Assess the role of colour in packaging

There is a belief among packaging experts that consumers can be convinced to buy, if the package that contains the product caters to the right senses. Designers have spent years, testing packages, doing marketing studies, logging reaction habits from various targeted groups, just to come up with the perfect appeal to their packages!

Colour of course, plays a very important role in these projects. It was not until after 1950 that much attention was even given to what the container of a product looked like. Most items were packaged in functional wrappers that were designed to protect and deliver. But that has all changed! These days, impulse purchasing makes up almost 75% of the consumer spending, and if the package fails to project the right message, it might be left sitting alone on the shelf.

Prior to the debut of a product, teams research such decisions as bold versus soft colours, what the type looks like, placement of packaging banners and how large the container should be. One thing for certain, the duller the product, the more the package will scream out to the consumer, BUY ME!

Because of colour trends and the ever-changing design taste of the consumer, the average life span of a package is two and a half years. If a company doesn\'t invest in repackaging efforts, the product itself will look like yesterday\'s news and the newer more current designed product will be more actively purchased.

Colour is definitely the number one factor when designers determine a packaging design. The design teams know that people react differently to different colours however, through physiological response testing, certain patterns can be traced. Colour sends subliminal messages to people and most of us react basically the same to some colours. Manufactures utilize this information to make their product more sellable.

As consumers, if we are aware of the work that goes behind presenting a product in the most eye-catching package, we will be able to look past it and take a hard look at the product itself. After all, that is what we are really purchasing!

"The consumer isn\'t a moron. She is your wife."
- D.Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man, 1971, New York: Ballantine, p. 84.

Product packaging has always been important, but with the proliferation of product extensions competing for premium shelf space, product packaging has become a critical element of the marketing mix. In 1999 alone there were 11,600 new food items and 3,069 new beverage items introduced. Although colour, texture and shape all play a role in creating an emotional bond with the customer, colour can be a key differentiator for brands and categories.

Colour trends tend to change from year to year, but they always play a role in defining a brand. Colour can produce a point of recognition with a consumer and add emotional and social benefits to a brand. Colour is often used within an overall brand to indicate brand segments or versions, or brand extensions.

Any discussion of colour trends demands an understanding of the two ways colour interacts with branding efforts. Most marketers are aware of the "Four Ps" of marketing, but they may not be as familiar with the "Two Ds" of colour’s role in branding--differentiation and definition.

Michael Coleman, senior vice president of Source/Inc., a leading international branding consultancy, notes, "Colour can be a powerful differentiator versus competition. Marketers often use a colour to achieve visual identification or colour massing at retail. Definition of brand imagery or product benefits can be achieved as well via thoughtful use of colour."

Clearly, differentiation and definition are not mutually exclusive. ‘MARS’ chocolate bars use a strong red on black background to provide a visual trigger for the brand (differentiation) and to enhance sensory taste and flavour expectations among consumers (definition).

A tactical corollary occurs when marketers use colour to indicate intra-brand segmentation. "Versioning" devices often rely on a colour-coded system to help consumers and shelf managers navigate lines of similar products. For example, green is a typical indicator of spearmint flavour in chewing gum products and red is for ‘ready salted’ in the crisp market, many other colour also correspond across many product categories.

As the number of brands and extensions has exploded, many of