Men Are from Mars, but Everybody Likes Blue

August 17, 2015

Packaging appeals to gender preferences and emotions.

By Ilene Wolff

While both sexes have strong emotional connections to elements of product packaging, package designers cater to women because they make or influence most buying decisions. If they’re not buying a product directly, they usually recommend purchases to their husbands or boyfriends.

One strongly influential element is color.

Researchers say men prefer bright colors or achromatic neutrals—white, grey, brown, or black—while women prefer soft colors. Orange denotes lower quality, men dislike purple, and everybody loves blue. But, even in that case, there’s a gender difference: While women may describe blue as royal, cornflower, sky, or baby, to men, blue is just blue.

“Research has shown that women actually see more colors than men,” says Susan Gunelius, president and CEO of KeySplash Creative, a marketing company in Gainesville, Florida.

Dove soap, for example, uses packaging with white and blue, colors favored by everyone and that convey additional psychological meaning.

“More important is the association with fresh and clean,” says Gunelius.

However, there can be pitfalls, Gunelius says. For example, women like pink, but in a B2B situation, because women still struggle for equality in the business world, that can be inappropriate.

“If I made the package pink, there are a lot of women who that would be a negative for,” she says. “In B2B, go for blues.”

Carol Quade (KWAY-dee), creative director for Impress Creative in Bay City, Michigan,  says strolling the aisles of hair care products can reveal clues about color psychology.

An established, professional woman in her 30s who’s shopping for shampoo would more likely be attracted to a bottle that has more of an upscale “salon” look to it, while a teenage girl would go for bright colors because “it kind of portrays fun.” Suave, a national drugstore brand that includes men’s grooming products, on the other hand, uses a grey bottle with predominantly white printing in marketing to men.

In addition to color, size really does matter when it comes to packaging.

While men prefer larger packages with sharp angles, and don’t mind drinking from aluminum cans, women tend to like smaller packages with curves, and prefer to drink from plastic bottles, according to the Brand Packaging website.

Tapping into these psychological elements can mean the difference between making the sale and losing a customer to a competitor.