In December 2017, the experts at Pantone named Ultra Violet the 2018 Color of the Year for its originality, ingenuity and for inspiring visionary thinking. The color, a dynamic and vivid purple, is a culmination of a shifting resurgence toward the usage of purple in everything from consumer-packaged goods (CPG) to fashion, beauty and home décor over the last few years.
Why has this color returned to mainstream consciousness and what is driving brands to actively engage with it?
A History of Accidental Discovery
Purple dye used to be extracted from sea snails in an exhaustive and expensive endeavor that made it exclusively attainable to the elite. In 1856, a teenager named William Henry Perkin accidentally created synthetic purple while trying to create a treatment for malaria. His discovery led to the mass production of purple and accessibility to all, but the color has maintained its associations with royalty, wealth and premium quality.
The Power of Purple
As a secondary color, purple is a composition of two spectral colors: red and blue. The warm tones inspire creativity, ingenuity and power while the cool tones are grounding and promote serenity and harmony. The combination is a visionary color that exudes independence, authenticity and warmth.
While most brands choose to “own” blue, black or red for their strong mood-altering effects, purple subconsciously draws consumer attention due to its rarity. A psychological principle called the “Isolation Effect” explains that when an item stands out from its surroundings it is more likely to be remembered. Often underleveraged in the CPG industry, purple can provide ascending brands the support they need to stand out compared to established competitors. In addition, purple can live well with other colors, making it ideal for logos that live in colorful packaging architectures.
Purple & Prosperity: A Timeline
During the last century, purple has experienced several waves of rebirth in correlation to cultural and economic shifts.
1960s: Bold colors such as purple were in demand with the rise of artistic creativity and the popularity of psychedelic drugs.
1970s: Society embraced the safety of earth tones while dealing with a recession while the economic prosperity.
1980s: The decade of glitzy extravagance with the usage of metallics, holographs and vibrant colors (think Prince’s purple guitar).
1990s: Another economic downturn lead to the rise of the “grunge” era and the washed out shades reminiscent of the ′70s.
Early 2000s: The rise of dotcoms gave way to vitality and economic prosperity once again, with purple finding its way back to prominence. Internet companies like Yahoo!, Craigslist and Monster.com all leveraged the color to stand out amongst the influx of blue and red brand logos. Due in part to the fluctuating global landscape with wars, natural disasters and an economic recession, the last two decades have seen a shift back to minimalism and neutrals.
Purple & Branding Now
When society is prosperous, consumers and brands seek originality and creativity, driving an influx of purple to the market. During the last few years, the economy has been steadily strengthening: The 2Q GDP for 2018 was reported at a 4.1% annual growth rate, the unemployment rate is near a record low and the stock market indexes continue to rise. A strong economy can inspire optimism, innovation and a sense of excitement toward the future, all of which align with the symbolism of purple.
Regardless of whether its snacks, pet food, candy, dairy or beverages, CPG brands large and small are seizing on the thriving economy and positive associations of purple branding to stand out on cluttered shelves.