Colour can be an effective visual hammer, but there’s a problem. There are a few distinct colours in the spectrum, five primary colours: blue, green, yellow, orange and red. And only a few secondary ones. If you happen to get in early, you can enhance the reputation of your brand by pre-emptying a specific colour. Tiffany, for example, has pre-empted the colour blue.
Introduced in 1878, Tiffany “blue” has become a worldwide icon for the high-end jewelry store. As a visual hammer, “blue” communicates the elegance and authenticity of the Tiffany brand. The colour is a private pantone custom colour and is even legally protected as a colour trademark. Tiffany stores have one thing in stock you cannot buy. They will only give it to you, the blue box. The rule of establishment is ironclad, never to allow a box bearing the name of the firm to be taken out of the building expect with an article sold by them and for which they are responsible. The Tiffany box is a very effective visual hammer. Put a blue box on a table and a white box from some other jewellery store next to it and watch the reaction of a typical women. The blue box will generate an emotional reaction and the other will not. The “Tiffany blue” is an iconic colour that has formed an association with a desired emotion e.g. happiness.
In too many mergers, marketing effectiveness takes a backseat to corporate ego. As a result, executives try to please both organisations. Sometimes you can take a simple product but paint it an unusual colour and create an effective visual hammer. In 1968, Mary Kay Ash purchased a Cadillac and had it painted pink to promote her cosmetics. The car was such a terrific advertisement for Mary Kay’s brand, that the following year she rewarded her top five producers with pink Cadillacs. Today Mary Kay is a global firm with annual sales of $2.5 billion. More than two-million independent consultants demonstrate Mary kay products in the U.S. and roughly 35 other countries. General Motors estimates that it has built 100,000 pink Cadillacs for Mary Kay to gift to her top producers.
Have you ever wondered why beer bottles are brown? Actually, almost all beer bottles were green until 1930s when it was discovered that brown bottles filtered out the light that caused beer to go “skunky”. Sunlight breaks down acids in hops that react with Sulphur to produce a chemical scented similar to that of a skunks spray. In Europe after World War II there was a shortage of brown glass, so many beer brewers including Heineken exported their beer in green bottles. As the leading beer in America, Heineken became associated with the green bottle being referred to as “The Green Standard”. Today, the green bottle and the green label are a visual hammer for the Heineken brand. But what is Heineken’s verbal nail? Over the years, Heineken has explored ideas like: “satisfy your thirst” and “seek the truth”. Though these nails are good, a leader should generally emphasize its leadership, and therefore, Heineken lost its leadership to Corona.
This mistake is visible in several companies and can be concluded as the reason for prohibiting success and dominance in their industry. Look at Red Bull for example, though name includes “Red” its products are primarily blue. Often a brand starts off as a single colour. Then management decides to line-extend the brand into many categories as Red Bull did. So, the problem arises, with line-extensions increasing the variety of products the brand has, how can you differentiate between them? One of the most common ways is by using different colours, however, this can completely loose the brands original colour and thus, break the consistency of brand image across the products. When it comes to colour, retailers should not just try to associate a logotype with a single colour, but in fact try to associated the entire store with a colour.
Using a colour as part of your brand name is often a good idea, especially in a category that lacks “colour” names. But keep in mind that consumers take brand names quiet literally. Your “colour” brand needs a visual hammer that uses the same colour as your brand name.
-Visual Hammer / Laura Ries