The Power of “Owning” a Color

The other day, I came across an interesting post on Facebook. Now that the holiday season is in full swing, it’s not unusual to see a slew on holiday-related posts on my news feed. However, this one in particular caught my eye. It was a picture of a Christmas tree made out of red-soled high heel shoes.

I’m sure that many of you (if not most of you) would instantly recognize the designer of the red-soled shoes – Christian Louboutin. The Louboutin brand is famous and widely recognized for their red soles, which no other footwear brand owns. That red color has become iconic.

This reminded me about the power of truly “owning” a particular color in a category. Many major brands have claimed a specific color for their brand and within their category. Companies who have successfully done this include Tide that own orange in laundry, UPS brown, Tiffany blue, and Starbucks green. These brands have been so successful at “owning” their colors (either through trademark or just widespread recognition) that even seeing that particular shade reminds consumers of that brand. Now that is powerful branding.

It’s important to note that “owning” a color differs by category. For instance, the Louboutin brand owns red in footwear, but Coca-Cola owns a red in soda/beverages. Two brands can utilize similar colors, as long as they are in different categories, without any legal ramifications or consumer confusion.

Here are a few reasons why your brand should consider “owning” a unique brand color:

Sets you apart

Having a distinct, recognizable color sets you apart from other competitors in your category and gives you a visual point of differentiation. In the food and beverage industry, there are so many products out there on very crowded shelves and aisles. This makes it easy for brands to get lost on shelf. Having a unique color prevents this from happening. Take Tide, for example. When walking down the detergent aisle, all you need to do is spot that bright orange color and you know exactly where to go. Regardless of other factors such as packaging structure, design, and marketing, the “ownable” color speaks for itself and instantly sets Tide apart from other detergent brands. Plus you can send your significant other to the store and say, “Get the orange one, please!”

Creates consistency

When an ownable color is used constantly on all touch points of the brand, this creates consistency. Consistency breeds trust, and trust builds repeat purchase. A consumer must come in contact with a brand 8 times before they actually register that brand in their minds. Utilizing an ownable color can speed up this process. People buy from businesses and companies they trust, so using a consistent color on everything from packaging, collateral, websites, and more will help build that trust.

There are some challenges to this. You have to plan and know what you are doing, or work with an expert who does. This is why working with you neighbor or cousin may not be the best idea. Be sure to chose an ownable color that you can reproduce in spot and 4-color process, coated and uncoated variations. Not all colors replicate well in both spot and process, and when the color deviates from a consistent standard, it can have a negative effect and dilute your brand equity and trust.

Fosters recognition

Having an ownable color and using it on all of your branding and marketing materials fosters recognition over time. This is ultimately the goal of an ownable brand color. When a consumer first experiences your brand, they will take the time to explore it, reading information, learning your story and more. Over time, however, the consumer will reduce that time and rely on elements or visual equity that identify your brand. The goal of an ownable color makes it easy for the consumer to find and purchase your brand, and they appreciate that. For example, consider flipping through a magazine. Imagine seeing an advertisement with a smiling woman holding a small eggshell blue jewelry box. The logo does not even have to be on the box, and I’m sure most of you would assume that it is a box from Tiffany & Co. That shade of blue, particularly on small jewelry-type boxes, is so recognizable that nothing else is needed for the reader to realize it is a Tiffany’s box. Tiffany’s is now one of the most widely recognized and iconic brands of our time.

What do you think about the idea of owning a particular brand color? What are other examples of companies that have done this successfully? Share your ideas with us below.