Marketers May Launch Products with Fewer, Matching Colors

Designing and marketing new apparel and footwear products is not for the faint of heart. Fickle consumers jump from one trend to the next and regularly leave manufactures and retailers with caseloads of unsold goods. A huge factor in designing and selling these products relates to color.  Each year the Pantone Color Institute predicts the upcoming trend and, for 2011, many apparel items may sport honeysuckle pink. Should marketers go against prevailing trends and introduce products in other colors or in a myriad of colors in order to stand out and increase sales? Not according to Ohio State researcher Xiaoyan Deng.

Deng, assistant professor of marketing at the school’s Fisher College of Business, just published research on what consumers are looking for when choosing colors for their apparel and footwear.  The results of Deng’s study show that “most people like to match colors very closely.”  During this study, consumers were allowed to choose from up to 12 different colors while designing various parts of an athletic shoe.  Generally, consumers selected only 4 colors for the shoe. In addition, once study participants decided on a color, the other chosen colors were closely related. For example, an ‘ice blue’ blue might be combined with a ‘twilight blue’. A contrasting color was used primarily in the ‘shox’ part of the shoe – the small areas near the heels which provide cushioning.

This study used the Nike site for research purposes and Deng said that the results may indicate that Nike, in particular, is using more colors than are necessary when designing shoes.  Further, the research supported Deng’s theory that “people like their color combinations to be relatively simple and coherent, rather than complex and distinct.” These findings could be good news for manufacturers who want to simplify their design and production processes.

Manufacturers and retailers may also consider using a simplified color palette when advertising products in order to appeal to the consumer tastes revealed in this study. Deng did not mention whether preferences varied by ethnic background or age group in the study. Perhaps that will be a topic for future research.

[Source: Consumers prefer products with few, and mostly matching, colors. Scienceblog​.com. 5 Jan. 2010. Web. 14 Jan. 2011] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.