Who Is Buying Adult Coloring Books?

Apparently everyone.

It’s not exactly a new thing, but in the past year or two, the demand for these products has grown dramatically to represent an undeniable trend and create a huge new category. You can see the elaborate, black and white illustration books on TV, on mass merchant shelves, and all over every media channel. In fact – in case you missed it – a major adult coloring book publisher proclaimed August 2 as “National Adult Coloring Day.”

This originally seemed like a joke – a perplexing mass regression to an activity better suited for young children than for adults with responsibilities. However that appears to be a large part of the point. The Huffington Post recently noted that, “Currently, six of the top 20 selling books on Amazon are adult coloring books.” This hobby is described as an alternate form of meditation for adults. It is being successfully marketed as a stress reliever across channels, and it is an As Seen on TV hit.

There are specialized offerings designed to cater to specific tastes and needs. We can already see versions with interactive elements and plots filled with adventure, while others are purposefully meditative. Some adult coloring books focus on floral patterns and other designs, feature inspirational quotes, or offer a cityscape. Others have celebrity, animal, or ocean themes, or cover a particular artistic period or style. There is something for every adult color artist out there. Judging by the reviews and sales results, it is a thriving market with staying power. Adult targeted packs of colored pencils and pens, sharpeners, markers, and even frames are all experiencing resurgence in the wake of this trend.

Reviews on Amazon suggest the users are an articulate, educated crowd who finely critique and describe the various offerings. They describe their experiences with these books as amazing, mesmerizing, entertaining, immersive, relaxing, and imaginative, among other words. They also note the calming, stress relieving benefits of this pastime, which many speculate come directly from the unplugged nature of the activity.

Whether it’s art therapy or just a safe and broadly accessible way to tap into an individual’s creativity, the trend’s popularity is being fueled by social sharing amongst a growing online community of adult colorists. A quick search on Facebook shows numerous pages with respectable fan counts and active members. It also shows plenty of promoted posts and ads for books and coloring implements. Public sharing of these spectacular creations is making it more acceptable for people to try it out, and digital marketing and digital sharing are accelerating the trend’s growth and acceptance.

We’ve long known the appeal and popularity of social games online, especially for women. Busy moms and others escape from the stress of their days in small snatches of mindless fun with their phones, tablets, or online. Is this coloring trend really that different from other popular soothing and repetitive activities, like Bubble Breaker, Candy Crush or Threes? They actually share more in common than you may think.

Adult coloring books and social games online are both goal oriented and have a finished state. They both can be picked up or paused at will and played for short or long durations. Both are solitary and highly portable activities, and usually done while multitasking some other activity like watching TV, talking on the phone, or waiting for the train. Neither taxes the brain or provides a challenge, but they do provide a satisfying sense of completion. In the case of the coloring books, completion also yields a visually appealing way for users to share the outcomes of their efforts.

Social games online are heavily sponsored by brands as a way to gain the time and attention of attractive buying audiences, and it may not be long until sponsored coloring contests become common. There are already numerous mobile apps that allow adults to color on their device. Like the analog books, many of the apps are specialized and have impressive audiences with a lot of solid ratings.

As marketers, we note big trends and look for any insights that help us better understand consumer behavior and patterns. The appeal of this coloring trend to at least some significant segments of the adult audience appears to be its simplicity and purported stress relieving properties. Whether online or offline, adults are drawn to activities that soothe away some of the stress and pressure of their daily grind. Marketers or product makers who can supply that relief will always find a ready market.

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Homepage image and article image via Shutterstock. 

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