Is being blue worth $80 million? It is if you're in the search
engine business… and you're the right shade of blue. Microsoft
learned this valuable color lesson while designing their new
Bing search engine. Testing of multiple shades of blue
revealed that a favored soft shade "lacked a bit of
confidence," said Bing User Experience Manager Paul Ray in a
presentation at the Mix10 conference in Las Vegas. By
switching to a bolder shade—something very similar to the
blue used by industry leader Google—Bing may have struck
gold. "That blue, based on the user engagement it would bring…
would make $80 to $100 million," noted Ray.
The link between color and profitability isn't just limited to
the electronic world.
Consider what the Heinz corporation did
to sell 10 million bottles of ketchup in seven months. They
took a staple product long associated with the color red—and
made it green. The result, says color psychologist and
branding expert Jill Morton, was $23 million in sales and the
highest sales increase in the brand's history. "All because of
a simple color change," notes Morton.
If choosing the right color can have such a dramatic impact on
branding and product sales, what happens when you choose the
wrong color? In the case of Crystal Pepsi, the switch from a
well-established colored soft drink to something that was
clear just didn't resonate with consumers, even though the
taste hadn't changed. "After lackluster sales, the product was
discontinued after only a year," explains Eric Markowitz in
this 2010 Inc.com article.
Markowitz said case studies "have shown that 60-80
percent of purchase decisions are based on color." Packaging
color can be equally important. While a picture on a package
may or may not be worth a thousand words, a thousand words
will never equal one well-chosen color.
According to Branding
Strategy Insider, the words on a package "are actually the
least important component of the packaging mix. In fact, the
operative communications hierarchy puts color atop the list,
with shapes, symbols and words following in that sequence.
When approaching a package redesign it is this hierarchy of
semiotics that ultimately drives sales in the store aisles."
Clearly, color matters. And it doesn't take a multi-million
dollar research and test marketing effort to find your perfect
Morton says a focus on three primary factors can help
start anybody down the road to color success:
Analyze the timeless psychological effects of a color.
Start by thinking about the evolutionary roots of a color—the context of a color before civilization introduced
Evaluate the traditional colors used in your business
sector. The best way to do this is to make a list of
well-known businesses or products in your area and review
their color choices in logos and marketing pieces.
Consider an acceptable color alternative or a shift away
from traditional colors. Some of the largest brands have made
bold color choices. For example, look at H&R Block. It's worth
noting that H&R Block's green broke the blue tradition for
financial institutions and signaled a forward-thinking brand
and fresh approach to their market.
No matter how you arrive at your color choices, you'll want to
make sure your colors hold true through production. For
products constructed from plastics, the production process
will influence the type of colorants used and the form they
take. For example, dry color blends are a cost effective
process for rotational molded products. In other plastic
production systems liquid colors can provide substantial cost
savings. Your resin and colorant supplier can be of great help
in selecting the combination that results in the optimum cost
structure for the finished product.