Using Color to Make Your Brand Stand Out

by Geoff on February 26, 2010

Keep Your Brand Bright in Dark Times

We’re going through some dark, cloudy times for business and, I admit, it’s tempting at times like these to cut back on your marketing.

But the truth is, that makes about as much sense as a fisherman who says, “I’m not getting any bites so, to save money, I’ll stop putting worms on my hook.” Maybe he needs fatter, juicier worms! Or maybe he needs to fish where no one else is fishing. Or maybe he needs to go fishing earlier in the morning. (“The early worm gets the fish.”)

Here’s a silver lining to today’s dark clouds: if your competitors are cutting back on their advertising—and they probably are—it’s a good time for you to make your brand shine even brighter! As they fade from the customer’s radar screen, you can show up more.

So now is the time to consider all the things you can do—even the simple, little, inexpensive things—that make you show up bigger and brighter. Like the way you use color.

Is Your Marketing Program Color Coordinated?

We’ve talked about using a catch-phrase. And a key visual. Another way to make your brand stand out is simply with the use of color.

Do you remember the story of Kate the babysitter? She instinctively put a red rocking horse on all her advertising. That’s good because red stands out. A beige or green rocking horse might be pretty, but it would blend in.

Of course, there are times when beige might be the right color. But if you want to stand out and get noticed, you may need something brighter. You can probably pick out a Time magazine from across the book store because of the red border.

So which colors should you use? Tests have shown that the color that stands out the most is bright yellow, which is why taxicabs, school buses, and warning signs are yellow.

Also, continuing our “border” theme, I’ll bet you can recognize National Geographic magazines instantly from across the room in the library because of the yellow border.

The point is, think about how you use color to make your brand more visible. There’s a quick copy store in our area which is located on a back street—not a very visible location. They gained visibility by purchasing several old, square-back, AMC Gremlin automobiles (remember them?). They painted them purple, with their name and logo, and started using them to make deliveries. When you see one of these odd-shaped cars painted purple, you can’t miss it. Everyone in our town knows about this store. They are the “purple Gremlin” guys!

However, suppose you’ve already painted all your trucks and the color is plain, and you don’t want to repaint them. What can you do? Can you still use your color to advantage?

UPS did. They painted all of their trucks brown (I heard it was because they got a good deal on the paint!). Then they capitalized on this with an advertising campaign that ended in the line, “What can Brown do for you?” This was smart. When people saw the advertising, it reminded them of the trucks. And when they saw the trucks, it reminded them of the advertising. More bang for their truck!

And, in a way, brown works for them; it reinforces their image as a very practical, reliable company.

Sometimes you can actually stand out more by NOT using color. For example, if you’re running an ad in a magazine where all your competitors’ ads are colorful, you could stand out by using a black and white ad instead. And since a black and white ad usually costs about half as much to run, you’ll save money too.

Finally, realize that making all of your marketing materials color coordinated can really help people to quickly identify and remember your brand.

Take all of your marketing and advertising materials and spread them out on a table or put them on a bulletin board. Are they all instantly recognizable, even from across the room? One way to tie everything together is with one or two theme colors.

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