Color is one of the most powerful associative cues we experience – triggering memory, driving behaviors, informing actions.
So don't decide on the color of your company's brand mark as though it's as simple as making picks from a swatch book.
So your brand ought to manage its “color character,” even in the universe of B2B. In fact, it's probably even more important in any business category where there are a host of competitors, and a lot of visual static for the prospective customer to deal with!
How color got complicated
That doesn’t just apply to picking colors for your logo, but thinking about color’s application on a lot of levels, with new considerations that influence your choices in ways we didn’t dream of a few decades ago.
Online brands are staking copyright claims around specific colors and usages; the Supreme Court set the precedent that brands like Owens Corning and Post-It can legally protect their hues.
Color management means thinking about the context of your category, your competition, your target audience and more. When BP and other firms tried “going green,” it was viewed as hypocrisy by a vocal segment of the audiences. When a company decides it loves the color blue, it needs to be aware of competition like IBM, which makes that color a linchpin of its identity everywhere, right down to the blue brackets on its TV spots.
There are technical necessities to handling color online, where you’re sometimes at the mercy of monitor miscalibration or site designers who misapply your brand. That’s why a brand standards guide has to rigorously lay out the rules for how your brand hues – or non-color versions of your brand – are applied, across every conceivable channel.
Those brand assets need to be managed closely, and you might even want to look into legally registering your colors to obtain exclusivity in your category.
Some examples of marketers who've zealously defended their particular palette?
- T-Mobile and its parent, Deutsche Telekom, sent notice to Engadget.com about using a similar magenta in the lettering for its Engadget Mobile section. Why? T-Mobile figured the two entities -- a cell company and a tech website -- might be close enough in consumers' minds to cause confusion with the color overlap.
- Target really likes its red (I know, having worked on the account!), and if you're a retailer, don't veer too close to their look-and-feel.
- Who's Homer TLC? The company behind Home Depot, and they've U.S. trademarked the orange you see as the background behind all the chain's ads, lettering, signage and other communications elements.
- Caterpillar prohibits anyone from using its "Caterpillar Yellow" without permission.
Rest assured, even the biggest and smartest brands make mistakes with regard to consistency and execution of their own standards sometimes.
But that’s just one more indication that managing your color identity is critical to how you’re perceived, and to the reach and effectiveness of your branding.