Is this really the world’s ugliest colour?

Karen Haller 01
Karen Haller

Blog Post - Is this the world's ugliest colour

Opaque Couche otherwise known as Pantone 448 C has won the ‘ugliest’ colour crown after Australian research agency GfK Bluemoon came up with the colour in response to the Australian government’s plain cigarette packaging policy.

The government had put a ban in place preventing companies from displaying their distinctive brand colours on the cigarette packets with the direct aim of discouraging people, especially the young from smoking and they were seeking a colour that would be a turn-off for smokers.

In the research (commissioned back in 2012), GfK Bluemoon collected feedback from 1,000 smokers to find a colour that was the antithesis of aspirational, attractive branding and Pantone 448 C Opaque Couche was the winner.

Results in from the first comprehensive study since using the plain packaging found increasing numbers of smokers quitting and less appealing to younger people.

The UK, Ireland and France are now using this colour in their own plain cigarette packaging trials.

Colour psychology… behind the scenes
The aim of branding colours is to elicit positive buying behaviours by connecting to the emotion of the customer, attracting them to the point of motivating them to buy their product or service.

In this case, the researchers were asked to do the exact opposite –  to strip away the positive emotional connection smokers had with their favourite tobacco brand and find a colour that would repel them from buying the product. This must be a marketing first!

So without further ado, may I introduce you to Pantone 448 C, deemed to be the world’s ugliest colour.

Pantone Opaque Couche - Pantone 448 C


So what’s the psychology behind the world’s ugliest colour?
In a nutshell, this specific green/brown hue purely from its negative psychological traits communicates stagnation, decay, rot and ultimately death.

Colour and Context
What must be remembered here we’re not just the colour but also the context in which the colour is being used. By connecting smokers to the negative emotions of this colour, the aim is to use it as a buying deterrent.

Of course this won’t have the desired impact on everyone – colour doesn’t work that way, but the aim is to have this effect on the maximum amount of tobacco consumers (and would be consumers) as possible.

Firstly, I should say here I’m not a smoker. When I look at this colour I like it, however when I think about it in terms of smoking I can almost taste it.

Colour Quote - Pantone 448 C might be the world’s ugliest colour but it’s doing its job beautifully - Karen Haller

Colour Quote | Pantone 448 C might be the world’s ugliest colour, but it’s doing its job beautifully.


As someone who loves all colours, I think it’s a bit harsh to call any colour ugly, but the way this one is being used certainly made a great headline grabber – the media love it, finding myself being interviewed for a magazine in the US last week and on London radio this morning.

How certain are you your brand colours aren’t ‘ugly’ to your ideal customers?

Unfortunately, it happens more often than you might expect. You love your brand and your brand colours, you love what you have to offer and expect your ideal customers to feel the same.

However, psychologically your brand colours are sending out a message on a subconscious level. Is it the same message the words are giving, on the conscious level? Getting this alignment right attracts you the right customers.

This alignment is key yet one of the most underrated, misunderstood and overlooked marketing tools that you have at your disposal.

Why not find out for sure?
In the Build Your Own Brand Kit you’ll be able to ensure your brand colours match your brand identity, personality and values in order to attract your ideal customers to you.

So head over here to get started.

Make sure the colours you pick are communicating the right message and showing your brand off beautifully…






Share the knowledge


  1. Tanya Mann Rennick on June 15, 2016 at 9:57 am

    This made me smile Karen, as it reminds me of a certain production made by my babies all those years ago – I couldn’t think of a more polite way to put it!

    • admin on August 3, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Hi Tanya, I’ve had this very comment from quite a number of parents 😉

Leave a Comment