Ceramic Industry

PPP: Colors that Sell

December 5, 2003
Knowing what colors will be popular over the next several years can help you develop more successful products.

For many pottery producers, the Christmas season is the most important time of year for sales. New product lines were developed months ago and displayed prominently at art shows and gift fairs to generate interest, and you and your assistants or employees have put in some serious overtime in the last few weeks to stock your distributors' shelves. With any luck, your hard work has been paying off. But how can you ensure that your sales will remain strong into 2004 and beyond?

According to Jill Morton, principal consultant at Colorcom and author of the Color Matters website, color is key. "The right colors empower and contribute to the success of a product, a service or even an interior space. The wrong colors can be a costly mistake," she says.1

Three basic color and design trends-a desire for emotional connections, a need for self-expression and the creation of "mental escapes" within the home-will influence consumers' pottery and tile purchasing decisions over the next several years. By understanding and capitalizing on these trends, you can develop more successful products for any season.

Photo courtesy of Ferro Corp., Cleveland, Ohio.

Emotional Connections

According to design and color consultant Melanie Wood, today's consumers are looking for excitement and emotional connections in color. "Consumers are tired of all the awfulness that's been going on in the world; they really want to celebrate life and be happy again," Wood says.

In ceramic floor and wall tile, these connections are being found through an increasing use of rich terra cottas and multi-media designs, such as tile embedded with small pieces of glass. "The ability for light play across products is very exciting and is a trend we're seeing throughout the fashion industry," Wood explains. According to Wood, the red and brown influences on the palette will also continue to be significant for both tile and pottery into 2004.

In tabletop and other pottery products, consumers are moving away from the pastel "comfort" colors and are looking toward a more mid-tone vibrant palette. "I don't think we're going back to the bright neon tones that we saw a few years ago when the economy was so fabulous. Instead, the colors will become more moderate-we'll see more of a richness rather than brightness of color. Deep, saturated tones such as yellow-based reds and mid-tone bright yellows are going to be increasingly popular, but consumers are also still going to continue to want the tranquility of the blues and greens," Wood says.

Wood also sees lilac and lavender becoming increasingly important. "Consumers find these tones very softening, easy to live with and non-confrontational. And they don't want to be ‘confronted' with colors-they get enough of that in their daily lives. They really want a feeling of serenity, and they're going to choose colors that give them that feeling," she says.

Making a Statement

Consumers will also be looking for colors and designs that allow them to express their individual tastes and personalities. According to Wood, many consumers view functional tableware and decorative pottery as expendable items and are therefore more willing to "go out on a limb" when making those purchases. "With pottery, consumers can make a color statement in their homes without painting the walls or putting down a new floor. They can completely change the look of a room simply by changing their tabletop or countertop," she says.

As a result, the technology of color will become even more important in the coming years. "Technology is allowing the creation of special effects such as light-reflective glazes, and it's also allowing colors to be combined in a fresh way that gives them a real ‘punch.' For instance, browns will continue to be important in the palette going forward, but we're beginning to see them in combinations with other colors, such as aqua, lavender, red and orange," Wood says.

Consumers will also continue to express themselves through the increasingly popular mix-and-match decorating style. "The mix-and-match trend gives individuals the ability to be in control and create their own environments-whether in a room, or on a table or countertop. Rather than just getting what's dictated, consumers want to be able to put together their own combinations. To capitalize on this trend, pottery producers will need to offer multiple designs within a product line that give the consumer some options," Wood says.

Mental Escapes

As consumers strive to feel better about themselves and the world around them, a new trend in interior design has also emerged. "Just being ‘pretty' and coordinated isn't enough anymore," Wood says. "Consumers want each room within their homes to have a specific feeling or mental escape-I've even seen the term coined as ‘mentalscapes'-where each room is almost a year-round vacation. Maybe one room feels like the foothills of the Tuscan mountains, and another room feels more like the West Indies. Consumers are selecting pottery and other interior design products for their ability to add to their chosen ‘mentalscapes.'"

Irresistible Design

Consumer tastes are constantly changing, and it can be difficult to predict what colors and designs will sell well next season, much less into the following year. But potters who can connect with consumers through their products are sure to be successful. "Be aware of the technology that's available, and then use creativity to put it together in exciting ways that make the consumer want to buy something new," Wood advises. "Someone might have four vases and they don't really need another one, but when it's put together with metal and glass and a little translucency and the right colors, or it lends a specific ‘feeling' to their decor-they don't have one like that, and they can't resist," she says.

Reference:

1. http://www.colorcom.com.

Editor's note:

Melanie Wood, ASID, CMG, is a design and color consultant who has helped Mannington Ceramic Tile and other interior home fashion companies capitalize on design and color trends. She is also a past president of Color Marketing Group. She can be reached at (865) 212-4809, fax (865) 558-1217 or e-mail mcwodd@aol.com.