Branding with Color: Lessons from Coke

Kevin Dugan By Kevin Dugan
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At my previous gig, my colleagues took pictures of a client’s store and the competition’s stores. A designer would convert them to black and white photos and blur any logos in the pics. Then they’d ask the client to match the stores with the brands.

It was rare for someone to ace this test. It’s a powerful lesson in the power of color in branding (and the need for a store design that also helps reinforce the brand). This test is also done for web sites.

Cuckoo for Coke Colors
From store shelves to the packages on those shelves, Coke realized how well they’ve used color to differentiate their three big brands from each other when they broke their own rules. A holiday-themed design for the Coke can seems harmless enough. But as you can see, Coke and Diet Coke fans alike were understandably confused by the temporary switcheroo.

You can call this a Coke fail, but I call it a reminder of how good Coke’s established its individual brands with just color. But then again, I’m not covering the cost from recalling the holiday cans earlier than planned and replacing them with “the right colors.”

Branding through color is well-documented. “Color is one of the brain’s three visual pathways and, since we process every object within view simultaneously, color is the mechanism that places emphasis on certain areas. In addition to enhancing on-shelf visibility, the appropriate use of color can increase brand recognition by some 80%, while also serving as an important brand identifier.”

Do you own your brand colors in your competitive space? Is your brand’s color palette representing you correctly?

Sensory Branding 
Brands need to consider all elements of  their brand as it pertains to the five senses. Starbucks obviously uses smell to brand their coffee. But it also asked, “what does our brand sound like” and now they have an in-store entertainment network layered on top of its free wifi. It all works together to help connect with the consumer.

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About Kevin Dugan
Kevin Dugan is the author of the popular Strategic Public Relations blog. Kevin is Director of Marketing Communications for FRCH Design Worldwide.

Visit Kevin's blog: Strategic Public Relations.

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