PPP: Getting Personal

In 2005, consumers will be looking for colors and designs that are uniquely "theirs."

How can you sell more products when consumers are increasingly focused on price? Try getting personal. According to Rebecca Bushner, owner of the color consulting firm Unlimited Color (Santa Cruz, Calif.), today's consumers are looking for ways to make a unique statement in their homes through their selection of tabletop and decorative items. "The idea of personalization is increasingly important," she says. "Popular television networks such as HGTV are conveying the message that it's not what you have but how you use it and combine it with other objects to make a statement. As a result, producers have to become more creative to offer a unique appeal."

Where in the past one color or style clearly dominated as an emerging trend, today's consumers want to choose from a broad selection of items and are increasingly mixing and matching between shapes, colors, patterns, textures and even producers to make a design statement. "Consumers aren't as loyal to brand as they once were-we're often seeing them mix and match items from different producers to achieve a desired effect. Producers of functional pottery and tabletop items can cater to this trend by offering mix-and-match product lines and creating complementary effects between some of their different lines," Bushner says.

Offering pieces in several complementary "bold neutrals" or "colorful neutrals" (neutral colors in deeper, richer shades) can be one way to create this appeal. Bushner notes that many of these colors carry food-related names-such as "coffee brown," "pomegranate" or "squash"-to evoke the idea of richness.

The use of different sheens on individual pieces can also make a unique statement. For example, a semi-matte glaze in the center of a plate with a high-gloss edge, or a glossy center with a matte edge, provides contrasting texture and also allows consumers to mix and match within a given product line.

Nada Napoletan Rutka, whose firm Nada Associates (Canonsburg, Pa.) assists companies and individuals across many industries in making color and design marketing decisions, notes that monogramming can be another way to achieve a personalized look. "Everyone is looking for ways to bring their outside experience home with them in a personal way, and monogrammed products are one way to achieve that," she says.

Bushner cautions that price will continue to be important. Consumers increasingly want the "look of luxury" for less, and producers will have to find creative ways to offer unique colors and designs at a lower price point.

However, "if something is truly unique, and it has an authentic look to it and/or can be personalized, then people tend to be willing to pay a little extra for that," Rutka says.

About the Consultants

Rebecca Bushner, CMG, has more than 15 years of experience in the dinnerware and tabletop market, including manufacturing, research and design development, color design, and product and color naming. She is a member of the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators (SGCD); Color Marketing Group (CMG); International Association of Color Consultants/Designs, North America (IACC-NA); and Inter-Society Color Council (ISCC). She can be reached at (831) 465-9966 or rebecca@unlimitedcolor.com.

Nada Napoletan Rutka, ASID, CMG, is founder and principal of Nada Associates, a Canonsburg, Pa.-based color, design and marketing consulting firm. She has more than 20 years of experience in the areas of design, marketing, and product development for a variety of industries and has been a member of Color Marketing Group (CMG) since 1980. She can be reached at (724) 746-1646 or nada@colordesigner.com.

SIDEBAR: Hot Colors & Styles for 2005

  • Red. While rich, bright reds have recently become popular in wall colors and appliances, Rutka notes that consumers don't want ceramics to look like plastics or metals-they need to have more of an authentic earthy feel through colors such as "Latin rose" and "sea coral." Additionally, the red palette in general is shifting toward the earthier colors. "We're seeing more ‘rust' colors, such as red-orange and red-brown, as well as burgundy," says Bushner.
  • Black and white, in combinations and separately. "Black and white never really go out of style, but I have seen a renewal of that trend over the last year or so, and I think that will continue," says Rutka. Bushner notes that white is also increasingly being used a background color to set off colored accent pieces or a particular design.
  • "Colorful neutrals." Neutral colors in deeper, richer shades are in high demand. Many of these colors carry food-related names-such as "coffee brown," "pomegranate" or "squash." "Eggplant brown"-a deep brown with purple hues-is also becoming a prevalent color.
  • The "spa influence." While sage green continues to be popular, greens in general are turning more toward the blue family to evoke the feeling of water, or the "spa influence." "We're seeing muted aqua blue or muted aqua green instead of the truer colors. This trend is also emerging in tile-glass tiles are becoming popular because they have a frosted, thicker look that is reminiscent of water or ice," says Bushner.
  • Stripes and polka dots. "Stripes are still big in interior decorating but are beginning to have more movement, such as waves or zigzags," says Bushner. "Polka dots will remain trendy, but they're becoming more irregular, or with circles instead of dots. Botanicals are also still popular," she adds.
  • Luminescence. "With consumers on computers all the time, they're seeing color with light through it-it's luminous color rather than flat color. That same effect is an influence on home decoration," says Rutka. This trend will also help spur the growth of glass tile.
  • Affordable luxury. "Luxury and luxurious looks are very big in all sectors of consumer products. Anything that looks ‘expensive' or has a luxurious feel to it are important," Rutka says. However, she also cautions that consumers increasingly want "a champagne taste on a beer budget," so producers will have to find creative ways to serve this niche.
  • "Green" as a lifestyle. "We're seeing a heightened awareness of the environmental impact of products," explains Bushner. "Products that are ‘green' (i.e., environmentally friendly) increasingly have a broader market appeal to both consumers and contractors. If a product has recycled content or is made in an environmentally friendly way, or if the producer has tried to minimize its environmental impact, this can be an important marketing message."

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