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The most unappealing colour has been identified

There has been much debate regarding cigarette packaging and how changing it may decrease the amount of smokers, especially young, here in the UK. In fact, MPs last year voted in favour of issuing standardised, plain packaging for every cigarette packet, regardless of the brand of cigarette. More than that, they now all have to be uniform in shape and size, and only display health warnings and the brand name of the cigarette. The changes will be rolled out from May 2016 and are expected to take full effect by 2017. Agree or disagree, this is the reality of buying cigarettes today.

So how did they decide on a colour for the packets?

The answer is a three-month journey starting in Australia.

A team of experts at Gfk Bluemoon did some thorough research, commissioned by the Australian government, to try and find the world’s ugliest colour. This was started back in 2012 in a bid to discourage people buying cigarettes through the design of the packaging. The thinking behind it was, if they could find the most unappealing colour ever, to put on their packets, people would be put off from buying them.

Over 1,000 smokers were asked to take part in seven separate studies that took three months to conduct.

The winner? (or loser) was a grimy, brown colour known as Pantone 448C, or opaque couché. Smokers described the colour as “dirty”, “tar-like” and it was even referred to as “death.” Lovely!

And here it is in all its glory…


Other colours that were found to be repulsive, but didn’t quite make the top spot, were beige, lime green, mustard and medium olive.

Amazingly, adopting this colour for their packaging has shown some early success Down Under and now, the UK, plus some other countries, have started to incorporate Pantone 448C into their packaging as well.

This is a great story about colour perception, which we’ve previously blogged about, and how it affects consumer interaction. It’s something we think about when we design a website or any kind of graphics for clients. In short, when you come to us for web design in Manchester, you can rest assured you won’t be seeing Pantone 448C, or opaque couché, anywhere near your website!


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