All the pretty colors: The role of color in marketing

A few weeks ago I went shopping for some new shirts. Surprisingly, a marketing lesson lurked in this shopping spree.

I didn't have a big plan and was browsing options in a few local stores. That day I bought a few shirts and brought them home. As I unpacked the bag I found myself having funny thoughts about each one.

The first shirt was pink and I thought to myself, "I'll wear this one to see the Barbie movie."

The second shirt was blue and green and I thought to myself, "This one is perfect for when I attend an event at my child's high school," the school colors are, you guessed it, blue and green.

The third shirt was a coral orange color and I thought to myself, "I'll wear this to watch football games when my university plays." And big surprise, this orangy coral color is a close approximation of one of my alma mater's colors.

What was going on? I was buying clothes, unconsciously, mapped to various aspects of my life.

Color so often signals brands. And color is very frequently used to signal affinity or a sense of community. Color can bring people together in ways that are sometimes surprising.

This was the summer of Barbie pink. How many times did you see people wearing this color who were likely going to see the movie? It was charming to observe. People wanted to feel like they were part of something slightly bigger than just attending a movie. The pink moved them to come closer and reinforce the brand.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has fascinated me since I last visited there. All sports teams, including the local colleges and universities, share black and gold as their official colors. The entire city cheers for black and gold teams. It's a simple but genius approach that brings people together in a way we don't often see. The residents of Pittsburgh wear colors that they all agree signal their hometown, and they wear the colors with pride of place.

Minute Maid recently launched its new branding and lo and behold this longtime juice company returned to specific colors and typefaces that somehow are completely familiar and evocative of fresh fruit, juice and nutrition. It seems so simple, but obviously it isn't. The new brand is receiving a lot of accolades. Really, what Minute Maid is doing is linking their products with the colors consumers already associate with the brand. Smart.

There are so many memorable instances of the use of color to create community and affinity, these are just a few. Local businesses, nonprofit organizations, and professional services should learn from this. Create an official color palette if you haven't done so already and build brand identity standards that signal your enterprise.

I always encourage clients to do this because the use of color is an anchoring, emotional element that you can use masterfully when you promote your business or services.

Give thought to the colors you love and the colors you associate with your business. Next, devise a plan to include the use of those colors in your marketing. Finally, watch for how color can support your work communicating for your business.

• Rebecca Hoffman is the founder and principal of Good Egg Concepts, a strategic communication and brand marketing consulting practice serving clients around Chicagoland and nationally.

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