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Dec 11, 2008

Color can lift our spirits and put us in a buying mood—or so marketers hope. The top color consultants are doing their best to revive the economy and the nation’s mood.

By Donna Sapolin

Imagine you’re standing in a drug store staring at a rack of razors. How do you decide which one to buy? If you think about it a little, you’ll realize you don’t know much about how you choose. And why should you think about it, even a little? It’s a razor.

Watch a video interview with color specialist Leatrice Eiseman, who speaks about color forecasting, taste and psychology.

There are people who think about this a great deal, however. And they have discovered that among the many things that influence your decision—the shape of the package, the messages on it, the design of the item, your best friend’s opinion—the biggest single determinant is often color.
Especially in challenging economic times and a competitive marketplace, color can be among the most effective weapons in a marketer’s arsenal. The right hue can lead us to buy products we don’t know we need, get us into a store where we had no reason to shop and sometimes revolutionize the look of an entire product category: think the Apple iPod Nano. The result is that marketers are calling on color forecasting organizations and consultants as never before.

Watch FLYP’s video interview with color specialist Leatrice Eiseman, in which she discusses color research methods and myths.

In FLYP Media’s interactive infographic, check out some of Pantone’s latest color palettes.

Such experts come to their task with a lot more than refined taste. Specialists in the science of color and its impact on human physiology and psychology base their advice on all manner of quantitative and qualitative research. Seattle-based Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and a leading color consultant to global manufacturers, studies such esoteric questions as this one:
In a given time, place and culture, what color will make people feel most at home, or most like the people they deeply want to be?

Watch FLYP Media’s video interview with color specialist Leatrice Eiseman, in which she identifies that latest color trends.

“This is not a frivolous enterprise,” Eiseman says. “It’s something we put a lot of time and effort and homework into.”  
Eiseman studies everything from the geopolitics and culture of a given market to local customs and peccadilloes of the manufacturer’s target demographics. She also considers such psychosocial factors as early childhood associations (lollipops, crayons, Jell-O), legacies of evolution (fire can be dangerous, clear skies and a bright sun ease the gathering of food), and the differential lure of “tribes,” from hip to mainstream.
Among her color coups, Eiseman cites the Juice line she developed for Leatherman, whose steel tools she transformed with oranges, purples and yellows, thereby attracting a whole new audience—females. Sometimes she helps clients avoid costly mistakes, as she did for Shiseido, the Japanese cosmetics firm. Americans would not take kindly to red bath water, she warned, because we associate the color strongly with blood.

Given cultural predilections, ingrained tastes and hard-wiring, one might wonder why colors need to change. “For those of us who work in the world of color, the answer is obvious,” says Eiseman. “The human eye is very fickle. If one were to present the same colors year after year, boredom would soon set in and people would no longer be attracted to a product. And a product unseen is a product unsold.”
Color forecasters are trying to do a lot more than just figuring out what “the new black” is going to be on next season’s runways, and their search for inspirations goes far beyond fashion. 

Watch FLYP’s video interview with Leatrice Eiseman, in which the color specialist talks about the things that influence the direction of color.

The brilliant colors in anime (Japanese animation) inspired Eiseman’s new “Animate” collection for 2009—eight different home and interior palettes released by the Pantone Color Institute. Pantone, her largest client, is the world’s leading color research and information center for professionals in a variety of industries.
Eiseman also pays attention to large museum shows that will inspire popular posters. “I learn about the exhibitions a year or two ahead and then project what will be happening in the future,” she says. A show devoted to Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (presently at Frankfurt, Germany’s Museum fur Moderne Kunst) informed her “Animate” palette.
With a Broadway show opening in November and a new movie in 2010, the hot yellow-green of Shrek “is not going away anytime soon,” Eiseman says. Meanwhile, she points out, just plain green has become more than a color; it is now “an entire social awareness issue.” 
To prevent boredom with the color from leaching into boredom with the movement, Eiseman called for blue (think sky and sea) to be “the new green.” Pantone validated that opinion with its 2008 color of the year pick, called blue iris, which has a tinge of purple. Sure enough, purple infiltrated just about every product category this year.

In FLYP Media’s interactive infographic, color specialist Leatrice Eiseman informs you about how color trends have shifted over the decades.

For 2009’s color of the year, Eiseman and the Pantone Color Institute have picked mimosa, a brilliant, sunny-yellow hue. Their hope and premise is that its spirit of optimism could help stabilize shaky markets and consumers.
They are not alone. Yellow was also recently singled out as a top color for 2009 by members of the largest and most influential color forecasting group, the Alexandria, Va.-based Color Marketing Group.

Watch our video interview with Jaime Stephens of the Color Marketing Group on how specialists choose color directions.

At five annual conferences (two in the U.S. and three abroad), several hundred of its members convene to debate their color predictions for the coming season. “We conduct a collaborative process that is eventually distilled into a color card, which our members then reference when creating products and environments for their companies. They range from Lowe’s and Target to small independent interior design firms,” says Jamie Stephens, the organization’s executive director.
Stephens is quick to state that the color card is directional rather than dictatorial; in-house and outside consultants will bring their industry-specific expertise to bear on products, packages and environments, tweaking the recommended color tones and combinations to arrive at a fresh and compelling new look for their companies’ creations.
The color yellow may not by itself deliver the pot at the end of the rainbow, but the experts’ experience and expertise suggest it could help get us closer.

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