What are the most important steps brand owners and retailers can take to improve?
The most important information companies need to be aware of is that colour blindness affects ability to perceive most colours, not just red and green. This means the solution isn’t to devise a ‘safe’ colour palette, but to ensure sufficient contrast between colours. We definitely don’t advocate reducing colour palettes, as we know how important colour is to people with normal colour vision but if you want your product to have colour blind friendly packaging it’s really important to provide other ways for colour blind people to distinguish between products easily using shapes/text/symbols. Distinguishing features such as your logo may be invisible unless there’s strong contrast between colours of the logo and the background colour of your packaging. If a competitor does a better job of this than you then you could lose up to 5% of your market to that competitor. Colour blindness mainly affects men and some clever brands who cater to a predominantly male customer base have already caught on to the fact that there are some colours which stand out to people with colour blindness and they use these colours in their packaging to gain competitive advantage. To your colour blind customers these colours can literally make products stand out from the shelf.
Companies also need to be aware that there are different types and severities of colour blindness so focus group testing is not as simple as gathering together a few colour blind people to find out whether your new packaging is suitable – you need to make sure you have people with a range of types and severities and to design products to minimum colour contrast standards.
With regard to retailers, there’s no research I’m aware of into how colour blind customers shop in supermarkets but it’s likely they are more likely to stick with known brands they can easily identify due to large logo, especially those mainly blue and yellow and they are more likely to struggle to find what they want when supermarkets move products around. I must say there has been a regrettable lack of interest on their part. I’ve been in to talk to the supermarket Sainsbury's but they haven’t followed up. I also wrote to another retailer - M&S -and they replied that they weren’t interested! Why would they want to ignore almost 5% of their customer base?