Use of colour in packaging: bright and beautiful

28 June 2018

It’s fair to say that colour is king when it comes to packaging. What good is the perfect carton, if the brand’s distinctive colour is not consistent on the shelf? Brand-owners and branding experts share what colour management means to them. Emma-Jane Batey reports.

Ask a consumer to describe the packaging of their favourite brand and the first thing they’ll tell you is the colour. From Cadbury Dairy Milk’s distinctive purple to the blue and orange of Heinz Baked Beans, effective colour management helps the brand stand out on the shelves in a cerebral way, with research showing that consumers subconsciously look for the colour of their favourite brand to speed up the supermarket shop.

So for established and start-up brands, choosing a colour palette that establishes brand identity in a positive way is integral to success, with time-pushed consumers keen to pick up their preferred product without trawling the shelves. This is also the case with online shopping, as the visual cues of brand colour identity a valuable cost saver on desktop and mobile sites.

Colour me happy

For London-based international branding agency StormBrands, colour decisions are at the heart of its activities. “Colour is a key part of a brand’s communication; a brand’s primary colours are chosen carefully to create the right brand association for their target audience. Therefore, it is essential that brands maintain colour accuracy across a plethora of media and the different colour models,” says operations manager Ben Cattley.

“Making sure you have a tight colour management policy is paramount to ensuring that colour reproduces correctly at all stages of the design development. However, even with a strict colour management policy, design often steps out of the colour controlled space.

“A PDF viewed on an uncalibrated office monitor can cause problems in the design process, and this is why I feel that a basic education in what is and isn’t colour-managed is very important for all key decision-makers. At StormBrands, we work closely with marketers to help them truly understand how to use colour effectively across all creative touch points.”

Start-up brands are increasingly using block colour to differentiate across flavours and formats, with distinctive palettes chosen carefully to denote specific factors in the range. For organic and vegan snack brand BEPPS, which has recently launched the UK’s first black-eyed pea puff range, colour is part of its branding and its heritage.

Founder Eve Yankah says, “The eye-catching BEPPS packet design is influenced by West African fabrics and culture. As BEPPS are made using the finest organic black-eyed peas, which are sourced directly from local farmers in South America and West Africa, I wanted to reflect this through the design, and also help bring the personality and energy of the brand to life.”

With such a bright inspiration for the BEPPS packaging, as well as the struggle of standing out in a sea of snacks, Yankah’s understanding of the role of colour is smart.

She adds, “Colours are extremely important to the brand. I spent a lot of time verifying Pantone colours to ensure our cheese flavour was the right ‘bright and punchy’ [shade] of yellow, and the sea salt and black pepper flavour was the right eye-catching blue.

“The hardest pack was the sweet chilli flavour, as I wanted to ensure it captured the fiery nature of the chilli, but still appealed to all consumers by not having a typical ‘pink’ pack. Feedback I have received is that the range looks really colourful and inviting, and is something different.”

As is increasingly the case with artisan start-ups, the packaging reflects an important individual element in their motivation for launching a brand. So the colour is a core aspect of the realisation of an often long-held passion, an idea that’s taken blood, sweat and tears to turn into reality.

Yankah concurs, “As I come from a design and advertising background myself, I actually sketched the initial design concept for the BEPPS pack – the dancing black-eyed pea mascot – onto a piece of paper and worked with a talented British packaging designer to bring my vision to life. It adds depth to the pack design, by reflecting the brand’s West African ingredient heritage, and also ensures the all-important energy of the brand was translated through our packaging.”

Deliver brand meaning

Colour is also integral to new luxury haircare brand My Hair Doctor. Established by trichologist and television hair dresser Guy Parsons, who appears on Channel 4’s 10 Years Younger, the specific colour choices help illustrate the targeted nature of the range. With 250ml airless pump bottles of shampoo and conditioner, 200ml glass jars of hair masks and various specific hair treatments, the My Hair Doctor range pulls on the scientific nature of Parsons experience with its stark white packaging. It also nods to his aesthetic appreciation with brightly coloured logos to define the purpose of each product family, whether that’s scalp health, colour protection or rehydration.

“I created My Hair Doctor because, as a trichologist and hairdresser, I believe that there is a need for a new approach to haircare; one with prescriptive formulas and ingredients,” says Parsons.

“My packaging was specifically chosen for a variety of reasons. Primarily, we saw the airless packaging as a luxury befitting the brand image. I wanted to also banish many of the negatives of the so-called ‘luxury brands’ – I wanted no waste left in the bottle. I wanted it to be easy to use and, of course, to look like the best thing in your bath or shower.”

The role of colour in the My Hair Doctor packaging was considered carefully in order to reflect the luxury and medically inspired efficacy of the product. Parsons notes, “The colouration was carefully chosen as a pathway to choice; to clearly signpost the different ranges and to reflect the botanical additives in each range, more so on the box and less so on the applicator itself.

“Each range has a colourful illustration of one of the key actives climbing the packaging, so thyme for the Scalp Health family and sea buckthorn for Re-Hydrate.”

Values and identity

For established brands, colour is important in maintaining brand identity. Hull-based handmade chocolate company White Rabbit Chocolatiers is an example of an artisan company that keeps pushing boundaries while keeping true to its values.

Established in 2004, White Rabbit Chocolatiers’ prime focus is on the ‘Extra Fine’ quality of its chocolate, with products made in small batches with no preservatives. But it is only the production methods that are traditional – the company’s innovative flavours, including its latest blackcurrant with juniper truffle, or lime and sea salt bar, give an indication of its modern approach to the nation’s favourite sweet treat.

Ed Hawkes, White Rabbit Chocolatiers’ managing director, says, “We are forever trying to make our quality chocolate as easy and accessible for the consumer as possible. We are not afraid to push boundaries with flavour combinations or with product concepts, as long as they taste great, and we reflect this in our brand using bright colours that are a stark contrast to the more serious brown of the chocolate itself.”

Hawkes continues, “Our specific brand colours – brown, cream, orange and red – were chosen with a reason: to make the brand look ‘edible’. They have the added advantage of contrasting each other, allowing block text to show up nicely. We then have accent Pantone colours to complement our core range, reflecting the flavours, which all work together. We worked with a branding agency that helped us direct our thoughts and define the palette. We are looking for new platforms to sell our chocolates and I believe our distinctive branding shows we take our chocolates – but not ourselves – seriously.”

The visual cues that colours deliver to the consumer are heady, informing our views on the quality, innovation, flavours or scents of the products. Educated colour choices and colour management are integral to the performance and pervasiveness of the product.

The My Hair Doctor range from Guy Parsons.

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