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Colour Psychology in Packaging Design

Why does packaging design matter? In the fiercely competitive world of consumer goods, where every brand is trying to outshine the other, your packaging design is key to capturing consumer attention. There are a number of design elements that collectively contribute to the overall visual appeal and functionality of the packaging. Think about the role of typography, graphics and imagery, shape and structure, material and texture, brand logo, or labelling and information. There’s a lot to consider. Arguably, one of the most significant aspects of this design process is colour psychology. Who would’ve thought that the colour’s slapped on a product’s packaging could mess with our heads so much? Colours can play with our emotions, our perceptions, and our behaviours, which is pretty crazy.Ever wondered why you reach for that specific drink or cereal on the shelf? It isn’t just because it tastes good (well, sometimes it is). A lot of it is down to the packaging designers who are working behind the scenes to influence your purchasing decisions. Be sure to think about colour when adding packaging design into your brand strategy.This article will explore how colours influence buying decisions and will shed light on the importance of choosing the right colour palette. We will also look at the impact of cultural differences can have on packaging design to make sure your brand is best equipped for success in the global market.
15 min read
06 December 2023
Blog 06
Colours psychology

How Colours Influence Buying Decisions

Colours are silent, but influential persuaders when it comes to consumer decision-making. There’s an art and science of effective packaging design – for instance the psychology of colour plays with human emotions, shaping perceptions and guiding choices in packaging design. Understanding how colours can in a sense – manipulate or sway people – is important for designers wanting to create packaging that directly speaks to the consumer’s subconscious mind. Let’s dive into this some more.

Emotional Triggers

Let’s start with emotional triggers. Colours have the ability to evoke specific emotions and moods. When strategically employed in packaging design, they can trigger emotional responses that resonate with consumers.

Warm Colours: Hues like reds and oranges evoke feelings of passion, energy, and warmth. Products adorned in warm colours often appeal to impulse buyers seeking excitement and intensity. Think about limited edition items. The bold and dynamic nature of red makes it ideal for products that aim to stimulate impulse buying.

Cool Colours: Blues and greens convey a sense of calmness, trust, and reliability. These colours are commonly employed in industries where a sense of security and professionalism is crucial, fostering a feeling of confidence in the product. Green is linked to nature, health, and freshness and is notably popular in the food and beverage industry. It conveys a sense of organic and eco-friendly qualities.

Let’s look at the packaging design for food products. The simplicity of Hello Fresh’s packaging, adorned with a single fresh green lime, communicates the brand’s commitment to freshness, tapping into the positive and calming associations of the colour green. There’s a strong emphasis on sustainability, with the encouragement to recycle after use. This evokes a sense of environmental responsibility that aligns with the modern consumer desire for eco-conscious choices. This packaging strategy reflects an understanding of the contemporary consumer's values, where the visual and environmental aspects harmoniously blend to create a packaging experience that goes beyond the meal itself. Hello Fresh uses packaging to tell a brand story; it goes beyond the box. The art of unboxing crafts a memorable packaging experience.

Hello Fresh

Image source: Hellofresh.co.uk

Brand Recognition

Consistency in colour usage is so important for brand recognition. Over time, consumers develop associations between certain colours and specific brands, forming a powerful link between the visual stimulus and the brand identity. This recognition becomes a crucial factor in purchasing decisions, especially in crowded marketplaces.

Consider the brand design from iconic brands like Coca-Cola, whose red packaging is synonymous with the brand itself. The familiarity of the colour triggers a sense of trust and reliability, influencing consumers to choose a product they recognise and associate with positive experiences.

Shelf Appeal

In a sea of products fighting for attention on store shelves, the right colour can be the difference between being noticed and overlooked. Designing packaging that sells on shelves for retail requires careful consideration of colour. Bold and vibrant colours, such as yellows and oranges, are attention-grabbing and can draw consumers in from a distance. Maximising shelf impact with packaging designs that sell must be a top priority for brands.

The strategic use of colour contrasts can make a product stand out, prompting consumers to take a closer look. Packaging that effectively utilises colours to capture attention has a distinct advantage in influencing the initial stages of the buyer's journey.

Brain

Choosing the Right Colour Palette

In the realm of packaging design, the choice of a colour palette is pretty much equivalent to selecting the language through which a brand communicates with its audience. Yes, it really is that important. Choosing colours wisely in packaging design can impact the success and perception of a product. The aim is to think of innovative packing solutions to stand out from competitors. This decision is not merely an aesthetic preference, it’s a strategic choice that will change and influence consumer perception and behaviour. It will also be a reflection of brand’s personality. So what do you need to consider when choosing the right colour palette for packaging design?

👉 Your Target Audience

Different demographics respond to colours in different ways. There might be packaging design trends to watch out for depending on your specific demographic. Understanding the preferences of the target audience is fundamental to selecting an effective colour palette. Think about it:

Children might be drawn to bright and playful colours, such as primary hues, while a sophisticated palette may resonate more with a middle-aged demographic. Softer, more muted colours might be preferable for an older audience as the colours evoke a sense of calmness and timeliness.

👉 Brand Personality

Colours should harmonise and align with the overall personality and values of the brand. Think about your brand’s identity, its mission, and target market. This will help you in selecting the appropriate colours. More youthful brands might want to target a younger demographic. Opt for more bold and energetic colours to convey a sense of dynamism and modernity. If you’re a more conservative or traditional brand, you might want to lean towards neutral or subdued tones to communicate reliability.

👉 Product Type

What does your product do? The nature of the product itself is significant for helping you determine your colour palette. It goes hand-in-hand. Different industries and product categories often have established colour associations that influence consumer expectations. Packaging for the beauty, health and wellness, or fashion industry might look different to designing packaging for children’s products, or to a commercial & B2B industry. Your approach will change depending on the product type, and should guide colour choices in the packaging design process. For example:

Food and Beverage: Fresh and natural colours like greens and browns are common for products that want to emphasise their organic or wholesome qualities.

Technology: Clean, modern colours such as whites, blues, and metallic tones help to convey a sense of innovation and sophistication. The simplicity in the colour palette helps to position the products as aesthetic and cutting edge, aligning with the sleek design and advanced features associated with modern technology.

Cosmetics: packing design for beauty and cosmetic products often relies on a range of colours to evoke specific emotions dependent on the product. For skincare, you might see calming pastel colours, or for make-up, you might take a vibrant and bold stance in the colour selection. It differs based on product type.

Methodology Bottle 5
Nod 15

Left image: Methodology | Right image: Nod Skincare

Seasonal Packaging

Designing for festivities in your seasonal packaging is a way of maintaining a dynamic and engaging connection with consumers. Seasonal packaging, marked by the familiar hues of green and red during December, the warm embrace of orange in October, and the soft pastels that emerge around Easter, is more than just a visual treat. It's a strategic design choice that taps into the spirit of festivities, creating an instant and emotionally resonant link between the product and the celebratory occasion.

Designing for seasons is like adding a dash of holiday cheer or a spooky vibe right to your product. These visual cues go beyond words; they play a role in brand storytelling, creating an emotional connection with consumers who love these traditions. It's about becoming part of the celebration, standing out on the shelves, and capturing the attention of consumers who are in a festive mindset. Those red and green tones aren't just colours; they're a festive mood that signals the arrival of joyous occasions, and consumers love it.

This is the perfect way for your brand to stay relevant. If you are in sync with the times is a way of saying “It’s the holiday season, and here’s a little extra cheer with your favourite product”. Knowing when to revamp your design for holidays is crucial, you don’t want to start too early.

Seasonal packaging can also create a sense of urgency as it triggers feelings of the product being of limited availability. It’s like saying “Grab me now, I’m only here for a short time” which can drive impulse purchases. Designing for seasons in your packaging using colour is really effective for product design packaging.

By carefully considering these factors, designers can create packaging that not only captures attention but also establishes a strong connection with consumers.

Seasonal packaging
Christmas present box

The Impact of Cultural Differences

Ever thought about global packaging and designing for different markets? The impact of colours on buying decisions is not universal; it is deeply rooted in cultural context. There are many packaging design mistakes to avoid. The role of colour and cultural differences in packaging design cannot be ignored. The interpretation of colour is deeply rooted in cultural backgrounds. So, it’s up to you to understand these differences to ensure your brand can communicate and resonate with diverse audiences.

Cultural Significance

A misstep in recognising the cultural significance of different colours can lead to unintended consequences. The last thing you want for your brand is to alienate different cultural markets. Let’s take a look at a few examples to show the differences in colour perception across different cultures.

Colour

Western Cultures: Connotations

Eastern Cultures: Connotations

Red

Passion, love, urgency, or in some cases; warning or danger

Luck, celebration – making it a favourable choice for design packaging.

White

Purity, cleanliness, and simplicity.

Takes on a sombre tone, symbolising mourning and death.

Yellow

Happiness, positivity, and energy.

Jealousy or it might signify caution.

Green

Nature, health, and eco-friendliness

Symbolise wealth, fertility, and optimism.

Blue

Calmness, trust, and reliability.

Reflection of feelings of sadness or mourning.


In a globalised marketplace, navigating the intricacies of cultural differences in colour perception isn’t just a matter of sensitivity, it’s a strategic imperative. Failing to recognise these cultural distinctions can lead to misinterpretation and potential alientation. If you get this right and go beyond aesthetics, you will be able to foster deep connections, and will resonate more authentically with diverse consumer bases. Work towards creating packaging that transcends borders, making a lasting impact in the hearts and minds of consumers worldwide.

Colour palette

When it comes to selecting colours for your packaging design, don’t rush it. From this article, we hope you can see how colours go beyond mere aesthetics and become major communicators of brand identity and consumer perceptions. A cornerstone of successful marketing relies on the consistent use of colours. Why? It’s all about brand recognition. The power of colour in forming lasting associations is what helps brands to stand out in the landscape of crowded shelves. Now you know that colours carry distinct meanings across different cultures, use this knowledge to respect other cultures, and avoid alienation of consumers. The art of packaging design becomes a dynamic interplay of colours, cultures, and connections.

The services we offer clients include:

  • Packaging Design

  • Structural Packaging Design

  • Brand Design

  • Brand Strategy

If you need help with your packaging design, give us a shout. We can help you.

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