Is there an art or a science to choosing the ‘right’ brand colours? Well, it’s generally not just something that is based on guess work. More often than not, expert consultation would have been sought and an incomprehensible amount of hours spent on choosing the right identity for a brand.
Colour is massively important but each has a different feel, identity and number of associations. There are also cultural differences when using colours, something that will always need to be thought about when doing global campaigns transcending different regions.
For example, a lesser known fact may be that in China, red is the colour of happiness and central to the wedding theme, signifying joy, love and prosperity. However, interestingly enough, the very same colour should never be used for text as when written it signifies death.
Let’s take the colour orange. It’s famously used by easyJet, Orange and… the dutch.
A few years ago now, Orange objected to easyMobile (easyJet’s attempt at dominating the mobile market, and failing) Stelios’s answer to that was, “I’ll see you in court.” and “It is our right to use our own corporate colour for which we have become famous during the last 10 years. We have nothing to be afraid of in this court case. They are clearly worried about the competition.” At the time, they also planned to add a disclaimer on the website saying that EasyMobile is not connected to Orange Personal Communications, arguing that the colour is an essential part of their iconic brand. More here.
How did it get to that stage? Who owns the colour? Is that even possible? Here’s a great article on the topic from back in 2005. Can you own a colour?
Then you’ve got T-Mobile who thought they ‘owned’ the colour magenta.
Engadget, the brilliant consumer tech site, launched a mobile arm, imaginatively titled Engadget Mobile and used a colour similar to what T-Mobile use in their brand messaging. They weren’t too happy about this and T-Mobile “requested the prompt discontinuation of the use of the color magenta on Engadget Mobile.”
Hilarious. They had no idea the backlash that was going to follow soon after, here, here, here and here. Not to mention the the 549 comments on Engadget’s post on the topic. The word I’m probably looking for is FAIL.
None of this would have happened if they used the rather superb Cymbolism. I lied, it probably would have, but check it out, such a brilliant website. It’s “the ultimate tool a designer has at his or her disposal to communicate feeling and mood. It’s a new website that attempts to quantify the association between colors and words, making it simple for designers to choose the best colors for the desired emotional effect.”
Using Cymbolism, Dmitry over at Usabilitypost worked through a series of colours, provided real life examples and the words that Cymbolism came up with linked to the colours. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is awesome.
At work, the branding is largely red. According to Cymbolism, this means that at Consolidated PR we’re passionate, powerful, bold, radical and excited. I’d say that’s entirely accurate too.
What do your brand colours say about you?