Brand Thinking

Why brand colour matters


Brand colour matters when it is used in a highly considered, consistent and meaningful way. Building your brand, increasing your visibility and creating awareness includes colour as an integral element.

The use of colour is integral to business. Just think of The Economist, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and UPS – colour comes immediately to mind. There is a whole science behind perceptions associated with colour: blue is a traditional professional business colour – IBM is known as ‘Big Blue’; red is more challenging and dynamic – fast food chains use red in their restaurants to encourage people to pass through rather than stay a long time, and Virgin use it to stand out and to be provocative; Apple use white to reinforce their positioning as a modern and design-led business; many creative agencies use black and monochrome imagery to evoke a designer feel; green has become associated with Eco but lighter and brighter shades of green are commonly used to show a progressive business.

The golden Brazil shirt is a familiar sight the world over, but the story of how it came to be designed is not so well-known. Following a defeat by Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final playing in all-white kit recriminations were fierce and far-reaching, so a competition was launched to design a new kit. The only condition was that the new strip must use the four colours of the Brazil flag: yellow, blue, green and white. The winning design would be worn at the 1954 World Cup and Brazil went on to win the tournament a record five times in these iconic colours. You can read more in this informative BBC article.

Virgin’s use of a vibrant red is integral to confidence of the brand. It is as bold, confident and adventurous as their entrepreneurial founder Richard Branson. It says: ‘you cannot ignore me’ and ‘I am going to make a difference’. The deliberate use of such a strong brand colour is a perfect fit with the rest of the brand strategy.

Wimbledon’s insistence on players appearing in white at their prestigious tennis tournament serves to reinforce the Wimbledon brand. It says tradition, premium and classic. It also highlights the importance of clear and decisive brand guidance to prevent your brand suffering from ‘brand drift’ over time. Wimbledon also use premium quality green and purple in the tournament brand with equally consistent and clear guidelines.

All of these brand colour illustrations show why colour matters when it is used in a highly considered, consistent and meaningful way. Colour choice should not be dictated by favourite colours, current trend, masculine / feminine preferences or any other more subjective methods. It should be led by the strategic thinking that emanates out of your brand strategy and represented in your full brand identity. Colour is a key component of brand style.

As with all brand marketing you have to consider colour choice alongside your market positioning, how you differentiate yourself, your quality / price balance and your key benefit messages. It is not an arbitrary choice.

This is not just about the colour of the logo itself, it also includes the brand colour palette within the full brand identity.Brands are like interior design: you can have the main colour scheme and then individual accent colours. Like a bathroom in shades of grey with lime green matts, towels and accessories.Think of Argos – the brand logo is white and red but the light blue is an integral part of the full brand identity, seen on their catalogues, signage and lorries.

Building your brand, increasing your visibility and creating awareness includes colour as an integral element. IKEA use their Swedish origin and the colours in the Sweden flag as their main brand colour scheme linked to their quirky Scandinavian marketing. Harrods show the premium positioning of the business partly through their sophisticated green and gold colour combination to signify wealth and status. The AA stand out to motorists with their vibrant yellow vans that are hard to ignore on the roads. The American Express card was originally yellow and failed; they changed it to green – the colour of money – and succeeded. In all of these examples colour is fundamental to the perception of the brand and its relative success.

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