Survey: Does Color Variation Matter as Much as We Think?


Heidi Tolliver-Walker summarizes Eddy Hagen’s recent study on the impact of product packaging damage and color variation on consumer purchases. Hagen’s surveys always challenge our assumptions, and this one is no different. The conclusion? Color variation isn’t as important to consumers as it is to the rest of us.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: April 24, 2019

How many hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars are spent on getting perfect color match in this industry? That’s why it’s so interesting to read Eddy Hagen’s columns that challenge our assumptions.

Just recently, Hagen was at it again. He had conducted an informal survey of 108 people asking about how product/package damages and color differences impact consumers purchase decisions. The survey is titled, “The Influence of Color Deviations, Damaged Packages on Shopping Behavior and Brand Loyalty.”

Hagen starts out by acknowledging that crafting a survey on human behavior is very difficult. There are so many variables, including subconscious ones. Trying to do a study in a controlled environment allows you to control many of the variables, but it tends to negatively impact results because participants might not show normal behavior under controlled conditions. There is also the very real impact of “question framing,” or the phenomenon in which the way you pose the question can influence the results (sometimes dramatically).

The survey was designed to get the most accurate assessment of consumer behavior possible. The results?

When it comes to packaging damage, it doesn’t impact consumers’ purchase decisions significantly. Consumers didn’t care about color deviations either. Hagen notes that, in relation to color, this was also the conclusion arrived at by Kate Goguen (RIT, 2012) in her thesis titled “The Influence of Color on Purchasing Decisions Related to Product Design.” So Hagen is in good company.

The number one reason for switching brands, Hagen found, was competitive promotions or that a shopper’s favorite brand was not in stock. Variations in color on the packaging ranged very, very low—almost negligibly—on the “reasons to switch” scale.


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