Color Trends and Forecasting

By Christine Esposito | August 11, 2005

Although changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary in the architectural paint market, trends and hot colors move hrough more quickly now than ever before. Paint companies spend a considerable amount of time and money to create color collections and

With the decorative coatings market enjoying solid sales growth in recent years, no firm wants to be left out with a palette that lacks punch. Decorative coatings manufacturers spend a considerable amount of time working on their palettes to keep their lines up to date, or even ahead of the curve, when it comes to color trends. And they do it with good reason: what's "in" and what's "out" seem to move faster and more furious these days. Trends from fashion, automotive and consumer electronics markets are moving at light speed into the paint business.

The hues seen on the fashion runways today are likely to be the colors consumers may want on their walls tomorrow (ok, maybe just one wall). Add to that the influence women have over color choice-and also where the paint will be purchased-and it's easy to see why architectural coatings manufacturers are taking more fashion-forward approaches to their offerings.

Meetings of the Minds
The importance of developing color concepts in the coatings business may pale in comparison to manufacturing issues such as meeting VOC regulations, finding the right resin or maintaining adequate supply during shortages. And with monikers such as nacho cheese (Benjamin Moore), whizz bang (Resene) and anchors aweigh (Pratt & Lambert), developing color names may seem like all fun and games. But creating a trendy collection and the marketing materials to successfully sell it, is serious business.

Color experts working for ICI Paints, for example, convene annually at a color forecasting summit to create their ColourFutures book, a marketing tool the company uses with contractors and editors.

The ColourFutures team, which includes ICI color experts from North America and Europe, exchanges ideas, creates themes and explores where the palette is heading; its 2006 edition is due out later this month.

Akzo Nobel has its own color group that meets yearly, and their work is published for professional color users, according to Per Nimr, who heads a Akzo Nobel's Decorative Coatings Aesthetic Center in Malm, Sweden. "The same material is made consumer friendly and published in a consumer magazine twice a year," he added.

Smaller companies, too, invest a considerable amount of time and resources on their color collections and materials. Resene of New Zealand reinvents it color tools annually, updating its "The Range" fandeck with a collection of fashionable and contemporary colors it predicts will be in style for two years from the launch.

"We recognized for some time the need to regularly update the color offerings to provide consumers with the latest color trends. Traditional color charts do not allow this flexibility," said Karen Warman, marketing manager, Resene. "The previous fandeck is then withdrawn, so that at any one time, there is just one current The Range fandeck."

Paint makers operating in emerging markets are also paying closer attention to color trends. According to Shirley Ren, marketing executive and color advisor with Akzo Nobel Decorative Coatings (China) Ltd., the Levis brand will present new color cards this year, including cards for interior products and another for a metallic facade paint.

Akzo Nobel's Decorative Coatings business in China appears be on the right track with its efforts, having recently won the Grand Color Architecture and Ambience Award at the first ColorChina Grand Awards Ceremony, organized by the China Fashion Color Association. Akzo was the only decorative coatings company to be honored at the event, which was held in Beijing.

The Science of Inspiration
Color forecasting is not an exact science. Instead, color gurus are inspired by everything from fashion to pop culture to art exhibits to automobiles to consumer electronics. These sectors often help them better predict what hues their customers may some day want on their walls.

Dominique Ppin, a senior brand manager with Sico, says she reads "every magazine" in home dcor from Canada, the U.S. and Europe, but often looks to the fashion industry for clues. "The best way to predict a trend color for paint is to look at fashion, mostly the runways and the stars at the Oscars and Grammy Awards, etc. The fashion people are the first to introduce the new trends," Ppin said.

Warman takes a similar tactic. "Fashion is probably the biggest driver of paint colors, as the colors we see in clothing are translated quickly into paint and homewares," she said.

Ren of Akzo Nobel also noted the diffusion between marketplaces. "The color in the [fashion] field will spread into the interior textile field, then the color of interior textile will affect the color change of interior space, and will penetrate into the home electrical appliance field," she said.

Home improvement mania is also influencing a greater number of DIY consumers-and those hiring professional paintersto use more color in their homes. Inspired by photographs in Better Homes and Gardens or This Old House and cable television shows such as "Debbie Travis' Painted House," "Design on a Dime" and "Clean Sweep," consumers are being exposed to bolder use of color in homes just like their own, rather than in high-end designer settings.

Peggy Van Allen, color marketing manager for Pratt & Lambert, noted the link between greater use of color and the popularity of home improvement media. "In general, there's more color. People are more influenced by TV shows and are getting more adventurous, whether it is accent color or a whole room."

ICI's color experts agree. "TV shows, such as HGTV, have developed a sense of confidence with people," said Krim Danzinger, a senior color consultant with ICI Paints in Cleveland.

Creating Media Bias
Rather than just hope an inspired customer picks their outlet or brand, coatings companies are doing more to entice customers. Looking to increase the odds that their own marketing materials will lead directly to a purchase, paint makers are now publishing slick shelter-style magazines of their own.

For example, Benjamin Moore recently published 05 Color, its new annual magazine, which it says is entirely devoted to color and helping to instill confidence and incite creativity among consumers in their decorating choices.

Pratt & Lambert's new color chips feature a pop-out center.

"The genesis for 05 Color was our color forecast," Doty Horn, Benjamin Moore's director of color and design, said about the magazine. "Each year we predict the paint palette that will influence and impact home fashion and design trends. Now we've given greater voice to this guidepost with help from important interior designers who lend their interpretation to these current hues." Benjamin Moore also pooled together top design journalists and photographers to create the publication, which will be sold exclusively at Benjamin Moore retailers for $3.95 ($4.95 in Canada).

Resene has also taken on a custom-publishing project, producing Habitat magazine. In addition to paint, the magazine covers design, renovation and refurbishment, including features guiding customers on linen and rug selection, recovering sofas and environmentally friendly decorating.

Moving beyond the Neutral zone?
Spurred on by the plethora of home improvement/design shows, magazines and web sites, and a greater influx of good design in many settings, even the tried-and-true "off white" customers are willing to take chances when it comes to interior paint.

Interestingly, colors used in private settings are taking their cue from public spaces, with travel and retail influencing the residential market, according to color experts. "Restaurants and hotels and such often carry the newest colors and trends, which then will filter down to the residential market," said Nimr of Akzo Nobel.

Yet while there's a lot of talk about bold, saturated colors, most people still opt for neutrals or white when it comes to their homes. Recognizing this, paint makers are expanding their offerings within these categories. Dunn-Edwards, for example, has 96 very pigmented accent colors plus 100 white colors in its newest collection.

It appears Canadians are also more comfortable with lighter shades. "A study I ran last spring with Ipsos Reid showed that 65% of Canadians prefer serene colors to bolder colors," said Ppin of Sico, which has created a collection of "spa" inspired colors. Shades include cotton ball (a subtle, lightly colored white), pea blossoms (a white rich in warmth and depth) and bottled water (a refreshing, moisturizing blue).

Still, color experts contend customers are developing a greater appreciation for color. "People are understanding that a neutral can have color under it," said Van Allen of Pratt & Lambert. For its new Never Compromise Color System, Pratt & Lambert retained about 80% of its original platte, adding new colors inspired by the latest interior design color forecasts. "We added deep reds-that's color that's bold, but it's one that people get a bit more and are willing to try," Van Allen said.

"People are seeing all different ways to use color, and retail has spurred that on," added Danzinger of ICI Paints. "When someone wants color and they see it in retail, it's intriguing."

Setting the right stage at retail is key, according to color experts.

Pratt & Lambert's new display has more of a furniture feel to it, which is inviting to women, key decision-makers when it comes to color in the home. In addition, Pratt & Lambert has created color personality profiles to help consumers find color combinations, inspiration cards with the color names and numbers that are used in the photographs, and oversized color chips with patented pop-out centers that allow homeowners to layer color combinations and more easily hold the color chips over fabric swatches or carpet samples.

Even packaging is becoming more of a fashion statement. Devoe will soon launch Regency, a complete collection of colors from ICI's ColourFutures book. Completely focused on ICI's five key trends, even Regency's packaging is designed to appeal to those who recognize good design.

All this attention on color is good for the decorative paint industry. But getting people to recognize how easy it is to refresh their spaces with minimal time and money using paint, is imperative. Leading paint makers taking a proactive approach to be on top of trends are recognizing the benefits.

"More and more, the paint industry, and ICI, is becoming more aware of how important trends are," said Danzinger. "It's a great selling point.

Web Exclusive
Today's interior palette offers something for everyone
Resene's The Range

Coatings World asked color marketing and forecasting experts at leading decorative paint companies in North America, Europe and Asia to give us their take on the current direction of interior color in residential settings. Here's what they had to say:

"I think collectively, the palette has progressed to be more colorful. TV shows, such as HGTV, have developed a sense of confidence with people. People are seeing all different ways to use color, and retail has spurred that on."
-Krim Danzinger, senior color consultant, ICI Paints

"There are two directions: first, the very bold colors-orange, fuchsia, lime green, turquoise, etc.-and secondly, the very soft, serene colors such as neutral and pastel. Bolder colors are bringing optimism in today's crazy world. Serene colors are transforming the home into a sanctuary, a place where one can feel good after a hard day at work."
-Dominique Ppin, senior brand manager, Sico

"I see stronger, cleaner colors, coming from initially the sport/leisure fashion as accents, moving into fashion and now into our homes. The last three to four years we have had a preference for complex colors; the new stronger colors act as a complement to these."
-Per Nimr of Akzo Nobel's Decorative Coatings Aesthetic Centre

"The colors with high lightness and those with high saturation will be more and more introduced to the color palettes. The contrast of colors-contrast of hue-will be stronger. The color combination and matching will be more important. Colors with high brightness and low lightness will increase, and appear in blue and green areas. Blue and green colors will be recognized again."
-Shirley Ren, marketing executive and color advisor, Akzo Nobel Decorative Coatings (China) Ltd.

"Neutrals from cool off-whites through to deeper beiges and grays are popular as versatile backgrounds to minimalist decorating styles. Feature walls are waning in popularity with consumers opting to either add color with accessories or paint entire rooms the color that would have traditionally just been the feature color."
-Karen Warman, marketing manager, Resene

"In general, there's more color. People are being influenced by TV shows, and are getting more adventurous, whether it's accent colors or a whole room. Colors are more saturated."
-Peggy Van Allen, color marketing manager, Pratt & Lambert

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The Finish Line

From matte to gloss, the type of finish selected by a painter or homeowner can really change the mood of a space. Coatings World asked color experts about what role finishes are playing in the decorative market, and what's "in" their markets. Here is what they had to say:

"In New Zealand, the low sheen market is the key market for interior finishes, with consumers also tending towards satin finishes outside. This has reinforced the popularity of muddied hues that work well with the softened lower sheen look. Colors are increasingly complex, with simple pastels seldom seen."
-Karen Warman of Resene Paints

"At Sico, we have launched in 1999 our Cashmere line which was the first paint in the Canadian market that would offer a flat finish but yet be washable, thanks to a new technology using thermoplastic beads. People that have since tried Cashmere have become regular users as they were able to view the color they chose in a finish that showed no reflection. 10 years ago our best seller was semi-gloss. Today it is the last one in our sales! People now ask for finishes with no reflection."
- Dominique Ppin of Sico

"I don't think it has affected the color use but I think it has played a role in making people aware about the possibilities with paint, whichplays along nicely with the "personal" trend that we have had for the last years."
-Per Nimer of Akzo Nobel's Decorative Coatings Aesthetic Center

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