I was on vacation in Egypt years ago — long before the Arab Spring threw the country into chaos — and noticed a sign above a storefront in Cairo advertising products I instantly recognized. I don’t read Arabic, of course, and there was no English translation on the sign like one might see in a train station — the dominant language large and prominent and the alternate languages appearing below, much smaller, but always viewed with great appreciation by foreigners traveling abroad.
What amazed me was the power the brand colors possessed in communicating their identities without the use of language or even graphics. How was it possible for me to identify the sign as advertisements for, from left to right, Sprite, Fanta and Coca-Cola, without a moment’s hesitation? Did you guess the same thing? I first thought that maybe it was the logos, but there really aren’t any discernible logos for these products. It wasn’t words or even photos of the product, it was the use of color, solid, bold and used edge-to-edge with the “type” knocked out from the background. Consistent use of color schemes build brand recall. Don’t believe me? Look at the same photo below in black and white and tell me if it’s even recognizable.
Color is one of the most important components in creating brand identity. Color is the first element the mind sees and the last it forgets. Walk down the laundry soap aisle of the grocery store looking for Tide. Do you look for the logo? The bottle shape? No, you look for orange. It’s color first. In the Three Zones of Merchandising (12 ft., 3 ft. and 1 ft.), product recognition starts at 12 ft. away with color recognition (Tide, that’s orange). Next comes the 3 ft. Zone, which is product differentiation (I’m looking for the Tide with stain release). Finally, picking up the product, the 1 ft. Zone is for inspection of the label, if needed, to read ingredients, features, ounces, etc. This is why every brand spends millions of dollars owning its own unique color and reinforcing that color in the mind of the consumer. However, color choice should be appropriate to its product sector. Choose a novel color not usually associated with a product and consumers may reject it as inauthentic, cheap or too avant-garde. Read my article, A Cereal Package Design Blunder for an example of this.
As you flip through a magazine, go through your mail, or browse the grocery store aisle, take note of how brands use the power of color to differentiate themselves from the competition. Observe how color is used in the marketing of products and services and note how often you use brand color recognition when choosing those products and services.
*Left to right: BP, Coca-Cola, UPS, Best Buy, Citibank, Starbucks and Pepsi.
Like this post? Share it with someone.