Pretty perfect22 July 2019
We all shout about shelf appeal, but what does it really mean? Consumers have to actually see the product for them to be able to buy it, whether that's online or in-store. So while the branding, the format of the packaging and the materials all contribute, the core colours of the packaging are what makes that all-important first impression. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to brand owners to learn how they're using colour to create engagement.
Supermarket psychology is nothing new. Major brands have long bargained heavily over the best positioning for their products, with eye level and aisle ends in great demand. But what about once you've got that coveted shelf space? How to make sure that consumers actually see your product and, most importantly, choose to buy?
There are so many ways that our senses can be tickled in an almost-subconscious manner in order for us to buy into a product before we've officially decided to purchase. It's well known that supermarkets make sure that the tempting smell of fresh bread wafts around in the mornings, or that potent smell of coffee drifts seductively out of your neighbourhood cafe, or the music in Topshop makes you feel cooler than you really are (just me?) – all designed to tempt you in to spend your hard-earned cash.
Colour does the same for packaging. 'Green washing' isn't just a dirty phrase for no reason– people know that colours make a statement long before the words have registered. Brand packaging is no exception; how likely are you to buy an expensive luxury hand cream that comes in brown packaging, or would you shell out for an artisan cheese that's packed in blue wrap? Unlikely. And what about brands that you've already bought into who then change their packaging? That consumer struggle is real. Annoyed customers are far more likely to negatively engage on social media too, which is never a good thing.
Look and feel
For many start-up brands, the passion for their product that drives them through those crazy early days of little sleep and large bills doesn't usually include effective colour management, even though they usually have a very clear idea of what their packaging will look like. Sam Farmer, dynamic founder of his gender-neutral range of toiletries and personal care products for teenagers, SAMFARMER, shares how colour is crucial in his target market. Farmer explains that, “Colour plays a vital role in the SAMFARMER range, with each SKU having its own unique look. Block colour is used to easily identify the product and this works well with the large single letter graphic that is the first letter of the product's function.”
Farmer notes that the colour branding of the range is key to its universal appeal. He says, “The block colour is also vital when it comes to the synergy of the range because when all the SKUs are placed side by side, either in the bathroom or on the retail shelf, the colours clearly distinguish the SAMFARMER range. Having six distinct colours lets us be more creative and flexible when creating images and graphics as there is always potential to add a sub-set of colours, adding a further dimension to any branded design work. With each new product we launch, we introduce another colour into the mix.”
With the constant challenge of creating and recreating the colour that has been so carefully chosen, effective colour management is key to maintaining that brand image. Farmer continues, “It can be difficult to recreate the metallic sheen on the packaging across all media from print and packaging to the web. We have a brand colour book that shows all the colours for all the products in various values and formats with advice that suggest which colour to use depending on its intended application. This helps to keep a pretty consistent reproduction of the brand colours across all platforms.”
With Farmer noting how the retail stage is more competitive than ever, building an instantly-recognisable brand that is visually appealing for the Instagram age is non-negotiable. “We launched the Super Soft Lip Balm in February 2019; it has an aqua marine colour and a 'clip' lid that makes it possible to attach to zips and loops,” he says. “Later this year, our shaving gel and unique fragrance are coming to the market – the colours are in the final stages of the decision-making process. Having gone through the torturous application process to sell topicals on Amazon, we will be launching exclusive skin and hair sets on this platform to counter third-party sellers; these SKUs will only be available from us on Amazon. We are also in talks with another major retailer, as growing within the business's capabilities is an essential part of our ethos. Keeping complete control means the purpose and message of what we are doing remains unhindered. Going into some high-street retailers can be destructive if you don't get the financials correct. There's always a thousand other brands waiting to take your place,” Farmer concludes.
That warning message of getting your ducks in order is nothing new to fast-growing artisan gin brand Duck & Crutch. At a time when consumers are wanting to nail their colours to the mast – while still being part of a tribe – means that brands that are doing something different need to make sure they shout about it in the right channels. The first thing you notice about Duck & Crutch is how beautiful the bottles are; heavy glass with fabulously flamboyant, colourful labels that hug round the bottles.
Made in small batches in a shed in Kensington, Duck & Crutch manages to be both start-up and iconic, thanks to both the dramatic packaging and the botanicals flavouring the spirit within. Co-founder George Brooker says, “Our colours are carefully applied across the brand. The copper foil is a common theme on all our labels, chosen to represent our copper stills. The blue we chose for our Kensington Dry Gin has since become our brand's main colour, used throughout our website, logo and external communications.”
Getting the colours across the range has been as much a labour of love as developing the perfect blend, with Brooker working with Murray's of Milton Keynes to get the look exactly right across a range of substrates. He explains, “The red for our Kensington Overproof Gin had to be chosen to work well with the existing copper foil, on the first few attempts we got the colour wrong and the red looked very washed out. We got the printer to add more black, which deepened the colour and gave it some contrast to the copper foil. Tests on a couple of different paper stocks also proved that the richness of the ink held much better in a gloss paper, so the Overproof uses that and the Dry uses a matt paper.”
Brooker – who founded Duck & Crutch with his fiancé Hollie 'after a slightly premature mid-life crisis and a desire to work for ourselves', which lead to them buying a 5l still and a shed for their Kensington home – knew that the 'exclusive' look and feel they wanted to create meant that the packaging was a crucial as the gin to its engagement. He adds, “We wanted our bottles and our branding to target a higher end of the market, but also to use very informal language so that it does not come across as pretentious. The bottle shape was also selected with bars in mind; it makes an unbelievable 'glugging' sound when poured because of the long neck, which bartenders love. Kensington and our shed roots were always at the heart of the brand, and it has become a huge part of our story and our packaging ever since.”
With every element of the packaging story key to building brands and the consumers that love them, clever use of colour is an immediate way to shout out online and in store; it's the only sense that lets that happen without buying or testing, after all.
Case Study – Colour management in action from global leaders X-Rite
J&R Graphics was a book printer for years. Even after they upgraded from a 2-colour to a 6-colour press, they were still using an X-Rite 500 series handheld densitometer, which was not fast enough to measure all of the targets in production that they wanted. Their annual sales were hovering around $1 million, but Rick Fougere, the second-generation print shop manager at J&R Graphics, knew they had the potential to triple that with the right colour management tools. “Aside from speed, it’s very stressful doing high-end work with only really an educated guess,” says Fougere. “Unfortunately, it was difficult to justify quicker make-readies when there wasn’t much work waiting for the press.”
X-Rite provided software and support with a wide range of benefits for Fougere’s business. Although he knew the impact a scanning solution could make for ink density control, he wasn’t prepared for all of the other benefits they have achieved since implementing X-Rite’s eXact Auto-Scan.
Proper ink and water balance
Light coverage on one side of a press sheet often indicates too much water, which can cause sheet flare and travel on the stock to affect later ink units. This can be missed with a handheld device because press operators usually pass over light ink to spot-check areas with the most coverage. Since the eXact Auto-Scan reads the entire sheet, it will identify areas of light ink before they become a problem to ensure proper ink and water balance, both side-to-side and unit-to-unit.
Better drying and less offset
Running ink at the proper density and using the least amount of film to achieve it has resulted in more even drying and less offset in J&R’s finished products. These benefits extend beyond the pressroom and into the bindery and mailroom. Since less spray powder is needed to prevent the offset, powder doesn’t build up on folder rollers or in friction-fed direct-mail equipment.
An end-to-end solution
According to Fougere, the X-Rite eXact Auto-Scan isn’t just a neat gadget for J&R’s pressmen to play with – it produces better quality prints faster and cheaper, with less headaches and stress. “Honestly, it wasn’t until after we started using the eXact Auto-Scan that we realised the full benefit. We were so excited and focused on getting the ink fountains set automatically – and, yes, being able to scan and check density on the whole sheet was an admirable goal – but it was only a small part of the benefits to come. The biggest benefit is being able to understand why we have a fluctuation in ink density. These units are game changers in print shops.”