Picture going through a day without color – picking out a monotone outfit, choosing among similar items at the grocery store, trying to find your car in a crowded parking lot – and imagine what our favorite brands would be reduced to without color. Color stimulates our senses, triggers associations, and creates powerful recognition for our brands.
There are testaments to the power of brand color all around us: McDonald’s iconic golden arches, Mattel’s beloved Barbie pink, Ferrari’s classic race red, Tiffany & Co.’s luxurious blue boxes, popular sports franchises, many more. Whether they incorporate color into their name (Blue Cross Blue Shield), identify themselves with a single color (Coca-Cola), identify themselves with two colors (Dunkin Donuts), or identify themselves with multiple colors (Google), successful brands need to manage their color equity.
Color management goes way beyond your choice of logo colors. There are color application and process considerations to manage whenever and wherever you express your brand. And technology innovations continue to create new opportunities for brand expression, with even more technical considerations. The popularity of gradients and opacity in today’s logo designs indicate new media’s influence on color. New brands find a shrinking palette thanks to the influx of Web 2.0 brands, all laying claim to colors, and the 15 year-old Supreme Court precedent for color trademarks which allows companies to register their brand identifiers. Like Owens Corning’s pink insulation, Post-It’s canary yellow sticky notes, and Christian Louboutin’s red soles, some brands now spend significantly to legally protect their colors.
Mismanaging color can have a negative impact on brand value. In the last decade, starting with BP, brand after brand greenwashed their communications and faced varying shades of public backlash. When brands don’t consider the colors of their category to determine the best real estate, they risk blending in with competitors. For example, you could be lost in the sea of blue online or business brands (Facebook, Pandora, IBM, Intel, etc.). Inconsistencies and color violations are evident online, where colors are often misapplied from offline applications or mishandled in translation. Perform an image search for the logo of most any major brand and you’ll see. And like UPS’ recent campaign, there are instances all over the marketplace of brands who stray from or fail to leverage their colors in packaging, retail, advertising, and other communications.
So, how do you properly and consistently manage color to create equity for your brand? Do your homework on the category – there’s strategy behind color choices. Properly test your palette to select the exact right colors for every kind of application. Create clear and thorough guidelines and share them with all your brand owners and partners, taking time to train them. Develop a system for managing brand assets to make implementation easy and to direct approvals. Conduct regular communications audits to correct color violations. Consider securing your competitive positioning by registering your color or colors and look into services for monitoring your trademark. No matter how valuable your brand, these considerations will pay out over time. How effectively are you managing color?