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Why Nobody Would Drink a Coke Zero From a White Can

Relevant topics Archive, Strategy

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    Package colours have a big impact on our perception of the product. Light-coloured packaging leads to good health, but bad taste expectations.
  • Application:
    Learn how to effectively develop and promote your food packages, without causing detrimental effects.
  • Imagine walking through your local supermarket to buy some fruits and vegetables. We are automatically drawn to that intense red tomato because it looks a lot juicier and tastier than the ones that are pale red.

    Sounds familiar? It probably is, because we learned from a young age that fruits and vegetables with richer colors are ripe and have a greater quality. This does not only apply to fruits and vegetables, but also to other food packages. We are, for example, subconsciously scanning for light colored packages when we would like to have something healthy. Our brains associate light colors with healthy options. However, this positive health indication does not always work out as positive as we expect it to be...

    Pale-colored packages and their double-ended effects on consumers

    More and more people try to eat healthily and this is where a lot of brands anticipate on with loads of light- and diet versions of their products. The packaging of these products oftentimes has lighter tones than their unhealthier variant. This is because lighter tones give us the impression that something is less heavy and therefore healthier. However, recent research showed that light-colored packages can lead to opposing inferences about a product and might also lead to negative conclusions regarding taste impressions.

    The diet food packages often have lighter tones than their conventional variant, which our brains read as “less intense ”. And as humans, we automatically associate less intense color with less intense taste. Especially when consumers are not able to try the product, the negative taste expectations are more powerful in swaying their choice for the worse. In this case, the consumer will rely more on external factors such as the packaging of the specific item.

    Additionally, the consumption goal of a shopper plays an important role. If a consumer is health conscious, they will be more likely to interpret the light-colored packaging as healthy instead of having negative taste effects. However, when consumers would like to buy a food item for their indulgences, such as chips or soft drinks, the light-colored package will prompt negative taste expectations, leading the customer to put the product aside.

    Light colors: to use or not to use?

    Package color is an important factor in consumer decision making because it is already salient from a large distance. So how can marketers actually benefit from this neuromarketing principle?

    Well, how to use light colors in food packaging is greatly dependent on the type of product that you are trying to sell. Are you selling food products that are made for indulgences, such as chips or soft drinks? Then you should be cautious with the use of lighter tones. You might even consider darker tones in your packages, such as Coca Cola Zero or Pepsi Max. Darker shades have shown to evoke both healthy and taste inferences equally.

    You might also reconsider using light colors when consumers are not able to try the product beforehand. Or if you really want to use light colors, you could also make use of food samples or front cooking in the supermarkets. However, do you actually have a diet version of a conventional product that is already associated with health, such as fruit bars, then go for those lighter tones!

    Take home points:

    • Light colors signal good health, but bad taste.
    • Using lightly colored packaging? Then enable your customers to try new diet-products, so they won't experience a loss of taste.
    • Is your product typically consumed for indulgence? Make use of darker tones in your packaging.
  • Why Nobody Would Drink a Coke Zero From a White Can
  • Reference:

    Mai, R., Symmank, C., & Seeberg-Elverfeldt, B. (2016). Light and pale colors in food packaging: When does this package cue signal superior healthiness or inferior tastiness? Journal of Retailing, 92(4), 426-444.

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    Further Reading

    • The size of colors: More intense means bigger!

      The size of colors: More intense means bigger!

      The rainforests in South America are being inhabited by several species of brightly colored frogs. These frogs are often poisonous and the bright colors serve as a warning to predators not to eat these frogs, because otherwise they might become sick or worse. So in this case, the information that the color conveys is very important for the survival of both the frog and the potential predator. Colors are all around us. Every object you will ever see has color and this is therefore one of the most important visual cues we have. Color conveys a lot of important information about the world around us and some of this information has interesting implications for the design of your call to actions and products.

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