22 Jun 2016

Putting the World's Ugliest Color to Work

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Agency | Branding | Creative

A recent New York Times article introduced us to the world’s ugliest color: opaque couché – or for all you art directors out there, the brownish-green number 448c in the Pantone color matching system.

Having discovered that 1,000 smokers voted opaque couché the most repulsive of all colors, anti-smoking health experts in Australia are now putting it to work. The country has mandated that, in addition to graphic pictures of smoking’s dangers, all cigarette packaging must prominently feature opaque couché. They’re counting on smokers to subliminally associate to the world’s ugliest color with – as the NYT article describes – “death, filth, lung tar or baby excrement.

All of us in the ad business use color to associate brands with desirable features – green for growth and vitality; blue for trust and authority; and Rinck-orange for ingenuity and fervor ; )

But the marketing of an ugly color to associate a product with something repulsive is both innovative and brilliant. When it comes to the war against smoking – or substance abuse in general – why not pull out all the stops, even if it means tapping into the subliminal reactions of current (and potential) users.

Because, after all, nobody thinks baby excrement is cool.