Feature: Good Taste

Ford, Lincoln and Mercury have found the recipe for success — and color is a main ingredient

Fueled by the growing interest in fine dining and food preparation, 2007 vehicles are rolling into the market with paint colors as succulent as they sound. Try White Chocolate and Merlot.

Susan Lampinen, group chief designer of Color and Materials for Ford Motor Company, attributes the colors to the rise of food culture.

“Everyone loves food,” says Lampinen. “There has been a huge explosion of organic, free trade and ethnic food choices. Naming colors after food just makes sense.”

Lincoln has embraced the food-inspired marketing by hiring its new pitchman, Food Network chef Rocco DiSpirito. Having a long, publicly proclaimed love affair with all things food and his own line of cookware, DiSpirito is the perfect face to advertise Lincoln’s new MKX, which comes in the mouthwatering color Crème Brulèe.

“Eating is life,” says DiSpirito, who tends to associate “everything” with food. “If one has the choice of driving ‘Off-white’ or ‘Crème Brulèe,’ they will choose the crackle of Crème Brulèe for sure.”

How important is color? Extremely. A study by DuPont suggests that 60 percent of a person’s impression of a new product is based on color.

“If people can’t get the color they want, they’ll get a different car or even switch the brand of car that they purchase,” Lampinen says.

These delectable colors are more than pleasing to the eye. Janine Little, marketing brand manager for the paint supplier DuPont, says the food colors help customers make a personal connection to the product.

“Food is associated with good memories,” says Little. “You wouldn’t get that kind of positive association with a color formula code.”

Food has been influencing other industries as well. LG Electronics recently released a cell phone named “Chocolate,” and L.L. Bean markets its products with names such as “Mushroom,” “Plum” and “Black Coffee.”

Still, Ford Motor Company Color and Materials designer Jon Hall says cars are a different kind of product.

“We like to draw people into the dealership with great-looking colors on the outside and give them quality on the inside,” says Hall.

Don’t think that this foodie paint trend is merely an appetizer. Paint companies such as DuPont, PPG and BASF create colors by looking at macro trends in the consumer market, and food is something everyone can relate to.

“Eating is a daily ritual that everyone does, and it connects us with other people,” DiSpirito says. “In addition to being practical, naming nonfood products after food evokes happy memories of great dinners with friends — I mean, that’s really sweet.”

In addition to the current “pallet” of colors, including Lime Gold on the 2007 Mustang GT and French Silk on the Mercury Mountaineer, we can expect to see Cinnamon and Sangria hit the market in 2008. And when asked what color he would put on a car, DiSpirito’s answer was citrus inspired.

“Yuzu, a beautiful orange-yellow,” he says. “Perfect for hot rodding.”

Type: Feature Article
Published: November 9
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