15 Nov A colourful game
Last month Cadbury won a lengthy court battle to trademark Pantone 2685C, giving the confectionery giants exclusive use of the distinctive purple colour on chocolate bar and drinks packaging. There has been some outrage at the trademarking of a colour, not least from Cadbury’s major rival Nestle. Whilst trademarks of names and logos are commonplace in business, this ruling signifies the increasing importance of colour.
And it’s not just Cadbury that gives such significance to colour – Christian Louboutin has trademarked the distinctive ‘China red’ used on the soles of his shoe designs, Tiffany’s has exclusive rights to its robin egg blue, and Harrods holds trademark over the shade of green synonymous with its famous department store. So why do these brands care so much about colour they want exclusive rights to it?
According to CCICOLOR, the Institute for Color Research, the average person makes a subconscious judgement about a product within 90 seconds and 62-90% of that judgement is based on colour alone. If colour has such an impact on the consumer and their actions, it is little wonder these companies are keen to cling on to colours they know have the desired impact.
Rather than simply distinguishing between products on a shelf, colour impacts how the human brain decides. Red has connotations of love, seduction, danger and adventure – it creates a sense of urgency, hence its widespread use in clearance sales. Whereas, green is a more relaxing colour, associated with the natural world; purple symbolises mystery, spirituality, creativity, royalty; and yellow is attention-grabbing. Colours used by other brands have an influence too; certain colours can be associated with certain values, like quality. It is perhaps no coincidence that John Lewis and Jaguar use a similar shade of green to Harrods.
These are connotations that need consideration when choosing your brand colour, although naturally different tones have a significant impact too. To maximise your brand reach, personal colour preference needs to be put to one side and the impact on your target audience needs to take precedence. You have to choose a colour that in addition to differentiating your brand from the competitors will make memorable connections with your audience.
Not only does this demand a clear understanding of what, as a business, you are trying to achieve, but to deliver real meaning the chosen colour has to be associated with a wider narrative. Contemporary brands are about much more than static logos and colour swatches, they are about the multi-faceted customer experiences. Not just the product or service offering, but the entire organisation, from advertising to the internal culture to the overarching business strategy.
Cadbury, for example has been using its distinctive purple colour since 1914 and it is part of the consumer experience of delight Cadbury’s chocolate tends to evoke. The company has fought hard to protect Pantone 2685C as it is part of Cadbury’s distinctive identity, and whilst it is not the only distinguishing factor, it is an important one. If you are re-branding or starting-up a business you too will want to develop a unique brand image, and particularly in a new business where you haven’t yet had chance to write your own narrative, colour will play a key role. Dismiss it at your peril.