A visual identity is the most important element a company has and it conveys its overall image to the public. In addition, as colour stimulates all senses, it plays a huge role in recalling memory processes and it coveys a lot of codified information. This article will discuss the degree of thought a company should have about its visual identity, the choice of colours in their brand and it will try to suggest how packaging modifies the consumer’s product experience.
5 Main rules
As a main rule, a visual identity should represent a company’s belief, and a successful one should follow five main rules (Entrepreneur Europe, 2015):
- Simplicity : it should be easy to process and digest. A rainbow resumed Apple’s first visual identity. Today it turned into a simple sober monochrome identity leading the technology manufacturer to adopt a basic post-modern attitude.
- Brand consistency : when thinking of a visual identity, the company’s designer must think of the message conveyed and follow the company’s beliefs. For instance, the Amazon logo represents the large availability of the referenced products on the internet giant e-store —> from A to Z.
- Memorability : it should be easy to remember and to differentiate from competitors. An identity is unique to the business and should be the main positioning argument with regards to the others,
- Remark-ability : it should be innovative enough to stand out from the crowd. To illustrate, TalentBin’s purple squirrel tells us that a certain type of person is hard to find when recruiting.
- Market tested: creating a visual identity is like giving birth to something new. The standards of the new world influence this raw creation. So gathering a group of people to get their feedback is essential. Then, the process of adjustment is a serious part. More and more quantitive surveys are done to help the creator in translating this feedback into a visual connotation.
Swientek (2001) suggests that colour, compared to other packaging elements, triggers the fastest response from the customer. This explains why its choice is so strategic in packaging.
Different colours trigger different emotions
Moreover designers and marketeers have to take into account the power of colours. Its perception is different according to age, gender, personality, and therefore the target audience has to be known accordingly (DeMers, 2016).
Different colours trigger different emotions, hence its choice will drive purchase decisions. Research (Vladic et al. 2015) shows colour and aesthetics play a major role. In fact, 73% of purchase of Fast Consumer Goods Products are made in-store. In response to different colours, customer behaviour changes. As Ciotti (2018) puts it, different studies are trying to narrow down this theory.
- Red stimulates appetite and grabs attention (exemple : Coca-Cola, Budweiser, H&M, Netflix, Oracle) and marketeers use it to stimulate excitement towards the brand.
- Blue conveys professionalism, reliability and strength, creating a sense of trust (Facebook, BMW, Ford, Visa, Panasonic).
- Black conveys professionalism as well. This colour shows high quality and sometimes it associates with a premium brand (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Audi, L’Oréal, Nike).
- Yellow grabs attention in viewer. It associates with optimism and happiness (Mc Donald, Hertz, Schweppes, Subway, GoodYear).
- Green stimulates productivity, relaxation, health and growth. Brands use it to add an eco-friendly touch to their image (Land Rover, Microsoft Excel, Holiday Inn, Heineken, Lacoste, Android, BP).
- Orange is associated with cheerful and confident brands. People recognise it as creative and kids friendly (Nickelodeon, Orange, Fanta, Soundcloud, HardRock Café, Harley-Davidson, Firefox).
- Multicolour represents diversity as it stands for different products, people and countries (Windows, Google, Olympics, Ebay).
Colour is different in different continents
A study conducted by Jennifer Aaker (1997) defines 5 dimensions that play a role in a brand’s personality which are : Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, Ruggedness. Certain colours support these traits. Their choice on a package should support the personality a brand wants to portray. Sometimes though, context may change the perception of a visual identity. We note that the perception of a specific colour differs from one person’s background to another. Each company should therefore conduct a research according to the target audience they want to attract.
In order to assess the most appropriate colour, tests have started to be conducted, with experiments online, as they would take place simultaneously in different continents. For example, Carlos Velasco conducted a study showing that different crisps’ packaging colours meant different flavours in different countries.
Packaging modifies the consumer’s product experience
When marketing new products, it is crucial to consider that consumers place visual appearance and colour above other factors. A certain group could find the same colour repulsive or attractive. Therefore, packaging colour sets expectations in the consumer, such as taste, flavour, fragrance etc. This behaviour is based on associations between specific characteristics of the product, cultural background and also experience (which includes the usage in a given market).
Product expectations, associated with colour, will determine a consumer’s product experience, but this is not always the case, as Tijssen suggests. Clearly, packaging affects product experience when it is carrying a meaning, rather than being simply ornamental. It is not yet clear how far is the product experience from the consumer’s expectation. For example, Huang and Lu (2015) argue that the same product was perceived as sweeter when it was packaged in red rather than in a blue or green without understanding what exactly triggered this in the consumer’s analysis.
To summarise, deciding over a visual identity is not a light decision. This is a strategic and an informed process. Keeping in mind the target audience is essential to deliver visuals according to its taste, and in order to attract and enhance their identification to the brand.
Finally, thanks to today’s testing techniques through computers, colours are intelligently assessed to understand the product’s expectations.