New research on the effect of colour on consumers' behaviour suggests that people spot green items faster than any other colour tested, according to Cathrine Jansson of the UK's Society of Chemical Industry (SCI).
In a paper due to be presented at the SCI's 'Aesthetics in Retail Environments' conference on 3 March, Jansson will suggest that brand awareness can be stimulated not only by the shape and size of a product's packaging but also by its colour.
Jansson's research focused on consumers' subconscious responses to colour in a busy retail environment. Volunteers were asked to find a coloured target hidden in a range of 'distractors'. The targets were either in 'basic' colours (blue, red or green) or 'non-basic' colours (turquoise, beige and peach), and Jansson found that the colours significantly affected the speed and accuracy with which the volunteers identified each target.
Peach took the longest time to pick out, according to Jansson, while the volunteers identified turquoise-coloured targets with least accuracy. In contrast, green targets were noticed faster and more accurately, and the 'basic' colours in general were always easier to spot than 'non-basic' ones.
Jansson's research also looked at when consumers make most of their decisions about what to buy, and found that between half and two-thirds of them are made made when shoppers are about to pay at the checkout.
Volunteers were asked to look at two POS stands similar to those usually found near supermarket tills. Researchers recorded their reaction to the chocolate countlines Twix and KitKat displayed in turquoise, green, or red stands. In the Twix experiment, the chocolate bars in the green stands got attention fastest, but in the KitKat experiment, the familiarity of red KitKats meant the red stand got the best response.
Familiarity with a brand is still the most important factor in getting a customer to notice a particular product, Jansson said. "These results suggest that if you have invested in your brand, don't change it, but if you are designing an entirely new product, the colour green could give you an important advantage."
Colours are also increasingly associated with more than just a brand's image, however. In the confectionery industry, for example, green packaging often means a mint flavour, in the same way that orange frequently denotes a product of the same flavour. Packaged goods producers will have to ensure that these connotations are not retained if they opt for a rapidcal change of colour.
But in any case, Jansson also pointed out that only six colours have been tested so far. "Future studies may pinpoint colours that are even more effective as a marketing tool." There are eleven basic colours altogether, she said, so further tests may reveal that other colours are even more effective than green.
Jansson, a psychologist, told FoodandDrinkEurope.com that there had already been a great deal of interest in her research from both food manufacturers and retailers, but was unable to give any more details. Nonetheless, there is a distinct possibility that we might be seeing a few more green POS displays or packaging designs in the imminent future.
Not content with focusing on the colour of packaging or POS material, Jansson is now looking at the shape and shades as well.
"I am interested in discovering which 'environment' makes people stop and think, what holds their attention. If a design is more mysterious, does it hold our attention for longer or not," she said.
If this latest field of research yields similarly startling results, we could be in for a major overhaul of the way products are packaged and displayed which could make shopping a more sensory experience - provided, of course, that all of them are not repackaged in green!