Red, Yellow, Black, or Blue. Which color is best for your product packaging?

Allison Huynh

March 17, 2021

Have you ever noticed that most of your favorite cereal brands come in a red box? Or that your go-to mascara is in a yellow tube? It may seem that the companies chose these colors out of preference, but in fact, each color was chosen specifically for you, the consumer. We researched the trends behind different color packaging for different categories of items using NeuroVision to reveal some very interesting finds.


But how?

Our main question may be: which color is the best to use? The answer is not so simple. We could stand in each store and track how many consumers choose which products (doesn’t seem too plausible). We could also run an online survey and ask consumers their opinions on different color products (who knows what kind of biases they may have). Or we could just use NeuroVision, a product that only Neurons Inc. can offer, which answers our question without all those external factors in under 30 seconds.

* It is important to note that, although NeuroVision is designed using over 12,000 participants’ data and over 500 million data points, it does not take into account cultural preferences of color. To do so, we would have to run a NeuroOnline study where we can test customers’ attention, emotion, and memory to your product during online shopping. We are continuously adding more data points from participants to NeuroVision to ensure a diverse cultural and inclusive database.

The study

We tested 100 different product packages in six different categories, including food, health, beauty, household, and more through NeuroVision, comparing similar products in each category to find which color performed the best. One of NeuroVision’s metrics given for each photo is the percent seen of every “area of interest”. These areas of interest (AOI) are defined by you, the user. For the following images that we used to compare products, each area of interest is defined as each of the four products. We can compare the percent seen for each of those products to determine which product gained the most attention, translating to which color catches the eye the most.

To ensure that the data accurately reflects the color preferences of each product and not the location of the products in comparison to the others, we ran different iterations of each photo with the location of the products in different order. Below is an example of four iterations, where the product of each color is represented in different locations in respect to the others.

4 squares made out of 4 squares that have variations of red, black, blue and yellow.

After running through several iterations for each of the categories discussed in this article, we averaged the AOI % seen to get our final analysis.

The results

Comparison by type of product

Everybody loves chips, right? Our NeuroVision analysis shows that the blue chip bags had the most attention-grabbing color at 25.78% seen, followed by red and black at 24.70% and 24.16%, respectively. Surprisingly, yellow chip bags performed the worst in attention grabbing at just 21.07%. This is a very interesting find considering the iconic yellow Lays chips were the highest selling chip brand in 2020. Although NeuroVision may be limited to predicting general visual attention, these results suggest that Lay’s doesn’t win consumer’s hearts through visual attention alone, but through targeted marketing, brand recognition, and other features. To gain a broader and deeper understanding of consumers’ decision-making preferences for products, a NeuroOnline and/or NeuroLab study can be run to test for the effects of branding on visual attention, associations, preferences, and choice.

Chips packaging with the NeuroVision heatmaps over them.

Let’s continue on to general health and beauty products, such as chapstick. A blue chapstick bottle performed much better than its red counterpart at 24.28% seen - this is 7.82% higher than red. This means that the blue product may win on the shelves by being more visually salient.

Chapsticks with the NeuroVision heatmaps over them.

Remember to note that other cues, such as brand-induced recognition, tend to take longer time to gauge attention, but may also drive attention to products. So, how strong is your brand? NeuroVision specializes in capturing the visual aspects of a product, but a NeuroOnline or NeuroLab study can test your brand-preferences in consumer decision-making that can lead to easier detection on the shelves and higher attention over competitor products. Read this study to understand more about brand preferences and the effects on the threshold for perceptual awareness. If you are a novel brand with little brand-induced recognition, you must win in the visual saliency test. If you are a strong brand, you can possibly rely a bit more on brand-induced attention. Running a joint NeuroVision and NeuroOnline/NeuroLab study can give you more insights into how your brand and product packaging stands-out in consumers’ minds.

Moving on to our next category of general household items such as cleaning products, we found that black cleaning solution bottles performed the best at grabbing consumers’ attention at 25.77% seen, followed closely behind by yellow at 22.99% seen. Blue performed the worst at just 17.88% seen.

Cleaner bottles with the NeuroVision heatmap over them.

Comparison by shape of product

Looking at products in a large bag-style packaging, we found that these products favored a primarily red package. These items include potting mix, pet food/litter, and other products that one can generally buy in bulk.

Potting mixes with the NeuroVision heatmap over them.

As you can see, red performed the best in catching a consumer’s attention, with yellow not too far behind (27.57% and 26.26%, respectively). Blue performed the worst in this category, collecting only 16.58% of the attention.In comparison, if we look at products that are cylindrical in shape, such as soda cans, pill bottles, canned foods, etc., black performed the best in catching the consumer’s attention at 25.03% seen. Yellow performed the worst at 20.68%.

Pill bottles with the NeuroVision heatmap over them.

To sum it up...

So now you’re probably wondering, what color is the best? Well, it seems that there is no “magic” color that your product should be. The “best” color really depends on the product category, style of packaging, and brand recognition. Are you selling food or household items? Is your packaging square or round? Are you a novel or strong brand in comparison to your competitors?To get a more distinct answer of whether your package is the most visually salient in comparison to your competitors, you may want to run your own NeuroVision test like we did here. NeuroVision can give you so many more metrics than just the “area of interest” % seen. It can tell you the image’s cognitive demand, the amount of information the viewer has to process, and the images’ clarity, a measure of how large a portion of your image draws attention. Imagine the possibilities of things you can test with NeuroVision, hint: not just your product packaging. To learn more about the capabilities of our NeuroVision, NeuroOnline, and NeuroLab services, or to access the data used for the analysis of this study, contact us today!

Cited Sources:

Ramsøy, T. Z., & Skov, M. (2014). Brand preference affects the threshold for perceptual awareness. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 13(1), 1–8.

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