16 outstanding uses of colour in branding
For a company to effectively ‘own’ a colour in its sector can provide an enormous competitive advantage, achieving instant recognition – in some cases even without a logo, or even a mention of its name. That’s the power of colour, done right.
Two ‘red’ brands in particular stand out in their sectors – although the first is perhaps the world’s most instantly recognised brand in any sector. Red is linked so inextricably with Coca-Cola that popular legend tells it rebadged Santa Claus to match (sadly, this is an urban myth). Recent, more minimalist packaging and advertising has pared right back to that primary red, with the customary flourish of white.
Meanwhile, America’s number-two supermarket chain takes on the ubiquitous blue of its rival Wal-Mart with an ocean of red across its stores, logo, advertising and beyond. Target’s shade of red is a registered trademark; Communist grocery shop owners beware.
Designed in 1997 by Saatchi & Saatchi, Vodafone’s logo features a distinctive speech mark symbolising conversation and speech communication, while the red stands for sound, talking and passion. It’s set against a silver backdrop representing sophistication and perfection. In the new Brandz Global Brand Ranking, Vodafone is listed as the UK’s most valuable brand, worth $36 billion.
There’s no better place to start than the brand that’s actually named after this colour. Few telecommunications companies would be foolish enough to try and out-orange Orange.
05. Home Depot
In the US comes a retail chain that’s taken to blanketing its stores with a single colour: Home Depot has trademarked orange for use on advertising, lettering or any other signage in its sector, tying things up pretty neatly.
And then, of course, there’s everyone’s favourite budget service provider, easyGroup – another ocean of orange, spanning everything from the original low-cost airline to car rental, finance, hotels and more. It’s also the only contender to have tried to out-orange Orange: anyone remember easyMobile?
Positive, sunny and optimistic, yellow is energetic and eye-catching – and particularly effective for point-of-sale messaging, as it’s proven to catch the eye quicker than any other colour.
07. Veuve Clicquot
Yellow provides standout for premium champagne brand Veuve Clicquot – cutting through a sea of green, gold and cream with a punchy shot of bright yellow.
Meanwhile, in a sector that couldn’t be more different, construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has a very distinctive, trademarked shade of yellow connected to its brand – featured in the triangle on its logo, and also on the liveries of its vehicles. Of course, in the field the colour is invariably faded by constant weathering on construction sites, so it’s rare to find a perfect match.
Yellow, of course, is an excellently eye-catching colour for potentially dangerous heavy machinery, so it’s no surprise that it’s also used by Britain’s J.C. Bamford, better known as JCB.
10. John Deere
Joining Caterpillar and JCB in the large-scale vehicle corner is farm machinery firm John Deere, whose iconic bright green-painted tractors (with a touch of yellow) are instantly recognisable – especially when you’re stuck behind one on a country lane.
At the other end of the market, rich, dark green has associations with wealth and prestige – so it’s no surprise that luxury department store Harrods has chosen it as a key part of its branding scheme. From bags and signage to all manner of own-branded products, the shade exudes class and sophistication.
Starbucks started life in 1972 with a brown logo – appropriate enough considering the coffee beans that it originally sold before introducing the crazy concept of selling actual cups of coffee – then in 1987 the colour of its stylised woodcut of a siren was changed to green. The reason? It’s a reference to the University of San Francisco, where all three founders were educated.
Blue is a cool, clear colour which has a trustworthy, dependable feel, and is often the colour of choice for financial institutions as a result – notably Barclays.
In the UK, the National Health Service uses a distinctive shade of blue that takes advantage of its cool, reassuring and secure characteristics.
14. Tiffany & Co
Like red, of course, blue is used so broadly in different kinds of branding that standout in a particular sector is difficult: Tiffany’s solves this problem with its own iconic shade of ‘robin’s egg’ blue, trademarked as Tiffany Blue and ubiquitous on everything from jewellery boxes to shopping bags to advertising.
Originally designed by Cuban Council in 2006, the Facebook logo has been tweaked over the years – most recently in 2013 when it pulled the ‘f’ down to the edge of the box, and lost the pale blue line running beneath it – but has retained its blue colour, which Mark Zuckerberg originally chose based on his colour blindness.