Visual Merchandising: The Value of Colour Blocking

Visual Merchandising: The Value of Colour Blocking

What is colour block merchandising?

Colour blocking is a visual merchandising strategy that uses colour to encourage sales. The aim is to drive shoppers’ attention to a particular brand on the shelf. Retailers everywhere use this strategy for all kinds of products, from clothing to food.

Supermarkets have an especially challenging environment for capturing shoppers’ attention. According to a report by Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, the average consumer spends only ‘13 seconds before choosing a brand in-store’ [1].

If your brand doesn’t catch the shopper’s eye, you’re losing sales.

How to create a successful colour blocking strategy for your brand

1. Create a visual identity that resonates with your brand’s character

Understand what your brand assets are and use them consistently across your packaging. The colour of your brand should create a unique visual experience for the shopper and signal your brand’s dominance.

Take Cadbury, for example. Cadbury’s brand identity is so closely tied to the colour purple that for over two decades they were able to claim a trademark. 

They recently dropped the trademark, however, after applying for a new one that would expand their colour monopoly across all of their categories. The UK Court of Appeal rejected the application based on its decidedly broad language.

Cadbury is still very protective of its distinctive colour. Looking at the traditional chocolate block photo, you can see why. Visually, Cadbury dominates the other chocolate brands.

Even with its strong visual identity, however, Cadbury struggles to grab attention in other categories.

In the baking chocolate display, they’re completely overshadowed by Nestle’s colour block. In the drinking chocolate display, they’re lost in an array of colours, with Milo’s green being more prominent.

But by keeping that colour consistent, even in categories where it isn’t the most dominant brand, Cadbury manages to stay conspicuous on the shelf.

2. Use colour to communicate brand variety

When brand identity is less authoritative, strong colors can be used to signal distinctiveness. In the photo below, it’s clear that all of these tuna brands are fighting for consumer attention.

See Understand

The winner in this contest appears to be Sirena, with its bright yellow packaging. Using the slider on the image, you can see a visual heat map based on eye-tracking data. The warmer colors (red, orange, yellow) indicate the spots that get the most attention. 

Sirena’s yellow colour block stands out on the shelf, making it easier for shoppers to find the product and make a decision.

By using eye-catching colors to immediately attract the shopper’s attention, these brands have successfully implemented impactful colour blocking at the point of sale. From the photos you can see Cadbury owns the colour purple and Sirena Tuna jumps out in yellow. These colours are assets to their brands and create fast recognition for shoppers.

3. Consider the point of sale context

When thinking about the colour that will represent your brand, consider the point of sale context. For instance, there are categories that rely on certain palates to communicate their product. In this case, it can be counterproductive to use colour blocking techniques.

Orange juice is a good example. Most orange juice brands use the orange and yellow palette on their packaging, and they end up looking almost identical. In this context, however, it might be more important to signal what the product is as clearly as possible rather than try to stand out.

3. Eliminate personal bias

Nothing is more frustrating than making the wrong decision based on personal bias. I have seen outstanding colour blocking ideas thrown in the trash based only on personal opinion.

If you have a good visual merchandising strategy based on your brand’s identity and point of sales context, don’t let personal opinions get in the way. Find evidence and make your case. You might do group or social media research, but don’t rely on this solution by itself.

See Understand

For example, in the display above we thought that Bundaberg had the best colour strategy. When we analyzed the image, we were sure it would come back with results to support that hypothesis. But it turns out that Coca Cola captures the most attention in this display. 

It goes to show that what you intuitively think the shopper is looking at isn’t always what the shopper is actually looking at.

What’s the best way to make your case?

Recently, developments in artificial intelligence have made it a lot easier to plan and execute colour block merchandising. 

The traditional shopper test gives us hints about the effectiveness of colour blocking, but Aglo’s Aitrak solution offers a quantitative answer based on actual retail context and shopper eye-tracking data. 

Using one of the world’s largest ongoing eye-tracking studies, our solution removes some of the guesswork and bias from the visual design process.

This technology has three features that revolutionise visual merchandising:

  1. It uses machine learning and data to deliver accurate and reliable results on colour blocking in minutes.
  2. It creates a predictive eye-tracking algorithm with a 95%-97% accuracy rate, collected from hundreds of people viewing thousands of images. 
  3. It eliminates any personal bias by generating a quantitative analysis with heat mapping and visual area calculation.

This solution will help you design, refine and select the best colour block merchandising strategy for your brand. Once you decide on your strategy, it will give you concrete, visual evidence to validate your ideas.

Contact us if you want to understand exactly what shoppers see. We’ll analyse your designs and help you choose the one that’ll make shoppers stop and look.


[1] The Power of Real World-Testing

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