Feb 01

The color purple

Can an organization 'own' a color? By own, I mean, can an organization's corporate color elicit an emotional connection with a consumer that will immediately stimulate endorphins in the brain and make said consumer think good thoughts about the entity?

February 1 - image There are definitely some examples where it's worked to a degree:

UPS has done an extraordinarily good job of associating an otherwise yucky color, brown, with dependability (that said, I never understood how or why the UPS delivery guys in their ugly brown shorts became short-lived sex symbols).

– Lance Armstrong and Livestrong certainly 'own' the yellow wrist band. It elicits a near universal response. But, I don't think of Livestrong when I see the color yellow anywhere else.

– The great Oakland Raiders teams of the 1970s and '80s 'owned' silver and black, and tied it directly to their harsh, ferocious and, some would say, cheap shot brand of football. The silver and black inspired genuine fear.

– That nauseating Pepto-Bismol pink is unlike anything else I've ever seen and immediately stimulates a nasty, Pavlovian response in this blogger. I detest that particular shade of pink, but would argue that Pepto does, indeed, own it (and, they're welcome to it as far as I'm concerned).

Enterprise Rental Cars has done a superior job of branding their emerald green color. But, when I happen to see the color, do I stop and think, 'Dandy has to get me an Enterprise rental car the next time I travel'? Nope.

The reason I ask the color question stems from a rather bizarre conversation with a very bizarre company about a year or so ago.

We were running from one background session to another as we ramped up our knowledge of the brand and its intricacies. In one of these meetings, we were greeted by an in-house brand ambassador. He sat us down and began a serious Power Point presentation all about the color purple. He told us the color's origins (even I knew it was created by mixing red and blue). He told us when the first businesses started adopting the color in their logos and, critically, what companies were using purple today. The big take away? This organization had a 'white space' or 'blue ocean' (choose your color metaphor) opportunity to own purple.

The brand ambassador walked us through his purple implementation plan and showed how, in a very short time, the organization would become absolutely synonymous with the color. The internal PR team feigned faux enthusiasm for the 'idea' and asked us how the business-to-business media would respond to the 'story.'

We stifled a collective sigh, agreed that an Ad Age or AdWeek might find it mildly amusing, but said that non-trade press would laugh and hang up their phones in a nanosecond if we suggested this was a story worth covering.

Needless to say, the color purple idea (like most within this chaotic organization) died on the vine. I do think, though, the very same organization could own chaos.

I'm not sure if there's a color associated with chaos but, if so, I'd suggest an immediate Pantone change. The color of chaos would definitely create an emotional connection with this organization's target audience.