. -1- How do Colors Influence Packaging Creation? PAULINE VETTIER*
  2. 2. -2- * PAULINE VETTIER is a MSc in Management student at Grenoble Ecole de Management, France. She will graduate with a major in Marketing in July 2012. As part of her apprenticeship, she is also a Communication and Marketing officer at Itris Automation Square, a software engineering SME based in Grenoble. She can be contacted at pauline.vettier@grenoble-em.com.
  3. 3. -3- In a cross-countries and cross-cultures tone, this article discusses the types of packagings, products and services that are influenced by the use of colors. It also discusses how cultures and genders influence the color choice in the packaging creation process. Key words: Packaging; Color; Colorimetry; Sensorial Marketing; Cultural influence; Gender influence
  4. 4. -4- PREFACE During my gap year 2010/2011, I interned for six months in Bangalore, South India. This adventure was a real dream comes true for me, as India had always fascinated me. I was ready to discover a vast country of holy cows, lepers, Hindu worshipers and chicken curries. But what struck me from Day 1 was the omnipresence of color. I was surrounded with it: bright colors painted inside and outside houses; women wearing bold saris that came in a profusion of colors, textures, designs and ornaments; and an abundant exotic flora and fauna sold at the local markets. So, what has this experience brought me? First, my six months in “Incredible India” was truly a multi-sensory experience sometimes even a sensory overload: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch are undoubtedly heightened there. Therefore, thanks to this trip, I have developed my senses and an aptitude to pay better attention to the elements that surround me. Also, the sense-stimulation found amidst India’s sensory excesses brought me to think of marketing – more specifically, the five types of sensory marketing that correspond to each of the five senses: visual marketing (sight), sound marketing (hearing), gustatory marketing (taste), olfactory marketing (smell), and tactile marketing (touch). Last, I worked on MarCom projects during my internship, spending months on designing packagings, labels, user guides for various electrical products. As a Marketing major, I had always observed packagings closely, but this experience made me pay even more attention to them. Given this Marketing experience in India and the fact that I am now an apprentice in a B2B SME, I have chosen to study the influence of colors on packaging creation for my final assignment of Advances in Consumer Psychology.
  5. 5. -5- INTRODUCTION Humans trust their sight more than their other senses: with vision being the dominant sense in our culture, marketers take advantage of shapes, sizes, colors and textures to increase sales and influence consumers positively. In supermarkets for instance, an average shopper will pass three hundred products per minute (Rundh, 2005). When standing in front of the shelf, (s)he will consider 1.2 brands only, and twelve seconds will pass between the moment he goes near a shelf and picks up a product to put it in the cart (Kahn, 2008). This is why visual merchandisers and MarCom teams devote countless hours and resources to (re)design packagings, (re)launch products, (re)arrange end-aisle display, try to distinguish their brand and encourage consumers to put their product in the shopping cart. Sensory marketing takes advantage of the supermarket to play with senses, emotions, memory and stimuli. In marketing, color is considered as an information stimulus which will come interpreted by the consumer (Cavelzani and Esposito, 2010). Many shoppers have favorite colors, a phenomenon that may have been created via an association with a favorable stimulus, and that will likely affect their purchase decisions (Geboy, 1996; Grossman and Wisenblit, 1999). But, what is color in the first place? In the fifteenth century, color was recognized as a perceptual function of light. The renowned physicist Sir Isaac Newton was twenty-three when he studied, on a day of boredom, the natural rainbow found in the light rays. He was the first to establish (1730) a color wheel and describe a spectrum of seven colors linked in a circular arrangement. To date, his color wheel remains standard in colorimetry (the science of identifying and cataloging the colors). It is now held that the three primary colors (red, blue and green) create various colors and are
  6. 6. -6- considered as simple and secondary colors (yellow, orange, purple) (Moser, 2003). Colors such as celadon, pumpkin, taupe and sea green are considered as sophisticated colors. Multisensory marketing studies hedonic consumption - that is, the facets of consumer behavior that relate to the fantasy and emotive aspects of one’s experience with products (Hirschman & Holbrook, 1982). By engaging the consumers’ five senses and affecting their behavior, the sensory inputs affect how customers remember, like and choose the products and sensory marketing enhances consumer’s attitudes, perceptions and satisfaction. Colors are rightly part of the identity of many products, packagings, services and brands: firms spend more money on packaging than they do on advertising, and packaging is one of the most distinguished marketing efforts (Dickson, 1994). The use of color in branding, to differentiate and stand out, has taken on new importance as more companies go global. All the more, in countries where illiteracy is widespread and where symbolism prevails, colors are the number one levier on which marketers play when positioning international brands. Indeed, because they are visual and non-verbal, colors bypass many problems, from language to pronunciation. However, we will see through this paper that no color has a universal meaning, as cultural considerations remain. Marketers rely heavily on visual elements in advertising, store design and packaging. They communicate meanings on the visual channel through a product’s color, size and styling. They need to ask themselves whether their brand leaves a positive sensory impression in their target’s minds. Because colors elicit strong emotional reactions, the choice of a color palette is a strategic key issue in package design. These choices used to be made casually: for instance, Campbell’s Soup made its familiar red and white cans because a company executive liked the football uniforms at Cornell University! (Solomon, 2010) A packaging’s colors tend to influence the
  7. 7. -7- customer’s expectations of what is inside. In addition to helping interpretation and identification, a packaging’s colors also provide maximum visibility of the product on the shelves and help do the right associations with the product type. The marketing and psychology literature on the influence of color is both vast and fragmented. This paper’s interest is to bring concrete real-life and literature-inspired examples of how colors influence packaging creation, especially under the light of culture and gender influences. We will approach packagings lato sensu: the envelope that delivers the product or service. Using the literature review, I am first going to talk about the influence of colors according to product categories. This will allow us to answer questions such as, what type of packagings can color influence? Where does color have an influence in the process? In the second and third part of the literature review, we will study the influence of culture and of gender on color perception. Indeed, since there are many factors that can be taken into account when deciding on client segmentation (age, personality, gender, moments of own life, needs, wishes, expectations, culture, social status…), I have deliberately decided to work on colors’ influence on culture and gender, in order to know how they influence the packaging creation process. That will help us to answer the following research question: “How do Colors Influence Packaging Creation?” LITERATURE REVIEW 1- THE INFLUENCE CATEGORIES OF COLORS ACCORDING TO PRODUCT Today, the design of a packaging is the key driver of the product’ success or failure, and an inappropriate choice of color for a product, service, package, logo, display and collateral can lead to strategic failure (Ricks, 1983). Color is a subliminally persuasive force
  8. 8. -8- that sends powerful messages, captures attention, relaxes or irritates the eyes. Color is also a potent cue for product and brand differentiation (Schmitt and Pan, 1994), for creating and sustaining corporate identities (Garber et al., 2000; Madden et al., 2000) and consumer perceptions (Grossman and Wisenblit, 1999). We can therefore say that color preference is a powerful independent variable, crucial and strategic when managing corporate image and marketing communication: it can predict a consumers’ behavior and help companies position or differentiate from the competition. Fashion trends strongly influence our color preferences and dictate what color is considered as “hot” for a given season. Pantone Inc. is one of the firms that produce color forecasts for manufacturers, retailers and services (http://www.pantone.com). Indeed, in addition to serving their main purpose, products have to provide a hedonic value to the customer, such as focusing on its emotional impact. Companies use colors as a sensory marketing lever and pay extra attention to the impact of sensations on the product and packaging experiences. For instance, with regard to food packagings, the color we see should foretell the flavor we will taste (Stroop, 1935, Downham and Collins, 2000). Whether at the car dealer (high involvement goods), the restaurant or the supermarket (low involvement goods), the sensory experience helps to decide which products and services are more appealing among competing options. Since consumers often believe that most brands perform similarly (functional value), they weigh a product’s aesthetic qualities (hedonic value) heavily when selecting a brand. Why coloring a product in the first place? Kotler (1973) insists that color reveals a product’s attributes, as the buyers respond to the total product (imagery and collateral included), while the good itself is only a small part of the whole consumption experience. Even more, imagery would be the medium that transfers the senses’ interests among the target
  9. 9. -9- population, so that the emotional response triggered by colors influences the consumer’s perceptions of the product and the company (Cheskin & Masten Inc., 1987). Attention to design and style is therefore essential to attract the eye, and has spread all the way down to mass-market products and consumers. Cavelzani and Esposito (2008) warn that although bold colors attract people’s attention more than dull ones do, they may have a shorter lifespan since people may become bored sooner (clothing, interior decoration…). Color will be the first element that grabs the shoppers’ attention and makes them stop to take a look. Marketers should make sure that the chosen colors are the most effective for marketing the given product or service. Otherwise, they will get the opposite reaction and the unconvincing colors won't make people purchase. As seen in Appendix A, companies have their motives when using specific hues to promote their product or service in a given color scheme. All the more and interestingly, people’s interpretation of colors can change over time. Tom Newmaster (2009), Consultant for the packaging design agency William Fox Monroe, explains how important it is to pay attention to color trends, color shifts and the meanings behind them. Citing the use of green on food packaging as an example, he mentions that it was first the reference color for fat-free products, and is now more associated to organic or natural products. We can conclude that colors alter the meanings of the situations with which they are associated. Therefore, it can be summed up that no matter the industry, it is essential to know the consumer or target market, and what influences them and why (trend analysis). Color is influential both consciously and subconsciously and can offer a useful insight when creating a unique design scheme for the target. On this matter, marketers have often turned to color consultants to determine the best packaging color for a given target (Funk and Ndubisi, 2004). Companies such as Colorcom (http://www.colorcom.com) specialize in providing businesses the data they need to select the best color for the right project. They use demographic data to
  10. 10. - 10 - select color associations and color preferences, depending on the message they want the color to send. Now that we know that colors are widely used by marketers to make both products and services stand out, one important question remains: what color(s) will be the right one(s)? On which criteria should we select the color(s) for our packaging? Indeed, depending on the geographic area (local, national or cross-national market), the gender and age group targeted, the color(s) used to create the packaging will largely vary. The literature on color is quite large and covers several fields. Among them, culture and gender were selected to see how those demographic characteristics influence our color perception. 2- THE INFLUENCE OF CULTURE ON COLOR PERCEPTION Expectations about a product are largely affected by a consumer’s cultural background. Assuming a narrow Western perspective of colors as universal and applying it to foreign markets would be a cultural faux-pas, as color is not universal. Indeed, to develop an effective national, cross-national or global marketing strategy, a cross-cultural perspective on color research and application is necessary: colors lead to socio-cultural and psychological associations that have intrinsic or extrinsic cues to the product, package, brand or environment. We will study here the communication values of color, in particular whether or not colors have different meanings in different cultures. There are two major schools of thought concerning a person’s behavioral response to color: the reaction to color could be of innate or instinctive origin (Humphrey 1976; Grossman
  11. 11. - 11 - 1999), where color directly signals the brain to trigger an affective reaction, or it could be of learned or associative origin (Hupka et al., 1997), where color preferences are learned over time or a result of past experiences and associations in language, literature and myths. Another clue to consider is proposed by Crozier (1996), who argues that the differences in color associations are not so innate, as they have more to do with latent philosophicalreligious attitudes. Orange would be a sacred color for Hindus and Buddhist monks, but wouldn’t even be considered a separate color by some Zambians (Madden et al., 2000). The cross-cultural spectrum of meanings and associations of color in Marketing (Aslam, 2006, see Appendix B), presents language and communication similarities and indicates the meanings and associations of colors in selected cultural clusters. Appendix C clearly shows that the choice of color for a product packaging cannot be universal, as the perception of the meaning of color differs depending on the culture. While it is critical not to ignore culture-specific color associations, the use of adverse product colors in foreign cultures can cause strategic failure. For instance, Pepsi’s use of ice blue in Southeast Asia, where this color symbolizes death and mourning, underscores the need for using the right product color in the target markets (Neal et al., 2002). A cross-cultural view of the use of color in the retail environment is therefore essential as the services sector goes global. Companies should take advantage of those data when working on pricing and positioning, as color is clearly the least expensive way of changing the product’s perception (Parmar, 2004). For instance, in the UK, pink is perceived as ‘young looking’, red as ‘garish and tacky’, and both colors are considered as average priced (Kerfoot et al., 2003). Procter & Gamble is an example of a brand that uses brighter colors in makeup and packaging targeted to the Hispanics and African-Americans populations within the US market, which reflects the increasing multicultural makeup market in an initially Caucasian country.
  12. 12. - 12 - While Berg-Weitzel et al. (2001) show that adapting advertisement execution to the culture, local preferences and marketing mix for each foreign market is effective, some brands have actually circumvented the problem. Benetton Inc. uses color for creating a universal appeal in its well-known shockvertising campaigns. One ‘United Colors of Benetton’ campaign (see Appendix D) shows three children (Black, Asian and Caucasian) sticking out their tongues. Although the kids vary in their skin color, their pink tongues imply that they have the same universal trait (Blackwell et al., 1993). Last, Taft’s work (1997) reminds us that the generalized conceptions of color-object appropriateness certainly influence cultural expectations and reactions. In other words, cultural conventions guide one’s choice: as a French person, I expect my strawberries to be red and my peas to be green. But is it necessarily the case on the other side of the world? To put it in a nutshell, a cultural bias can alter the meanings of the objects or situations with which they are associated: the meanings given to some colors can be pan-cultural, regional or unique to specific cultures. It is therefore necessary to explore a chosen color’s effect on the target market before launching a product, service or promotion campaign. 3 - THE INFLUENCE OF GENDER ON COLOR PERCEPTION Consumer behavior research was also made to study the role of gender on color and product choice, in order to help marketers exploit gender differences best. To start with, Solomon (2010) introduces the following biological difference: women are drawn towards brighter shades and are more sensitive to subtle shadings and patterns. It is attributed to biology, as females see color better than males do, and men are 16 times more likely to be color blind. In consumer behavior, topics such as the relationship between gender identity and consumer’s perception of the masculinity and feminity in products have been studied by Allison et al. (1980). On their side, Funk and Ndubisi (2006) surveyed 196 Malaysian car buyers to
  13. 13. - 13 - understand the influence of color on consumer choice of automobile, as well as the effect of gender differences: The results of Funk and Ndubisi’s survey (see Appendix E) show that the buyer’s favorite color echoes his/er color choice when buying the car; colors well-considered by their entourage also influence the final choice. However, men more than women select their automobile based on the significance of its color. Women favored more than men the attractiveness and their liking towards the color (attitudinal bases). This explains why women tend to ride more colorful and strongly attractive cars. Marketers can exploit these gender differences through target market selection and market segmentation. As a consequence, cars targeted at women should look attractive thanks to strong hues (eg. purple) while those targeted at men should be painted with good connotation colors (eg. gray). Knowing customer’s color preferences and observing which products in their line sells best allows markets to reduce manufacturing costs and trim product offerings (Trent, 1993). Also, as mentioned above and written by Triplett (1995), automobile manufacturers use color consultants to advise them on the color palette (up to four years before the new color is introduced!), and have changed around 30 per cent of the cars’ colors yearly. To sum up, gender moderates the impact of color attractiveness, significance, preference and attitude towards color. CONCLUSION Color is one of the best multi-purpose tool marketers can play with, and has become a significant factor in global marketing: to be noticed and remembered by customers more, to communicate with them better, to shape their opinion faster, to satisfy them increasingly... Color should therefore be among the main elements taken into account when designing packagings, (re)launching new products and (re)opening service.
  14. 14. - 14 - Brands that use colors to differentiate, as part of their strategy (eg. Apple), have influenced a whole generation of marketers, advertisers and graphic designers. They have also confirmed the efficiency of the smart use of colors when creating packagings. In environments overloaded with information and stimulation, color communicates with refreshing simplicity and impact, thanks to its strong associative meanings and subconscious responses. As the markets are becoming more and more globalized, companies need to be aware of the cultural color differences that exist among most nations worldwide, as color perception, meanings and preferences vary by culture and ethnicity. We have also reviewed the incidence of gender-specific preferences that may also be considered in explaining the communication values of color. Paradoxically, in a world overflown with different shades, nuances and trendy hues, black and white products and advertisings are become singulier and eye-catchy! RESEARCH QUESTION PRESENTATION AND JUSTIFICATION As explained in the preface, I have drawn an interest in packagings design and the influence of colors since my MarCom internship in India. Also, as a Marketing and Business student and apprentice, I do know that colors are a marketing weapon when used strategically. The paper “How do Colors Influence Packaging Creation?” only comes to confirm it, thanks to the many examples presented here. A planned, consistent exploitation of colors becomes a lever, adding measurable value in terms of awareness, differentiation, satisfaction, brand recognition, and loyalty. With the internationalization of markets and increasing consumer demand in the emerging economies, competition is likely to come more than ever from aggressive native businesses
  15. 15. - 15 - that better understand the local environment and aim to upgrade or expand across borders. A dynamic gender and culture-sensitive approach in color research and its strategic use will allow developing a competitive advantage in the emerging markets. LIMITS The first limit to this paper is that no field study was led while writing this paper, mainly due to time constraint. In addition, only two subjective elements that color perception depends on were studied through this paper: culture and gender. Other influential factors such as age, personality, moments of one’s life, needs and wishes were left out of this study. Also, the many dashes in Appendix B are due to an absence of data in the Marketing literature, and indicate some potential fields of research on foreign markets. In addition, this appendix reveals that most research has been done in English-speaking or some Asian countries, while little research on color associations was done in areas such as India and the Middle East. Therefore, we can suggest maximizing cross-cultural perspectives by creating a Hofstede-style list, to cross data (eg. countries, situation, cultural values) with the meaning of colors accordingly. This database would contain the existing empirical knowledge of colors and the effects they create in packaging, marketing and advertising - a referential when developing global marketing strategies. Finally, another limit, found by reviewing the Consumer Psychology literature, concerns color-blind people, who are color deficient and confuse red with green. The case of colordeficient consumers deserves an attention that is mostly ignored by marketing. Unfortunately, color deficiencies, whether acquired or genetic, will render any use of color ineffective (Kaufman-Scarborough, 2000, 2001). Therefore, it remains to be seen how best marketers could reach out to color-deficient consumers, who make up for about eight per cent of all
  16. 16. - 16 - males worldwide, and only about zero point five per cent of all female, according to http://www.webexhibits.org. Assuming the current world population is seven billions and that half of those are male, this gives us a target of around three hundred million potential colorblind clients (7,000,000,000 * 0.5 * 0.08 + 7,000,000,000 * 0.5 * 0.005 = 297 500 000).
  17. 17. - 17 - APPENDIXES Appendix A: This table explores a few examples of services and product packagings, for which marketers have used colors to play with our sensory system and create a competitive advantage: Category Soft drinks Brand Use of color Coca-Cola Coca-Cola is one great example of a brand that has quickly established its sensory signature through the heavy use of marketing and advertising: - Reference color: red, which is known for creating feelings of arousal and stimulating appetite - Curvy shape of glass bottles - Characteristic typeface for quick logo identification - In the 1930’s: Popularization in the American culture of the modern image of Santa Claus as an old man in a red-and-white suit. Illustration Coca-Cola flagship product and current logo Source: http://www.prodimarques.com/sa gas_marques/coca-cola/cocacola.php Household appliance Philips Products are made thinner and more colorful to impart a more useful feel to the technology. No more white/silver/black, but use of vibrant color Source: http://library.iyte.edu.tr/tezler/ master/endustriurunleritasarim i/T000540.pdf Air carrier Singapore Airlines Singapore Airlines is an excellent illustration of multi-sensory marketing. Since its creation in 1972, it Philips’ vacuum cleaner in Orchid purple color looks both aesthetic and functional
  18. 18. - 18 - has focused on creating a distinct visual signature, specifically : - Reference color: blue, which is cross-culturally preferred from North America to Asia - Unique colorful uniforms for female flight attendants, designed by Pierre Balmain in 1968 - The uniforms’ color vary depending on rank - Also: a patented signature perfume dispersed throughout the planes and worn by the staff  The company keeps driving innovation and combined sensorial experiences as an important part of the brand Source: http://www.venturerepublic.com/r esources/singapore_airlines__an_excellent_asian_brand.asp Hospitality industry (hotels, bars, restaurant) Architect: Simone Micheli www.simo nemicheli. com Singapore Airlines logo The brand icons Singapore Girls, wearing the traditional sarong kebaya as their uniform and symbolising Asian grace and hospitality Play on environmental factors, by making the interiors attractive thanks to the strong and strategic use of colors (colored paint, lights and furniture). Importance of cohesion between the chosen color(s) and the emotions the place wants to arouse in the guest. Interior designers working for the hospitality industry know that: - Clients are more social and active in yellow and red rooms, - Guest eat more in yellow and red rooms, - Partygoers stay longer in Color Bar, Firenze, Italy Zero Zero restaurant, Firenze,
  19. 19. - 19 - blue rooms Italy  Emotions result from the perception of these colors Source: Prof. Alessandro Cavelzani’s classes, English Track Year 2, 2010 alessandro.cavelzani@grenobleem.com Construction materials The OwensCorning Fiberglass Corporatio n La Corte dei Butteri Hotel, Toscana, Italy The Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corporation was the first company to trademark a color. It used bright pink for its insulation material and adopted the Pink Panther as its spokescharacter Source: http://www.owenscorning.com/ac quainted/about/history/ Personal computers, mobile phones, music players Apple Inc. Apple was the first company to : - Give such importance to color to differentiate its products from those of competitors, - Sell a large range of colored products to the mass market The computers business suddenly went from dull to colored and more fun. Until 2001, Apple's design team used bright translucent colored plastics for its products. They have since been using chrome-plated covers Source: http://apple-history.com/ Ex. Owens Corning Propink L77 Loosefill insulation add 1998 - iMac G3, the fun and pretty computer that propelled Apple to where it is today 2001 - iPod, the revolutionary digital music device that transformed Apple from a computer company into a massmarket electronics giant
  20. 20. - 20 - Interior decorating www.aliba In the Western countries, ba.com colorful trash cans are usually used to differentiate the recycling bins. Interior decorating made trash cans - usually seen as a dirty object, a trendy one thanks to the use of vibrant colors. Source: http://www.hometone.com/10trendy-trash-cans-recyclingbins.html Supermarket distribution Monoprix and Havas City In 2010, Monoprix launched a packaging relooking campaign named Non au quotidien quotidien for its 2000 private label products, with the help of communication agency Havas City. Their aim was to democratize beauty, humor and add fun in daily life: - Like the Campbell’s Soup, the designs have a pop art touch, inspired by Warhol (graphic stripes of assorted colors, linear and simple typography) - Colors: bright and vintagey colors that remind of the 1940’s packagings ; no mix between warm and cold colors - a humorous slogan is added on each product (eg. “Unsalted butter tasted and approved by the Little Red Riding Hood”) The concept won the Grand Prix de la communication extérieure in 2011. Sources : http://tinyurl.com/7qkgzm7 and http://tinyurl.com/6nm4ora Before (left) and after (right) packaging of Monoprix peeled tomatoes
  21. 21. - 21 - Appendix B: Cross-cultural spectrum of meanings and associations of color in Marketing (Aslam, 2006) Appendix C: Basic interactions of color in marketing (Aslam, 2006), with CI = Corporate Image, POP = Point of Purchase and POS = Point of Sale
  22. 22. - 22 - Appendix D: Oliviero Toscani’s Tongues photography for United Colors of Benetton Appendix E: Schema of a research model on the relation between color attractiveness, gender and product choice (Funk and Ndubisi, 2006)
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