Original post: September 2011
If your company markets components, melamines, laminates, kitchens, store fixtures or even consumer products, I think you will find this article "THE MARKETING of COLOR" to be of interest. Since we are all in the business of figuring out what consumers want, exploring the history of color, how trends are created and how distribution affects color develop is highly relevant. Its hard to be a predictor of future trends however after you read more of how I analyze past trends, I think you'll see that some predictions can, in fact, be made towards future color trends.
HISTORY OF COLOR
As a fellow human, certainly you can attest to how important color is to our daily lives but think about how important color was to early man. The decision to eat one food over another and the color of poisonous snakes for example could literally determined if you survived to produce offspring. Interpreting color and making predictions could be a life or death situation. As a result, humans have certain innate reactions to color that seem to, in general, be universal across cultures. Lets examine more about the history of colors and how they evoke emotions today.
RED: If you look at the color red it typically has two very different feelings; pleasure and danger. If you look at food, strawberries can be sweet and safe to eat yet Hawthorn's red berries can make you sick. This creates a dual emotion that Red can be a volatile color that could create pleasure or pain. Another example of red, are red lips. Red lips in most cultures signify that a woman is fertile and is therefore loosely translated to passion. Today red lipstick is used not only as a cultural decoration but its origins can be traced far back in various civilizations. Another place red was seen in the history of humans is on the battlefield. Red blood signifies the calamities of war which could be disaster if you were on the loosing side but you might feel elation after winning a war and getting to live another day.
Red is a very common color used by certain consumer products to invoke passion however many companies such as financial companies avoid red entirely as it signifies danger or loss. When companies are loosing money they are known to be "in the red" for example.
GREEN: Green typically signifies "wealth". Imagine all of our years growing crops and living off the green of the land. Land use to be viewed as the single source for survival and hence the color green signifies money and wealth. Starbucks is a successful company that uses Green and a symbol that looks like a coin. Have you ever thought that Starbucks sells the aspiration to wealth rather than only selling coffee. Books have been written on the success of Starbucks and how vital green was to their overall success.
YELLOW: Just like Red, yellow evokes dual emotion. One is of hope, happiness and sunshine and the other is in betray or deceit. We all can understand that the sun represents hope and brightness but why is yellow often seen as the color of deceit or betrayal? For thousands of years the color yellow has signified betrayal in most cultures (but not all ) however some trace the yellow color to certain deseases and illnesses that have plagued humans from the beginning. I won't elaborate too deeply in this short article however I may expand examples in future articles.
BLACK: Black typically signifies power, authority, fear and death. When you take any color to its darkest value it becomes black. If you can imagine ancient mankind and how a decomposed body turned black or how a crop or home might be destroyed by fire would be black. But the most moving evidence that early man might be afraid of black would be from when the sky turns black. Today black also signifies authority such as in a suit or when a judge wears a black robe rather than a yellow one for example.
BLUE: Blue can be most closely related to Water and the sky. Do you ever feel more peaceful simply by looking at water or the sky? I know I do... Ancient humans always felt safe when they lived close to water because we can live for weeks without food but only a few days without drinkable water. Insurance companies, banks and even 3D Laminate companies often use the color blue to make people feel safe in using their product. Do you use a particular company due to their color unknowingly?
HOW WE PERCEIVE COLOR:
In a previous article I wrote called "Understanding the Language of Color", I went into depth about various things that affect how we perceive colors. I won't go too deep in this article however I will say that how we perceive color is not always accurate... For example, think of the "area effect". To understand the area effect, imagine making a match to a large 2' X 2' board and then looking at a small 3" X 3" match to that board. At first glance you may think the larger board is more light however what if you found out that you were in fact looking at the exact same color!? Simply by looking at a larger piece is creates an accumulation of color in your eye (so to speak) that gives you the perception that it is lighter than the other. In summation, there are various situations such as metamerism, the area affect and others that can make human perceive color differently from situation to situation.
The Mirriam Webster dictionary defines a trend as "A general direction in which something is developing or changing". But what is an "Antitheisis Trend"? First I should say this is a Markism or in other words a definition made up by myself... (you're free to laugh at or with me here) Due to my passion for marketing and exploration of marketing trends I often come up with situations in which there does not exist a marketing industry term. Previously I had come up with the term "Gain Leader"; opposite of "Loss Leader" and I've received a lot of positive feedback on this new marketing term and perspective. Getting back to the Antithesis... My definition of an "Antithesis Trend" is "A new trend created by the desire for change away from the current trend". If you ask a music executive or clothing designer if they have ever experienced an "Antithesis Trend" they would first ask you what it meant and then after you gave them the definition they would immediately point at you and say "Yes ! Thats my reality. "
In the Music Industry, lets examine some examples of Antithesis Trends. Before you think I've gone on a tangent, trust that I will tie this in to how color trends can also be affected by this. Next I will take you on a journey from the 1950s music through 2010 and show how a desire for change drove new trends and then give specific examples of musical artists and how they benefited from the trend change.
Early 1950s; This era was made up primarily with Crooners. This romantic singers appealed to love, relationships and courtship. Artist such as Buddy Holley were big in the 1950s and to say that the decade was full of G rated love songs would be an understatement. Whats the opposite of a G rated love ballad by a Crooner? Elvis...
1956/1960s; When Elvis first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show on September 9th, 1956 with his sexual innuendos and gyrating hips he put a nail in the coffin of the days of the Crooner. Elvis was extremely talented but he was also at the right place at the right time. Elvis mixed the Blues with Crooners and became the Antithesis of the Crooner trend. That is until.
1970s; Disco and the Bee Gees.. Disco brought in an era of excess, drug use, disco balls and dance. Although Elvis had smooth moves of his own, Disco brought in an error of the individual dancing. It is a bit difficult to draw an exact correlation of how Disco was the opposite of Elvis however one can certainly argue that Disco dominated the 70s and that it was very different to say the least.
1980s; Hair Bands. Motley Crew. When the 80s music scene came it as if someone turned out the lights and took the disco ball home. "No more disco for you" they probably grumbled as they exited out the back door of Studio 54. Bands such as Motley Crew and Warrant wore make up, teased their hair and did not come close to breaking out into dance as in the days of disco. It is easy to see how the Hair Bands were the Antithesis of Disco until...
1990s Grunge Rock. Nirvana. From the moment I saw the video "Smells like Team Spirit" and cought wind of the growing Seattle Grunge movement I knew that Hair Bands were simply uncool. Think of how Grunge is actually the opposite of hair bands and make up. Many in the Grunge music scene avoided showers and there were no sequins or makeup to be found. Is it possible that Grunge became popular BECAUSE it was the opposite of Hair bands?
2000s Rap/Bling. Tupac. What is the opposite of a white guy from Seattle who believes in minamalism? Hmmm. Well certainly the opposite of Grunge Rock is Rap featuring videos with gold chains, cars and excess. Rappers are the new rock stars....they say...
ANTITHESIS TRENDS can be witnessed in the music industry over the past 60 years and one could argue that no new fad would have quite the impact if people weren't so darn tired of the past trend. It could be argued that if you want to know whats going to be big, just figure out whats the opposite of whats hot now.
Color Trends Antithesis: Many laminate colorists often discuss how when an economic market declines that darker colors become more popular. Our best seller for the past four years has been Wenge which is a dark woodgrain and certainly one can argue that its in line with what colorists have been saying. On the flip side, colorists also say that lighter colors tend to become more popular during economic growth. This has been applied to laminates however it becomes more complicated when we look at cars or fashion. But in a bigger sense, its important to understand how trends can be created based upon using a feeling for the bigger world around you.
MASS THOUGHT'S EFFECT on COLOR TRENDS
Mass Thought or Mass Consciousness essentially means that there are common thoughts shared by your community that are influenced by religion, culture and socio-economics. As a human you share many common thoughts and each person influences mass opinion through his or her vote or opinion towards a given subject. We have all heard of the "butterfly affect" however mass thought is much more easy to describe and understand. Above I mentioned how trends can be created by the general public desire for change (Antithesis) away from a current trend and I've also given a history of color and how our emotions are influenced by our preconceptions about what colors mean to us. What if I gave a test and where I had a picture of a red ball and a blue ball and then asked the general public "Which ball do you desire more". Wouldn't logic tell you that it would be 50/50? What if you found that the 70% desired the red ball? How would explain it? What if you had a society who was sick and tired of taking chances and dealing with products that did not work and then gave them the test whereby 70% then chose the blue ball? This is a theoretical question and no such study has been done however if you understand color more deeply and if you have spent much time studying consumer trends then you can start to see that such a result may be possible.
The DISTRIBUTOR EFFECT.... on COlOR TRENDS
The next area that can affect a color's success is the Distribution of that product. Imagine that you are a colorist for a melamine board producer and your job is to select colors that will be a hit in the market. Of course you will consider the following:
1. What you are seeing at trade shows. Example: textures
2. What has been selling more in the recent past. Ex: dark colors, warm tones
3. What has not been selling in the recent past. Ex: Items with knots
4. What the market is asking for. Ex: Less movement in the wood speciesand more linear
5. What you believe your distributors will buy into
What would you add?
So you start to ask yourself questions such as "Will the market like it?" "Whats in my line now?", "What trends are coming?", "What trends are going?" and then finally "What items can I get my distributing customers to buy into?" Now imagine that the distributors make a comment such as "I don't have anything in a warm honey shade ..." Bingo. Now if you find a wood species that is linear, warm in tone, looks good with that new ticking texturing you just launched, doesnt have knots and one of your key distributors thinks it will fill his line. Now you've got something.
Now of course I've just simplified the process for the sake of this article but think about the importance of a Distributor for any product line. Do you think that Ford considers their dealerships when creating new cars? Of course its a consideration since they will be preordering the inventory.
In addition, imagine that you are going to buy a sedan and you really want a black Camry and then you go to a few Toyota dealers in your town but they are all out of black Camrys but they do have black Avalons which cost more. It could be that the Distributor might have known that there is a demand for black sedans and so he intentionally stocked more black Avalons since they were a higher margin car. Now imagine deciding to go ahead and buy an Avalon because you really really wanted a black Toyota sedan. Now imagine that simply by Toyota allowing the Avalon to be a higher margin car and then knowing that black luxury sedans sell better than gold ones and then mysteriously black Avalons outsell black Camry's 2 to 1 yet Camrys outsell Avalons. I call this the Distributor Effect...A truly powerful persuasion on the outcome of color sales.
As we examine the MARKETING of COLOR we can clearly see that how humans interact with color can be based upon our preconceived feelings that are on a primal level, based upon trends , Antithesis trends, Mass Thought and even based upon the Distributor Effect. The Marketing of Color sounds like a crap shoot but the more you examine humans, the market and human behavior you will find that its not only possible to predict color trends but to actually create color trends.
Design Life blog
Color inspiration from around the world, backstories on design inspiration and informative articles about marketing, membrane pressing and personal development. Author Mark Viers delivers fresh content that will help you and your business grow and thrive.
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