The Meaning of Brown

By CRAIG KUNCE

Brown is symbolic of earth, home, and durability. It is also described as warm, comforting, approachable, common, sincere, masculine, rugged, and natural. To the consumer, brown is down-to-earth, simple, and says, “hearth and home comfort.” Brown is considered a neutral color and is often used to color high priced products and services. Consumers feel more comfortable buying expensive furniture, picture frames, handbags, jackets, and shoes in brown because, like blue, brown is less likely to go out of style.
All shades and tints of brown are associated with the solid, secure foundation of the earth. Apparel marketers must be careful, however, because consumers can also associate brown with dirt—not a favorable impression when you are selling clothes (Eiseman, 2000).

Brown has been used effectively to market and package coffee and high-end leather products (Eiseman, 2000). The deep rich brown color of a roasted coffee bean makes an excellent packaging color because of its direct association to the color of the product and to the earth that it was grown in. The stability and grounded feeling consumers associate with brown has been successfully adopted by UPS. “What can brown do for you?” as their tagline reads, makes use of years of UPS owning the color brown in the shipping industry. The furniture industry has always used brown in the form of rich, natural wood grain. The beauty of a deep, polished, wood color reminds consumers of nature and the warmth and security of hearth and home.

In product packaging, a paper-bag brown is used when marketers want to communicate the feeling of a natural, farmer’s market, home grown type of product. This natural brown packaging is also associated with recycled paper products (Sutton & Whelan, 2004). This natural colored packaging can be seen in use across all product categories, from peanut butter to paper towels. It is used to tell consumers that the product is wholesome, natural, healthy, fresh, and organic (Eiseman, 2000). Consumers feel that they are doing their part to help the environment when they buy products packaged in recycled, environmentally friendly packaging.