Michael & His Technicolor Blog Post

Imagine a world where Cadbury bar wrappers were yellow, Facebook was red and McDonald’s was commonly referred to as the green arches… It would be like opening your eyes for the first time. Colour is a powerful element within branding and packaging, acting as a glue which holds imagery and messaging together. Without it brands would seem unfamiliar, packaging would have no stand-out and supermarkets would be filled with confused and angry shoppers.

People see colour before they absorb anything else when searching the aisles. Studies have proven that we use brand shapes and colours more than words to navigate while we shop. It has been suggested that on an average shop we only read 6 words and 60% of the time people will decide if they are attracted or not to a message – based on colour alone! Thus making it integral that packaging has iconic colours and shapes.

Colour can be used on pack to create ‘colour blocking’, where a dominant colour is used across all products in a range to create stand-out on shelf. A good example of efficient colour blocking is found in the confectionery aisle. Cadbury have been using the colour purple on its chocolate wrappers since the early 20th century. Over the years purple has created a familiarity and trust which has helped Cadbury become one of the most recognisable and successful brands in the world. Colour is so important to the Cadbury brand that they had the purple Pantone 2865c trademarked, until the trademark was challenged and overthrown by rival Nestlé.

Colour blocking in supermarkets is normally used to denote one of three things…

Firstly, BRANDING. Take Coca Cola, another established brand which has the luxury of being able to colour block supermarket shelves using its signature red and white label helping to establish brand dominance.

Secondly, FLAVOUR & INGREDIENTS. This type of colour blocking is trending currently and is also highly popular with challenger brands. Challenger brands don’t have the luxury of a recognisable brand colour, so often make entire packs blocks of vibrant colour indicating flavour, to grab consumers attention. This creates stand-out and gives the consumer a visual hit of flavour. We used this method on the Stoats re-brand and it turned out to be strikingly effective, lifting them from dusty mediocrity, onto the gleaming shelves of all major supermarkets. Trends in colour come and go but the use of two-tone flat colour blocking to denote flavour, seems to be sticking around. Even the big brands are giving it ago. Kettle Chips, Jamie Oliver, Dorset Cereals, everyone seems to be applying one colour logos, to stripped back clean vast areas of bold colour.

Lastly, CATEGORY COLOURS. These are the familiar associations of colour within a category, such as the use of purple for milk chocolate products. Another good example of this is down the laundry detergent aisle. If you pick up a box of laundry detergent, 90% of the time the fundamental colour will be blue or green. Blue symbolises cleanliness and green symbolises the environment, therefore a blue and green bottle would communicate an ‘environmentally friendly cleaning product’. Because colour has psychological implications, organisations often choose category colours deliberately, as a tool to communicate information and to evoke an emotional response. Many natural and organic products end up packaged in uncoated and recycled stocks with plenty of green and white. Black, gold or silver are used alone, or in combination for luxury brands and childrens’ toys are designed using mostly primary colours.

Most people can put a single meaning to any colour, for example, green with envy or red with anger, but within packaging and design, the subliminal and psychological meanings can get a lot more complicated. Black is actually the colour of power, authority and control. Blue relates to trust, honesty and reliability, while red means energy, action, passion, excitement and strength. As a designer I need to have a strong grasp on colour and all of these associations. Take our own Robot Food branding. We used the colour turquoise as the primary colour not only because it looks incredibly sexy against black, but because it means clarity of thought and communication. Something which in branding and packaging is key.

I really do believe that colour is the most powerful tool in design and If you’re questioning the power of colour in branding, take a look at this example… need I say more?

The colour giants, Pantone, forecast a colour for every year and for the year 2014 the winner is ‘Radiant Orchid’. This got me thinking about what colours may be trending in 2015 and also about the incredible names which colours are sometimes given. Here are a few that I think may be in contention… Elephant Breath, Cajun Shrimp, Grandma’s Refrigerator or my personal favourite, Friendship!

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