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Oh, the color of profits Featured

9:34am EDT July 22, 2002

The color of money may be green, but picking the right colors to get you to the money has become a science unto itself -- a science which can mean the difference between staying in the black or sagging into the red.

So says Color Marketing Group (www.colormarketing.org), a Virginia-based organization whose primary purpose is to prognosticate about the colors that will sell best in the future. This coming year, the organization predicts, expect a focus on a new wave of softer colors, with blue, aqua and true lavender, along with a spectrum of neutral colors and warm gray, clay, taupe and pale brown leading the way. Officials at the organization see those colors as "the most important colors of the decade."

These professional color designers anticipate consumers will demand softer but more energizing products that reflect a physical and global influence in 2001.

Maybe it's more of an art than a science, but is picking the right color really as important as the product's functionality? Nada Rutka, who runs Nada Associates, a Southpointe-based independent color consulting firm (www.colordesigner.com) and is a former chairman of Color Marketing Group, says color is crucial.

"Color is important because it influences consumers in their decision to buy a product," she says. "Sixty to 80 percent of products are purchased based on color. So color always matters to some degree."

Colors are becoming more bold, Rutka says, because "people are more confident in themselves and more accustomed to seeing more color." She says color tends to "reflect a consumer's personality. It's an opportunity to express themselves creatively. Part of it is a backlash against computers and technology, which reduces people to numbers."

However, she adds, color choice shouldn't take precedence over what your customers say they want.

"Business people should not ignore the trends," she says. "Rather, their first priority should be to know their customers, their target market and the image they want their product or service to portray before they select a color or before they can apply the color information derived from color trends."

Still, Rutka and Color Marketing Group acknowledge that staying up on color trends is becoming more difficult because trends change so quickly.

Here's why, according to Ricki Gardner, co-chairman of Color Marketing Group: "Because the world is at our fingertips and we are now living in a truly global society, we are seeing new color and trends develop and gain acceptance much faster today than we did even five years ago. The immediacy that the Internet, television and other media afford brings new lifestyles and design influences into our homes and offices on a daily basis."

Consider Color Marketing Group's latest predictions:

Marrakesh Red -- The earthiness of natural dyes used from Morocco to India come out in this soft red.

Pink Lady -- Soft and sophisticated, yet strong, this true pink will combine with many different tones.

Sandy Egg-o -- This clean and vibrant yellow has lots of personality.

Amaizing -- A touch of red warms this pale, yet vibrant, yellow.

Copper Blush -- Remindful of a translucent cameo, this hue is tinted with white and pink.

Smudged Green -- Green undertones and a trace of yellow create the base of this warm, dirty neutral.

Cocobola -- Neither brown nor red, this chameleon color is a deep earth hue.

Black Pansy -- A deep, blackened, blue-based purple.

"People want to create individuality," says Rutka, "so they're looking for ways to refresh, renew, relax. Color sells, and the right color sells better."

It doesn't get any more black and white than that. How to reach: Color Marketing Group, (703) 329-8500; Nada Rutka, (724) 746-1646

Daniel Bates (dbates@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN Pittsburgh.