“I hate yellow.” “Color is subjective.” “Please…any color except orange!” “Never use green in food packaging.” There is so much information—and misinformation—flying around about color. And everyone has an opinion. Color can express a mood. Colors can be warm or cool, striking or quiet, surprising or subtle.
But when it comes to branding your business and establishing your place within your industry, color can be a handy tool in your branding toolbox.
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Here’s a quick quiz to demonstrate the power of color when it comes to brand recall. Without showing you a logo, a name, or even the initials of these three companies, see if you can guess the brand name. The category is shipping:
Easy, wasn’t it? Let’s try it again. This time, we’ll make it a little harder. The category is lawn tractors.
How did you do that time? It was harder for several reasons. The lawn tractor marketplace has a lot of “players” competing for your yard care dollars. Second, brands in this category share color schemes and consequently muddle the branding for everyone. Is that green and yellow tractor in my neighbor’s yard a Deere or a YardMan? Is that red riding mower a Snapper or a Toro...or a Murray? But the point is clear: marketplace positioning can be defined—and certainly strengthened—with color.
If your small business or organization “owns” a specific color or color scheme in the minds of your customers and prospects, and that color is integrated into your marketing and communications—and used consistently—you’ll maintain a more solid position with your target market.
When color becomes a nickname—either co-opted by the brand owner or simply used in a colloquial context (“What can Brown do for you?” IBM is “Big Blue”) the brand-to-color connection further supports marketplace differentiation.
According to brand experts and authors Al and Laura Ries, “When selecting a color for a brand or a logo, managers focus on the mood they want to establish rather than the unique identity they want to create. And while mood and tone can be important, other factors should override a choice based on mood alone.”
What “other factors”? For one, what color does your competition own? Branding is about differentiation, so pick something different. Select a color that can be leveraged across all your marketing communications—including packaging—so that your color becomes instantly recognizable to your target audience. Ries and Ries go so far as to say, “A brand should use a color that is the opposite of its major competitor’s.”
The Dyson vacuum cleaner is available in either bright yellow or electric purple. Weird? Yes. Different and memorable? Of course. Quick! What color is a Hoover? How about a Eureka? Best I can recall, they come in multiple colors. So, what brand are you most likely to recognize from 50 yards away on a cluttered superstore shelf? And that’s the point.
Your Challenge: Become more aware of how
color is used in the marketing of products and services. Observe color
usage on billboards as you’re driving home this evening, and as you flip
through a magazine pay attention to how brands use color to
differentiate themselves from the competition. A Holiday Inn sign: it’s
green. So what color is that Ramada sign? Grabbing a beer from the
fridge? What color is dominant in the packaging? Now, think of the
competitor’s beverage. What color is associated with it? You get the
idea. Have fun!
To discover some common color associations, click here.