Having recently been involved in an exciting project for a concept store design, the importance of colour in brand strategy has been a hot topic here in The Market Creative office.

The correct use of colour can create a distinctive brand, navigate a customer journey and be disruptive in the retail environment.

Get it right and you can take the consumer on a journey.  Get it wrong and you could lose out.

Super brands and colour

Selfridges has become one of the world’s most renowned stores and is famed for its yellow as much as for revolutionising the theatre of retail.  From the windows on the pavement and the in-store signage through to the packaging received at payment; Selfridges deliver a consistent and distinctive brand image through the use of pantone 109.  Also prominent in the logo and online, Selfridges’ brand strategy is integrated across the board.  The shoppers that we observed carrying the eye-catching yellow Selfridges bags on London’s Oxford Street on a recent retail safari act as a beacon for the store (as did those carrying the luxurious purple of Liberty).  The consistent and imaginative retail experience offered by Selfridges brand strategy has shaped a strong heritage that has come to be symbolised by the colour yellow. Yellow is a stimulating colour, and captures the inspired creativity and optimism of Selfridges.  The consumer’s recognition of this and the way they feel about the brand has even resulted in a desirable array of Selfridges’ pantone 109 merchandise and a pop-up: ‘The Big Yellow Shop’.

Apple too, is a universal brand with an identity and retail environment of iconic status. Crisp, clean and white, Apple is beautifully understated and flawlessly executed.  Apple’s brand image is an example of where ‘less is more’ can exceed a prominent colour. Simplicity is key and boasts balance and sophistication.  As Selfridges has demonstrated, this is integrated through all communications to solidify a recognisable brand image that speaks for itself.  It tells us that it is trustworthy and honest, and innovative like its technology.

Consumer Reactions

Where we can see that colours can hero a brand, they can also devalue it if used incorrectly.  Coca-Cola is universally recognised by the colour red that subconsciously evokes us to ‘Open Happiness.’  Its packaging has great stand out in the retail environment and is understood by the consumer.  However, the recent launch of Coca-Cola Life – delivered in a green can, has seen the brand become a source of debate as to whether the green branding devalues the colour’s heritage.

Green is synonymous with ethical and healthy values – which is not something that springs to mind when you reach for a can of cola.  For me as a consumer, this is confusing.  A healthy can of Cola?  When I think of Coke, I think red and I envisage bold, youthful and exciting connotations that are consistent with what we know and love of Coca Cola’s brand identity.  Though colour is a practical use of delineating a sub-brand (such as silver for low calorie drinks, and black for zero sugar) and a great navigational tool for category management, the consumer’s emotional response to colour in brand strategy is one that can influence a purchase.

It will be interesting to see how Coke Life performs in its first year, especially with the launch of Pepsi True (also branded green!) in October.  We will be watching to see how they implement their brand strategy to create a recognisable, trusted and engaging product for their consumers… and to see if they revamp their packaging.

If you want help with using colour to drive your brands growth then get in touch.

Jemma Connor, Jnr. Account Manager