Blue

I recently realized the 50th Anniversary of one of my favorite albums (i.e., vinyls for those under 30) is upon us – Blue by Joni Mitchell.

While that fact has little to do with this blog, hearing the song did get me thinking that the time had come to write a piece that offered a reminder about the potential importance of color selection in building a brand . . . and also reminded me that I have spent a disproportionate amount of several decades staring at various shades of the color blue while at work!

To quote information cited by Jill Morton at the Colorcam website in an article entitled Why Color Matters:

1. Research conducted by the secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo documents the following relationships between color and marketing:

92.6 percent said that they put most importance on visual factors when purchasing products. Only 5.6 percent said that the physical feel via the sense of touch was most important. Hearing and smell each drew 0.9 percent.

When asked to approximate the importance of color when buying products, 84.7 percent of the total respondents think that color accounts for more than half among the various factors important for choosing products.

Source: Secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo 2004

2. Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.

Source: CCICOLOR – Institute for Color Research

3. Research by the Henley Centre suggests 73% of purchasing decisions are now made in-store. Consequently, catching the shopper’s eye and conveying information effectively are critical to successful sales.

Pick Wisely for Many Reasons

During my decades of working in the field of communications, over 90% of my time was spent with the corporate color of blue – most recently PMS 301/C-100 M-43 Y-0 K-18/R-0 G-109 B-168 . . . but more about those cryptic codes later.  Admittedly, the exact hue and tone have changed three times, but blue has paid a particularly large role in my professional life.  Frankly, my only non-blue moments came from work done for a variety of business partners, subsidiaries, or off-shoots of my main employers.  When I would finally get to do green for a bank or a burgundy red for a data encryption company – the new sense of freedom was an enormous guilty pleasure!!

So . . . How Was Blue Chosen?

The initial selection was far enough back in time that branding had yet to become a separate phenomenon and discipline.  As a result, I’m inclined to think the choice was mostly a matter of good instincts or dumb luck or perhaps a bit of both on the part of my employers at that time.  You see, the company was involved in insurance and financial services – an industry that now seems to disproportionately and not coincidentally favor blue as a corporate color.

Why?

Much has been written on the characteristics and impact of various colors, so I won’t reinvent that wheel but will quote from one such example while letting you know that countless others are available with the similarities far outweighing the differences in message. 

At the Canva website in an article entitled Understand What Colors Mean, the following overview is provided:

 “A lot of research has gone into color theory. You can definitely get lost down the rabbit hole finding the story behind each color, however, here’s a quick summary to give you an idea:

Red is associated with danger, excitement, and energy. It’s also known for being the color of love and passion.

Pink is feminine, it’s sentimental and romantic. Different shades, like hot pink, can be youthful and bold.

Orange, like it’s namesake, is fresh and full of vitality. It’s also creative, adventurous, and associated with being cost-effective.

Yellow is optimistic. It’s a color associated with being playful and happy.

Green is natural, often used to demonstrate sustainability. But it can also align with prestige and wealth.

Blue is trustworthy and reliable. It’s calming or often associated with depression.

Purple is royalty and majesty. It can be spiritual and mysterious.

Brown is down-to-earth and honest, often used for organic wholesome products.

White is pure. It conveys simplicity and innocence, often with a minimalistic feel.

Black is both sophisticated and elegant. It can be formal and luxurious, but also sorrowful.

Multicolor is united or open to anything. It’s great for capturing the spirit of diversity.

Of course, within this spectrum, there is a raft of additional colors. Different hues, such as baby blue or navy, also contribute to the color story.

Also, I suggest you look at an article entitled The Business of Color by vistaprint, which associates specific industries with particular colors and includes a useful graphic for quick reference.

More About Color

While I have been describing color in terms of broad generalities such as “BLUE” – be aware that an almost infinite number of tones, hues, and variations exist . . . and every time you use or reference the color you have chosen for your brand, you must be sure to reproduce the exact same variation regardless of the media, which can be challenging!!  Fortunately, a number of color systems (i.e., palettes) exist that allow you to successfully match exact colors AND communicate with potential vendors (like web site designers, printers, novelty manufacturers).  Furthermore, becoming familiar with these industry-standard systems of identification at the time of selection can prevent some later headaches.  For example, I was once involved in choosing a color, and we based our selection exclusively upon look . . . only to find that we had picked a specific tone with no 100% match under two of the most common matching systems!

Remember my earlier cryptic reference to:   PMS 301/C-100 M-43 Y-0 K-18/R-0 G-109 B-168?  Well, PMS refers to a color matching system produced by Pantone and universally recognized as one industry standard.  CMYK is a system based on mixing Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black to produce essentially any color imaginable and is the method most commonly used by commercial printers and imprinters.  Similarly, RGB is a Red-Green-Blue based system most frequently used to identify colors for onscreen use like websites, a/v presentations, etc.  And yet, still other variations such as HEX exist, each with strengths and weaknesses for specific applications.  Ideally, you want to select a color that produces a specific matching value under each of the most common systems.  (In that instance I mentioned earlier, the fact that the color we had chosen did not have an RGB and CMYK value that represented the exact same color – a fairly rare circumstance –resulted in continual headaches that could have been easily avoided. )

As you have opportunities to use these systems in specific applications, you will begin to appreciate that color matching is as much as art as a science . . . but we’ll save further exploration of that topic for a future article.

Where Will You Use Your Corporate Color?

Everywhere.  That repetition is the essence of good branding – building quick, positive, and familiar recognition.

Specifically, your chosen color will become part of your logo, web site, advertisements/ad campaigns, novelty items, store decor, product displays, clothing/uniforms etc. 

Color does matter.  Frankly, I can’t imagine Joni Mitchell’s classic album Blue would have lasted 50 years had another color – such as red – been chosen!

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