The power of colour is everywhere, and it influences our lives without us even knowing! It makes us hungry, angry, calm or happy. Many experiments have been conducted on the effect colour has on our emotions and feelings. And as designers and marketers we need to take this into account when we communicate to the consumer.
Colour communicates both visually and by association. Visually by creating impact through use of contrasting colours that push and pull off one another like red against yellow, or harmoniously such as light green against light blue.
Association works in two ways: natural association and cultural association.
Natural association are colours that occur in nature: grass is green, so green is an obvious (cliche?) choice to represent eco based products.
Cultural association are colours that through historical or cultural use communicate meaning. Green in our society means ‘go’ because we are all trained to know that the green light on a traffic light means ‘go’.
It is by being aware just how much information colours say visually, as well as through association to the consumer that we design brands, interiors, fashion etc and perhaps especially packing.
Food packaging and promotion is a key area where colour is the key, think of a colour to represent fast food. I bet you thought of red!
We associate red because as a consumer we have a cultural association in that we see it used to promote Hungry Jacks, McDonalds, KFC, Red Rooster etc. Designers use it to promote to the consumer because we know it works visually as strong impacting branding, and we know that research shows that red stimulates appetite. Research also tells us that if we move from the bright reds to the darker red areas appetite reduces because we now have associations with off putting connotations of blood and raw flesh.
Now think of how often you see blue used in food packaging, unless it is confectionary aimed at children where bright fun colours are attractive and the product isn’t natural or healthy anyway, or in cold items such as ice cream where there is logical associations both culturally: we use blue for cold (think bath taps etc) and naturally: water and ice.
I’m guessing not too many came to mind and that is because there isn’t and that is because designers know that research tells us that blue actually suppresses appetite. The reasoning behind this theory is that blue doesn’t occur very often naturally with food (all I can think of is blueberries) so we therefore do not have a natural association of blue with food.
So the next time you say that you don’t like that colour, don’t judge it too quickly because personal taste is not as important as all the unconscious messages being sent to the consumer.