Pantone 448C, also known as “opaque couché,” is a dark, greenish, muddy color. It seems fairly unremarkable, beyond it’s almost aggressive dreariness, but Pantone 448C is special: Experts in Australia have declared it to be the ugliest color in the world — so ugly, they hope, that it will deter people from buying cigarettes. Anti-smoking activists in Australia, the UK, and France are using the unsavory hue to package cigarettes, and if the color is as unappealing as they say, humble 448C may turn out to be a literal lifesaver.
In 2012, the Australian government commissioned research agency GfK Bluemoon to design the least appealing cigarette packaging possible, using the ugliest color they could find. Over a period of three months, the agency conducted seven studies to determine the most unappealing color available, with feedback from more than 1,000 smokers. The Brisbane Times reports that, before settling on Pantone 448C, which has since been dubbed “drab dark brown,” the researchers also considered mustard, lime green, white, beige, and dark gray, but these colors simply couldn’t match Pantone 448C for ugliness. According to GfK market researcher Victoria Parr, respondents used words like ‘death,’ ‘dirty,’ and ‘tar’ to describe the color, and had nothing positive to say about it.
She told the Brisbane Times that the job of creating intentionally unappealing packaging was an unusual task for the research agency, as the agency’s job is usually to make people want to buy things. “We didn’t want to create attractive, aspirational packaging designed to win customers,” she said. “Instead our role was to help our client reduce demand, with the ultimate aim to minimise use of the product.”
Here is the color that has people cringing in disgust. Brace yourselves:
Say “Hi” to Pantone 448C.
The research to find the most world’s most unappetizing color came with Australia’s 2012 decision requiring that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging. Instead of featuring brand logos, images, and promotional slogans, cigarettes can only be sold in simple, standardized packaging designed to undercut the appeal of tobacco branding: Brand names may only be printed in small, standardized fonts; and health warnings feature prominently, as do extremely graphic images of the health impacts of tobacco. The World Health Organization says that so far the plain packaging has worked; the organization reports that between December 2012 and September 2015, smoking rates in Australia decreased by 0.55 percent (signifying a drop of 108,000 people), due to the plain packaging.
Since then, other countries have followed suit. In May 2016, the UK and France began enforcing laws requiring plain packaging for cigarettes. The BBC reports that Ireland, Singapore, Canada, Norway, Chile, Panama, New Zealand, Brazil, and Belgium are also considering implementing plain packaging for tobacco.