Kellogg’s red has had my attention for almost two decades. I have used examples of Special K boxes in seminars for a very long time. But I have also made pictures during that period and when comparing those, you can see that the Kellogg’s red brand color has had very different implementations. Which challenges the premise of the ‘sacred’ brand color and the absolute need for tiny deviations.
Before showing the pictures, please note that these were taken with different cameras, including smartphones, over a long period and under different lighting conditions. The capabilities of cameras have significantly improved over this period, lighting influences color perception. But even with this taken into account, it still provides a fascinating overview.
2005 – This shows three different boxes, two ‘regular’ sized and one ‘supersized’ at the bottom. Between the top two there is already some difference, the bottom one is much darker.
2006 – This picture was taken in a small supermarket in the USA, while on a business trip. The left one is bright red, the second one looks much more magenta.
2008 – Two different versions, the right one is a much more vibrant red, the left one shifted a bit towards magenta in my opinion.
2012 – This is an interesting one: look at the packages on the middle shelve. From left to right, the first one looks a bit pale red, the next two are a more vibrant red, the two at the right are magenta…
2017 – In this case, a Kellogg’s Special K power bar, the red looks very dull. Plus it has print defaults: to an average consumer this might look like somebody has spilled something on the box. This kind of defect might be a reason for consumers not to buy a certain product: the product itself might be affected.
2017 – This was an interesting experiment in my supermarket: the red of the (damaged) box on the left is more vibrant than the two pristine boxes on the left. After a few days all of them were sold (I did visit the shop every day during that period, to check the sales). The damaged box also shows something interesting: due to the dent in the box, the angle of view and the angle of lighting is a bit different, making the red much lighter. And this is something which is often forgotten: changing the placement (compared to the viewer, compared to the lighting) will chance color perception, color appearance. This should be studied, documented much better.
2018 – Compare the top right box (Special K with chocolate chips) and the bottom left (regular corn flakes). Is that the same red in the Kellogg’s logo?
2019 – The K on the ‘red fruit’ boxes looks lighter and a bit more vibrant than the K on the ‘pure chocolat’ boxes. Now compare the ‘pure chocolat’ red with the others reds we’ve seen above.
Why is this important?
Too many people believe that brand colors are sacred and that products will only sell when the deviations compared to the ultimate reference and differences between packages are minimal. A 2 dE00 is often mentioned as a reference.
The pictures above show that in real life, deviations can be much higher. And did these higher deviations influence buying behavior? Probably not. If there were a proven correlation between print deviations and sales of a certain product, this would have been reported and acted on by brand owners. But I’ve never seen a study on this. If I missed one, please send me a copy!
What these pictures also show, is several factors influencing color perception, color appearance: the amount of light, the effect of shadows, even the effect of a different angle of view. Taking all of these factors into account, it’s impossible to correctly perceive deviations in print. A folded box on a shelve is very different from a flat sheet in a light booth. But too many people assume it is. This study on the color perception
of folded boxes clearly shows this: 2/3th of the people who participated claimed to see a color difference between two identical folded boxes…