Category Archives: Branding for Referrals

Color and Branding – Number 4 in a series.

Today let’s look at green.

As with all color descriptions, green shares some seeming contradictory characteristics depending upon context, culture and color attributes.

First, we mostly think of green associated with nature – green forests, fields, grass and veggies.

forest-2.jpg

But there’s also the association, in the United States, with money. And on the negative side, envy and greed – the green-eyed-monster – and inexperienced – greenhorn – are also green associations. 

Today, the word “green” has positive environmental connotations. Except, perhaps when associated with the Greenpeace organization.

There are numerous shades of green: forest, olive, pea, lime, jade, sage, sea come to mind.

In the Color Harmony Handbook, green is labeled “fresh”. Because it is a combination of the warm, sunny yellow and the cool, peaceful blue, it is a “balanced” color that’s easy to live with and can find a home in either hot or cool palettes. The Handbook also suggests that green recedes when combined with other colors, making them stand out with more authority. Thus, green may be selected as a second, background color for a predominantly red, its complement.

 green-composite.jpg

When combined with blue, green really connotes nature, warm months, and new beginnings. Dark green combined with red certainly brings Christmas to mind. Again, dark green, this time with a deep blue or a rich gold, can convey a prosperity and dignity. And with deep browns, grays and other earth tones, green imparts a mature and resolute impression to the palette. When pale greens are used with other pastels, a feminine, fresh look is achieved.

If not the most versatile, green certainly ranks high on that scale.
 

Color & Branding –Number 3 in a series

Yellow is today’s topic as a prime color for branding applications. In its most pure, yellow is a primary color whose complement is purple and its neighbors are yellow-green and orange.

The color has two main attributes: it denotes a cheerful countenance, and it provides an effective contrast to black and deep blue. Thus, yellow was a “natural” for the “smiley face”, as it is for “yield” signs and high-lighters.

Yellow daffodil

Research, according to Pantone which is the company responsible for standardizing colors for print, digital and textile applications through their color guides, suggests a yellow background and black type provides the best legibility combination. They also claim yellow to be the first color the human eye gravitates to when the entire spectrum is presented.

Other positive attributes of yellow include caution, intelligence, joy, and Springtime. Like every color, there are possible negative associations with the color. And though I don’t recognize these as associated with yellow, according to Jason OConnor writing for http://www.sitepronews.com/ , laziness, criticism and cynicism are yellow attributes. I know cowardness to be associated – someone with a “yellow streak” – but not the others. Then we’re sometimes stuck with a “lemon”.

One problem with yellow: unless it’s a darker gold shade, it does not stand out on a white background. It requires additional colors, specifically dark colors, to make a strong impression. In that environment, yellow provides a spark.

The Color Harmony Workbook suggests that yellow creates “motion”, that it is particularly applicable for sports-related brands. The Workbook also states that, “Yellow is cheerful, uplifting and spirited; it stimulates communication, intellect and attention to detail.

Thus, in a logo or for a trade dress palette, yellow with a dark color provides contrast, “vibrates” and suggests “action”. But all by itself, it tends to fade into neutral backgrounds. Yellow best works as background or as an accent.

Here are some who have adapted yellow into their brand.

 Yellow logos and trade-dress
Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Can a company “own” green?

If you’re following this blog, you know I initiated a series of blogs about color in branding.

Now, color has made the business section of the Denver Post.

Al Lewis of the Denver Post (www.denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis) has written about an upcoming case which should interest everyone involved in branding.

It seems that the giant lawn and garden products company, Scotts Miracle-Gro doesn’t want a competitor to use green in their trade dress. They’re suing TerraCycle to cease and desist from using green and yellow in their packaging and “confusing the market” with similar packaging to Miracle-Gro.

The packaging is not at all similar to my eyes.

I’d download pictures of the respective packages and put them side-by-side except the TerraCycle has used a “gimmick” to demonstrate their environmentally-friendly packaging – used, recycled plastic pop bottles – and they show it’s origin by morphing the TerrCycle label into a pop bottle as you “mouse over”. Anyway, here are the corporate urls of each so you can make your own comparisons.

http://www.terracycle.net/products.htm

http://www.miraclegro.com/index.cfm/event/ProductGuide.category/category/%2FCategories%2FProducts%2FMiracle-Gro+Plant+Food

The point is there is no similarity in type, design, shape or name of the competing products. The only similarity is the color combinations. So can Scotts “own” those generic colors. I’m pretty sure the Pantone numbers are not identical, and they aren’t used in the same proportions.

Now to be as forthcoming as I can, there’s another issue in Scott’s suite – they take issue with the TerraCycle claim that their Worm Poop (yes, that’s what they call their product, probably because of its main ingredient) is superior to the “leading synthetic plant food”. That’s another debate.

Al quotes Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, who thinks “this is more about the fact that we’re taking shelf space at Home Depot and Wal-Mart…than customer confusion”.

I agree. So does a trademark expert and law professor Wendy Seltzer who Al quotes as saying, “No one is allowed to monopolize necessary colors.”  She contributes to an informative intellectual properties blog branders should find valuable at

 www.chillingeffects.org

Although the article didn’t define “necessary colors”, I suspect that means primary, secondary and tertiary colors; the web-safe colors of the internet and the pms colors of the Pantone palettes.

I’ll just bet the packaging issue between TerraCycle and Scotts will never come to trial. At least I hope not.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Color & Branding – Number 2 in a series

Let’s start with a secondary color instead of a primary, just to keep us on our toes.

sunrise-sized-400.jpg

Orange is the color this week.

Incidentally, the major source of information on individual colors I’ve used to formulate these blog entries is About:Desktop Publishing. You can access the entire color spectrum at http://www.about.com/cs/colorselection.

It’s interesting that when I went to the page on “orange” on the About.com website, the Google ads were all about the fruit, oranges. This just serves as a reminder that many words may have more than one meaning or association. In the evaluation phase of developing a brand name, be sure to take that into account.

Anyway, back to the color orange in branding.

Major attributes of orange are warmth, energy and cheerfulness. First of all, it’s a warm color on the spectrum, with red on one side and yellow on the other. It’s also the color associated with our most pervasive icon, the sun.

Orange demands attention but doesn’t scream for it. Thus, though it can be vibrant, it can be a background or secondary color in some palettes. Think about a box of Tide. Yet, as an accent with a complementary or contrasting color, orange will stand out and make a statement. It is not frail.

Examples of orange in branding

Because it’s energetic, and because it’s the color of the very healthful orange fruit, orange can be associated with good health, particularly when combined with a solid green.

Though it’s vibrant, orange also has a “dark side”. It’s the color of falling, (that is dead) leaves, so it’s associated with fall and Halloween. It’s the color chosen by the Fightin’ Gators of of the UofF, my almamater and the bane of the rest of the SEC. But orange is predominantly a cheerful, friendly color.

Medium blue is the color diametrically across the color wheel from orange blue. That makes for a contrasting combination in tension but also provides a pleasing combination. When combined with red and/or yellow, you have analogous colors that form an exciting, warm and attention-getting palette.

And FedEx found the combination of purple and orange to be both exciting and unique. Home Depot’s logo and trade dress is predominantly orange, using white as its partner.

Orange can be associated with the tropics, summer, friendliness, good health, warmth and excitement.

According to Mitch Meyerson, a psychologist associated with Jay Conrad Levinson,s Guerrilla Marketing empire, orange appeals to intellectuals, and it’s a good choice to accent business-to-business communications.

Looks like we started this series off with a winner.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975