Brand colour blind?

by Nick Ramshaw

Brands and colours have always been synonymous. Think of Virgin and you think red. Right? Well… maybe Vodaphone or Coke? Or Marlboro? Green and you think of Starbucks? Or Carlsberg? Blue? Facebook?

Come to think of it, Virgin used to have a brand called Virgin Blue. Now not only does that sound odd, seeing the Virgin logo on a blue plane is just wrong. The airline is doing really well now, but they have had the sense to rename it Virgin Australia and gone back to bright red planes. That’s more like it.

  • Colour is one of the most powerful tools in the brand toolkit. It can connect so powerfully that you can take away the other elements and people can sometimes still recall the brand. And colours can be used strategically to tug at human emotions. The combination of red and yellow are said to help make you feel hungry and eat more, hence the colour schemes of McDonalds, Burger King, and Carls Jr and Wendy’s in the States

  • Sometimes, colours become so entrenched in the mind, they literally stand for something and are hard to shift. When brands choose to challenge convention, they can be really annoying. The biggest example of this is the colour coding for crisp flavours. Everyone knows that Cheese & Onion is green. Don’t they? So why are Walkers on a mission to change this to blue? It makes no sense.

  • The colour of brands can also say more than imagery, tone of voice and logos put together. For example, yellow brands sometimes say ‘cheap’ to me, or ‘low cost’ if you prefer. Whilst yellow is a very practical colour and I like it in the right balance, when brands start to own it as a main colour, I can’t help but think of brands like Lidl, Ikea and Best Buy. But then, yellow can also exude warmth and optimism, and is also used by much more up-market brands like Nikon and Ferrari (in conjunction with red of course).

    This gives you a taste of why choosing colours is so damn difficult. Getting colour right is critical to brand success and it starts to get interesting when brands try to re-position themselves. As a fairly regular user, I’m watching Ryanair closely at the moment. Their shift into higher customer experience values (very laudable by the way) is being achieved with a distinct shift in their brand colour scheme, Have you noticed there is much less yellow these days, and much more conservative blue? All very interesting.

  • Which gets me onto the reason I started writing this blog in the first place – the introduction of Coke Life. When a brand is so connected with a single colour, seeing their logo on another colour just looks weird. Some say Coke even managed to get Father Christmas to wear red due to their ads (I’m not so sure), so red is most definitely their colour.

  • Coke is most definitely a RED brand, recognised throughout the world by gazillions of people. So to take the step of introducing a new product in a totally different colour certainly takes balls. I’m talking about Coke Life here, which you must have noticed, wherever you live.

    On the one hand, they have succeeded in getting customers to feel that Coke Life really is different (even though I’m not so sure the taste is that different). And when you see the portfolio together, they all look and feel like Coke. But trying to find Coke Life in the fridge in our local Spar is not so easy, even with the recognisable bottle, logo and product colour. So was it such a good idea after all? I’m not so sure.

  • On reflection, I think colour is critical to brand success. Deciding on your lead and support colours must be taken with great care and consideration. Get it right and you could be onto a winner. Get it wrong and you’ll have a job on your hands, to position your brand in the hearts and minds of its consumers in the way you want to. My advice, is proceed with caution and ask the experts.

    To make sure you don’t miss out on our best ideas, news and insights, or if you’d like to receive invites to events that you really shouldn’t miss, you can subscribe to our mailing list here .

Hide comments >
comments powered by Disqus