One way innovators get loyal customers is by allowing them to customize products, particularly color. In house decorations, automobiles, clothing, and pretty much anything else you can buy, there are hot colors people want.

But some colors are hotter than others. U.K. designer Annie Marrs came across a particularly trendy choice, taking inspiration from nature and a local river to develop a cross between blue and green that was voted the most popular color in the world.

The contest had been run by paper maker G.F. Smith and the city of Hull, England, which had won the 2017 U.K. City of Culture title. People could go to a website, hover a cursor over a huge choice of colors, and pick the one they liked most. At the same time, there were 30,000 submissions from 100 countries. The winning color, now called Marrs Green, was the one that came closest to the most popular color choice. Here is a variety of products made in Marrs Green as part of an exhibition by G.F. Smith.

For the design-sensitive entrepreneur, it's important to remember that colors and their use is more than a swatch. For example, context is important. Look at the image below.

You might think that the color on the right is darker than the one on the left, but they're actually identical, and both Marrs Green, or at least what the paper company displayed as that color on its website. (I used a color sampler plug-in to my browser to verify the RGB formula being displayed and then worked up the example in Photoshop.) Change the background from neutral grey to white and the color looks different. Put the product into stores and there's no way to tell exactly what cast it might take on. Show it online and you're dependent on how someone's monitor portrays the color, a result that can vary wildly.

There are other contexts as well. If you ask people their favorite color, you'll hear blue, according to a YouGov survey in 10 countries over four continents. That is fairly consistent across geographic boundaries and cultures. But "most" is relative. In the U.S., 40% of men preferred blue while only 24% of women did. Focus too much on popular and you may find you're talking to far less than half of a market.

Color has additional implications when it comes to consumer choice. In car purchases, according to statistics, 25% of Americans prefer white. The reason is pragmatic: people thought white would keep the car cooler in the summer. For eye contacts color, blue is popular, but at one point amber was a top pick among younger people because of the Twilight movie series.

When it comes to products, there isn't necessarily an obvious choice. Do look at things like Marrs Green and other colors that become popular due to trends and cultural phenomena and also test. What ultimately counts is not what someone says they want, but what they'll choose and buy.

Published on: Jul 17, 2017
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