Managing director of Landor Mumbai, Lulu Raghavan explains why brands need to think about colour strategically in order to maximise value.
You can't argue with the fact that almost any brand in any category could benefit from greater differentiation. Strong visual communication -online or offline- provides a critical opportunity for brands to break through the clutter and speak viscerally to consumers. One of the most powerful -and sadly, under-leveraged- weapons in the visual communication toolkit is colour. Why is it so powerful? How can it be used strategically to benefit your brand?
Brand, meet colour
The impact of colour on consumer psychology is well documented in empirical studies by academia. Colour can create distinction, communicate a feeling or personality, build faster recognition, nurture emotional bonds, and provide an easy shortcut for decision-making. When it comes to colour and brand, all these things happen at a fairly deep, subconscious level in the consumer's mind. Colour is the visual perception of reality, and anybody in the business of perceptions should be paying close attention to it.
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Did you know that within the first 90 seconds of noticing your brand, colour determines 62-90 per cent of consumers' impressions (Research by Color Communications Inc, mentioned in The Guardian)? Consider the phenomenal power that gives colour as one of the influential factors in forming consumer opinion, generating desire, and dictating purchase decisions. Filmmakers recognise this; they draw from the full range of colours to set moods and convey meaning in their movies. In fact, many famous films have distinct colour palettes that help the movie tell its story. Often brands don't take colour into consideration nearly as much as they do the form of their logo. In reality, colour should be a sacred asset for brands.
Of course, there is always discussion about colours and their meaning, the implementation cost of multiple colours, or the ability to reproduce a particular colour easily. But colour is rarely elevated or considered as strategically important given how powerfully it can influence consumers. Even so, a few notable brands do make colour a priority... and that decision proves its value both in brand recognition and revenue.
Coca-Cola is one of the most recognised and beloved brands in the world. Business Insider reports that 94 per cent of the world's population recognises the red and white logo. Better still, red plays an important and strategic role in helping Coke succeed; the colour stimulates appetite, encouraging consumers to purchase. It also stands out strongly, evoking deep passions and excitement. Red has worked so well for the brand because of how relentlessly consistent Coke has been about its usage over the years. The colour is used boldly at every touchpoint, even when other colours like silver or black play a leading role.
Another brand that appreciates the impact of colour is Apple. Its usage of white across the customer experience has taken the brand to iconic levels. Its decision to use white becomes even more brilliant once you learn why Apple selected it: Apple sees its devices like the iPhone, the iPad, or Apple TV as a "blank canvas" on which consumers can paint. Apple's famous designer Sir Jonathan Ive has been credited with convincing Steve Jobs to use white as Apple's primary colour for its products. Today, the brand uses white in both expected and unexpected ways to keep the Apple magic alive for consumers.
Veuve Clicquot has also capitalised on a distinctive colour, using its orangey-yellow to stand out, increase consumer recall, and strengthen affinity for its brand. When it was chosen in the late 1800s, it was an audacious and innovative move. Through constant usage, the Veuve Clicquot yellow has undeniably become the brand's most sacred asset.
Colour is not the preserve of consumer brands alone. B2B brands like Caterpillar, FedEx, and BP have long used it strategically to differentiate themselves in a cluttered marketplace. But for me, the B2B brand that stands out most for its colour usage in today's world has to be Accenture. Its vibrant, bold palette represents its range of expertise and capabilities, and colour is used very engagingly and imaginatively across touchpoints, with both internal and external audiences. Accenture's use of colour is a powerful reminder that you don't have to own one colour alone, but can choose to take a multi-colour approach as well.
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Getting colour right for your brand
When selecting or modifying the colour of your brand, it's vital to consider your decision from every angle. Is the colour aligned with your brand's attributes? What emotions and feelings does it evoke in the hearts of consumers? Is there a singular colour you can rightfully "own" in your category? How can you use your colour to make it a core asset? No matter which colour you select for your brand, spend time considering it strategically beforehand. You might just find that colour is a relatively easy way to help your brand differentiate and thrive.
(The author is Managing Director, Landor, a brand consulting and design firm).