Covid-19 brought the world to a grinding halt, but the psychological repercussions of this pandemic will see a ripple effect of consumers seeking comfort, security, positivity and reassurance. As we look to rebuild our lives and reopen stores, brands are stepping in to provide support, offering guidance as to how to reconnect with nature, self-care solutions and establishing healthier habits.
In times of anxiety, protecting emotional wellbeing and mental wellbeing in the aftermath of the virus will be crucial. Colour psychology is one of the most powerful communication tools for reframing mood and proving an antidote to anxious times. Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director at Dulux stated that ‘colours that live with us in harmony have the power to uplift’. Colours are compelling because they have the capacity to inspire emotions in people, influence physiological reactions and signal actions. We explore how colour can be a tool to connect with consumers and when used sensitively, can inspire moments of hope, optimism, wellbeing and cleanliness.
If we think back to the start of this pandemic, Queen Elizabeth II addressed the nation in a speech designed to boost morale. Yet, not only could we find hope in the Queen’s words, we could find it in the colour symbolism in the turquoise dress and brooch she was wearing. The psychological associations of the colours include hope and healing. A turquoise stone embodies the meaning of tranquillity and protection.
Another example of colour being used to promote hope was illustrated in Vogue Italia all-white front cover in the April issue. In an Instagram post, detailing the reason for changing the cover of the issue, the fashion publication stated: ‘The decision to print a completely white cover for the first time in our history is not because there was any lack of images – quite the opposite. We chose it because white signifies many things at the same time’. The post explained that ‘white is first of all respect. It is rebirth, the light after darkness, the sum of all colours. White is the colour of the uniforms worn by those who put their own lives on the line to save ours. It represents space and time to think, as well as to stay silent. White is for those who are filling this empty time and space with ideas, thoughts, stories, lines of verse, music and care for others. White recalls when, after the crisis of 1929, this immaculate colour was adopted for clothes as an expression of purity in the present, and of hope in the future. Above all: white is not surrender, but a blank sheet waiting to be written, the title page of a new story that is about to begin.” The choice of white was imbued with many reasons, yet stood as a reminder for hope in the future and the purity of the present.
Across the world, children have been displaying rainbows to show appreciation and hope for safety for key workers. Again imbued with meaning, rainbows symbolise good luck, motivation and hope. Echoing the sentiment of the nation, luxury department store Harrods displayed rainbows in their windows.
Equally important, bright and playful colours can positively enrich our mental wellbeing. At the same time, they inspire optimism. After periods of global trauma, human beings search for comfort in a bright colour as a means to celebrate and be positive when times are hard.
Amidst a climate of social distancing and in order to seek out moments of play, consumers embraced at home and DIY home colouring experimentations. Using the hashtags, #quarantinehair and #coronahair, consumers shared their bright and bold hair dyeing on social media. In March, Pinterest reported a 441% increase in temporary hair dye and home hair colourant brand Knight & Wilson reported an increase in sales by 1200% when the lockdown commenced in the UK. As countries begin their post-lockdown journeys, brands have the opportunity to inspire moments of play and optimism through the use of bright colours.
Colour can offer psychological healing effects. When it comes to reopening spaces, colour can be a powerful way to create a space that makes a consumer feel mentally relieved. We just have to cast our minds to a spa-like setting, where the ambience is relaxed, lighting is soothing and gradients can relax us. Brands should be exploring the ways that colour can offer wellbeing and mental respite. Such decisions will be critical to the reopening of retail and hospitality spaces, product launches and packaging details. Soft hues of pink can offer compassion and calming sentiments, whereas blues can be calming, peaceful and invite people to slow down.
In light of COVID, cleanliness is now a primary concern amongst consumers. By consequence, brands will need to be attentive to creating spaces that prioritise hygiene and limited processes. Additionally, spaces will increasingly need to offer sustainable appeal.
Colour phsychology will play a pivotal role here and we expect to see an increase in demand for natural pigments and dyes and the celebration of raw materials. When stores begin their journey to reopening, there will be an increase in minimalist and simplistic design. Stripped-back aesthetics that embody natural and minimal colour applications will be key to conveying messages of hygiene and non-toxic colour.
As we prepare for a world post-COVID, colour will play an essential role in shaping consumer wellbeing and sentiment. In addition to this, colour also serves as a platform for innovation when it comes to creating ‘clean colour’ practices and material selection.
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Analysis of Covid-19 has been widespread. We just have to turn to the headlines to see how the pandemic has impacted all walks of life, from economic impact to education and the future of work, consumer behaviour and the retail sector.
We know that gradually the role of a retail store was becoming less about the transaction itself and more about building and maintaining relationships. Like many industries or services, as we transition out of lockdown, we can expect this progression to have been accelerated.
There are two clear ways in which retail will develop moving forward - 1. An increase in respect for the safety of individuals and our communities and 2. The role of retail in regards to customer relationships.