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Color Me Compelling

Roman emperors wore robes colored purple with a dye made by painstakingly gathering mucus from thousands of sea snails,  more precious than gold—creating a flowing indigo robe that was an early example of branding by color. Blue, the most attractive and redolent of hues proved the hardest to reproduce—the Old Master painters had to grind up semi-precious lapis lazuli from Central Asia to get it, and a chemically-produced cerulean blue has only been available since the 19th century.

Savvy brands such as Lufthansa, Facebook and Twitter know that blue remains king (if not emperor) for 80% of the world’s brands, and the rebranding of WW (the company formerly known as Weight Watchers) has gone the blue route.  But, DuPont has stuck with red, and MailChimp is making the most of yellow, which has shrugged off its associations of cowardice and jaundice to emerge as a cheery, eye-catching color, not least in a tiny logo on a smartphone screen. In our electronic age, there’s no need to go bothering snails or grinding up beetles; every color is easily available for branding.

The prediction is that brand designs will be more bolder and colorful than ever, with some pundits identifying a trend away from recent pervasive minimalism and towards more organic, colorful brand images. Some brands are even breaking the rules by using a changeable color pallette. UK’s BBC 2 will use a recognizable curve rendered in a wide variety of shades and hues, taking a leaf out of Apple’s book—which ditched its famous rainbow stripes in 1999, in favor of a bland logo that can be jazzed up for specific campaigns.

Meanwhile, echoes of Imperial pomp are heard  in Pantone’s color of the year—a shade of purple any Roman Emperor could love, proving that, when it comes to brand design, there’s nothing new under the sun, and brands will continue to ensure that everything old, when recombined, can be new again. Are you using color to capture the single idea that expresses the essence, purpose and ambition of your business?



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