As a homeowner, I make a series of seasonal pilgrimages to my local home improvement store to purchase the necessary tools and supplies to tackle all of the jobs on my “honey-do” list. Like any man, I enjoy the sights and the smells of a hardware store, where you can pick up painting or gardening advice along with your bag of 10-penny nails, and stroll up and down aisles containing everything from toilet fixtures to gas grills.
After spending considerable time in hardware stores, I have noticed some common design denominators for product categories. One eye-catching practice: Tools and tool accessories are, for the most part, colored yellow and black, red and black, or green and black – traditional colors to signify danger and/or strength, dominance, and vitality.
Black paired with a vibrant color can never be ignored. The combination creates the ultimate “power” duo; it’s the de facto color palette for tools and signifies that the product means business, is robust and is made for men – you know, real men who understand tools. So powerful is this palette’s pull that some brands intent on breaking into the tool category default to it in an effort to belong – which does nothing to help them stand out from their more established competitors.
Beyond the instinctive, primal associations the male subconscious has for these strong color palettes, they also serve a practical purpose. For years, contractors have used bold colors to help identify and differentiate their tools from those of other contractors on the job site; also, to protect their investment from theft and loss. Contractor sales comprise 25 percent of the revenue for large warehouse stores and, furthermore, contractors spend considerably more per visit than “regular” consumers. In fact, they were at the tip of the spear in driving the success of the warehouse store format.
It is no surprise that the marketing approaches which have proven successful in the hardware category have not changed much in the last decade. But do they have the power to sustain, or even grow, the market? Home improvement stores and their product suppliers may need to retool their traditional, color-based branding practices so that their brands speak to new shoppers (including females!) without alienating their core audience.
One possibility – particularly in today’s challenging economic times – is to appeal to instinctive consumer emotions such as safety and security. To do this, marketers need to don the mantle of consumer and ask some new questions of their brands and products: How can this help me save money on home repairs? Reduce energy bills? Keep my family safer? Make living with less easier to bear?
Consumer watchwords have shifted from “power” and “prosperity” to “practical” and “priority.” Hardware brands, therefore, need to focus more on their products’ purpose rather than their potential to impress the neighbor across the hedge. Add a dash of color? Sure. But remember to talk to consumers about what really matters: how the brand can contribute to their family’s safety, security and financial well-being.
Color and Instinctive Design
Brands create consumer pull; however, the psychology of brand purchase decisions is far more instinctive than rational. In fact, 95 percent of purchases are based on an unconscious decision; on emotions rather than logic. Understanding the shopping decision-making process is key to orchestrating buying behavior. By leveraging brand, design, consumer and shopper insights, companies can develop powerful, instinctive packaging designs that connect with shoppers’ key emotions and produce as much as an 80 percent conversion rate. Color is one of the design techniques that Interbrand uses to instinctively delight and connect with the shopper and consumer. Among others are telling stories, creating characters, playing with numbers, signatures and scripts, and opening ceremonies.