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Color-Blind Customers of Today

By: Naseem Javed

Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on Corporate Image and Global Cyber-Branding. Author of Naming for Power, he introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80s and also founded ABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York and Toronto a quarter century ago.

Think of Blue and what comes to mind is a blue ocean. A blue sky? Sometimes Big Blue, which is IBM. They did, truly acquired a secondary meaning and a legendary position of being recognized as such. After all it was a great army in blue suits pushing forward the towering blue mainframe computers. All this was only just yesterday.

Those days, to be identified by a specific color or even called by that name was a great Corporate Image coup. Today, it seems that all corporate identity firms have clearly run out of unique, powerful names and are now trying using specific colors as a calling device to identify a corporation. Corporate Identity, by a unique color, that is.

“Listen to Orange Every Day”, there is no demand to eat the fruit or drink the juice. Simply, dial and listen. Orange is one of the largest telephone players in Europe, which recently painted an entire town of England, in Orange, to make their point. It seems they are all happy and having an Orangy day. Now they are planning to go global with this success but the name could run into serious trademark and languages problems.

Orange is very different in each language and has a different association as a fruit and as a color…a color of yogi in India, and a fruit from Sunkist in America. Trademarks and other domain issues will become a serious challenge.

The colors of the rainbow are not so pretty in the sky.

“What Can Brown Do For You Today”. BROWN is a new calling device for UPS, the United Parcel Service, which employs 350,000 brown clad personnel, running around in brown trucks. Despite a $45 million campaign Brown is still struggling to provide a meaningful message to the use of this peculiar name. ‘Brown makes me happy’


Recently, Pepsi introduced a blue colored soft drink in a Pepsi bottle called PepsiBlue. Maybe as a counter attack to Coke’s Vanilla, a dark colored coke with vanilla flavor. Unfortunately to some, PepsiBlue looks more like Windex or 2000 Flushes.

Marketing of blue fluids has often been associated with sanitation products, even when it comes to mouthwashes, like Clorox and Listerine in Blue, etc. Where is the Blue Ketchup these days, now that Heinz’s Green ketchup is in the kitchen?

Yellow is considered for the soft at heart and the timid, but then there are the useful Yellow Pages. Also Yellow Freight, a gigantic freight company of strong men on the super highways. Call Yellow, they must be so mellow. Who knows?

Green thoughts are often for money, grass and vegetables. Sometimes, for The Ghostbusters or The Green Party, which is for the environment, and flushed with green money. H&R Block, the tax preparing giant, is now clinging to a green block as their image and their exclusive color. Perhaps they want be recognized as a Green Bloch [sic]. Henry Bloch, correctly picked the name of his company as H&R Block to avoid spelling and pronunciation problems, when appeared as a spokes person with his correct name, caused confusion and to correct the whole thing he simply changed his own name to Block. Well done, consumer thanks you for this easy spelling of Block, Mr. Bloch.

Use of color as a name or to identify a corporation is far too stretched.

The customer, at large, is somewhat color-blind to these branding tactics. It’s already recovering from the awkward, dumb, and at times, obscene names from the wild branding era of the last bubble. PurpleFrog; PurpleDog; PurpleRhino; all the way to BlueFrog, BlueDog; BlueRhino, etc. etc. These poor animals were subjected to verbal abuse and named in just about every color of the rainbow. Perhaps, this dotcom lesson will end the so-called voodoo branding and possibly avert a strike at the local zoo.

Naming of a corporation is a very serious business and can no longer be left to a color pallet. The customer cannot be motivated to a branding surge by coming across a specific color. Imagine, every time you come in contact with the color brown, wouldn’t you prefer to think of a chocolate bar, rather than calling UPS or hugging one of their delivery guys on the road. Every time you see green do you really think of money, IRS or just grass?

If naming corporations by color is really that important, then perhaps a lot of corporations should simply be called red; red in embarrassment, blushing or simply for bleeding too much red ink. PINK, if cleared by SEC. and rosey, if on the re-bound.

Colors are most important for packaging and logo designs, unfortunately colors are only few and part of our daily life. Therefore, it’s dumb to imagine that a single color exclusively identifies a specific corporation. Logos and big color schemes are the things of the past. Today, in this e-commerce age where every one is forced to type and to remember the names with absolutely correct spellings. Now, no one really cares about the logos or colors on the net, anymore, just the name, to get to the right place, right away. Everyone is fad up when 1000 different sites pop-up with similar looks. Ad agencies are only hurting themselves with their old fashioned one-sided colorful advice. They must re-converge and re-group their thinking.

In summary, stop, the Corporate ID shops to peddle such tacky crafts. Ask them how and why they have run out of naming ideas. Look for professionally executed naming methodologies and search for masters of naming architects…there is no shortage of unique powerful global names, what is short is the naming expertise. Well, now, the time has come to leave the pretty rainbows in the sky, alone.

© copyright Naseem Javed, 2003

Other Articles by Naseem Javed

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