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Media Release

March 20 2007

Colour’s the key for today’s “lazy” shopper

Next time you are walking down the supermarket aisle, have a think about how you most effectively locate your favourite brand. It is the ease with which consumers can identify a product by colour that gives a brand a distinct marketing advantage, according to research from UniSA’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science.

Of the five distinctive elements that help identify a particular brand, colour is the stand out winner over logo, structural design, shelf placement and typeface said UniSA Research Associate, Elise Gaillard.

“In today’s time-poor society, the lazy shopper, often labelled a ‘cognitive miser’ because they retain as little information as possible, registers brands by colour first and foremost,” said Gaillard.

Gaillard based her findings on the research she conducted exclusively into hair care and banking markets.

“With consumers demanding simplicity and distinctiveness, companies lose out if they are preoccupied with superfluous branding or constant change, instead of creating distinctive and consistent colour associations with their brand.”

And it is the reason why confectionary company, Cadbury Schweppes, is spending big dollars in Australia in an attempt to trademark the colour purple, specifically referred to as Pantone 2685C, which the company has been cross-appealing in the Federal Court since March 2006.

“While not all Cadbury chocolate products are branded with the Pantone 2685C purple, there is a strong association in consumers’ minds with purple and a block of Cadbury milk chocolate. Like Cadbury Schweppes, big companies in Australia are increasingly defending the smallest details of a product’s image and turning to legal action to do so.”

While Gaillard explains that colour needs to pervade brand identity, she also insists that consistency and longevity are equally important.

“Distinctive colours have been successful for companies such as BP’s green which was first introduced to the market place in 1927. Veuve Clicquot’s orange, Kodak’s yellow and Coca Cola’s red, also enjoy successful recognition. This is largely based on consistency and longevity of the colours which reinforce the elements of the brand in the consumers mind,” Gaillard said.

“Change often only becomes noticeable over time when creating distinctive elements. Unfortunately, many marketers first instinct is to respond to a changing environment, which often means discarding existing distinctive elements. Marketers need to resist the temptation to make changes to brand’s distinctive elements simply to ‘freshen up’ the image.

“This is particularly so for colour. The longer a colour is associated with a product the stronger the recognition, no matter what that colour might be.”

Gaillard’s research looked specifically at two markets; hair care and banking.

“Hair care is a mature sector that has been characterised as a highly cluttered market with considerable competition predominantly occurring over the last few years. Subsequently, products invite a high level of impulse purchasing in addition to the distinctive elements of colour, shape, size, typeface and logos which are commonly featured on packaging, so it was ideal for testing the various elements against one another,” she said.

“Garnier Fructis’ had the strongest distinctiveness because of the fluoro-green packaging which is instantly recognisable from a distance, but Elvive’s red and Pantene’s white also had high distinctiveness levels.


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