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Color Talk—Connecting With Consumers at Shelf

By: Liz Grubow
Posted: October 5, 2009, from the October 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

More than ever, it’s imperative for brands to make a statement at shelf, and color is emerging as not only a key strategy in the self-selection process in store, but just as importantly, it is being leveraged as an emotional conduit to consumer attention. Rousing consumer emotions produces a more differentiated and memorable brand experience. As such, brands, specifically in hair care and skin care, are beginning to discard category norms of using color as a brand block in favor of using higher volumes of color for unique product differentiation.

Aesthetics traditionally favored by the cosmetic and fine fragrance categories tend to influence those in hair care and skin care. Of late, a variety of color strategies have been observed—from softer, more muted palettes (e.g., deep whites), to pastels, to “hot highlights” and saturated colors that envelop the entire package. Red, for example, a color historically associated with feminine beauty, is a primary color strategy in Asia, currently being engaged by Vidal Sassoon and Tsubaki Shining Camellia Oil EX, a Shiseido hair care product line, to create a daring, dramatic statement.

Fashion’s Color Influence

This tumultuous economic climate has created a fervor for accessories—always an easy and relatively inexpensive way to add a pop of color to a wardrobe or to refresh an existing outfit. Many of the same colors popularized in accessories are making their way to the shelf, influencing category color trends.

Pink, for example, is always in fashion vogue, varying from pastel hues to sumptuous shades of fuchsia. Again, influenced by the economic reality, pink is seen as a comfort color. Its freshness and vividness offer a glimpse into a bright future. In apparel, pink is to India what black is to the Western world, treated as a neutral, staple color. In Western culture, pink is the color most parents choose for apparel and room décor for newborns and young girls. The practice of assigning pink to the female gender has been widely accepted since the 1940s. From the first stage of life, pink represents calmness, nurturing, innocence and beauty. Pink is also the color most associated with fairy tales and femininity.

It has been suggested that women’s preference for pink is dervied from an affection for reddish objects, such as ripe fruits and healthy faces. In word association studies, light pinks are described as soft, tender, romantic and cute. Pinks also conjure up sweet tastes and sweet scents. Dusty pinks are perceived as soft, soothing, cozy, romantic, rosy and subtle yet sophisticated, while bright pinks are seen as exciting, happy, hot, trendy, attention-getting, energetic, youthful, fun and spirited.