What makes an iconic colour?

When talking about iconic names, how would you reference certain colours? If you are not part of the “design” world then a Pantone reference is probably irrelevant to you, but I’m pretty sure everyone would understand the reference “Cadbury Purple”. I know I was asked to match that plenty of times in a previous job role.

So what other colours are referred to in that way? Tiffany blue maybe? Those bright turquoise blue boxes are pretty memorable, especially if you are receiving one as a special gift. Their colour is even trademarked under the name “Tiffany Blue” and is solely used across all of their marketing, shopping bags and packaging, heightening its presence and ensuring it is memorable.

At the opposite end of the spectrum there is the bright and fiery Coca-Cola red. A lively, bold, primary colour but definitely one that sticks in your mind allowing the brand to stick with It. Used as the point of contact with consumers on the products’ bottles, cans and boxes, and mainly used with just white text, the brand is simple but effective and memorable. The main aim of any brand.

But choosing an iconic colour, when there is such a wide variety of choice, is surely a tricky task, so let’s look at the meaning and associations of these colours to ascertain why certain brands have chosen the ones they have.

Blue is regarded as a trustworthy and strong colour. Commonly seen across several social media channels; Facebook, Twitter and the original LinkedIn logo were all blue. Facebook’s whole layout has always had the same blue banner and highlights across the whole platform. It gives a sincere and competent impression of the company.

Purple conveys a creative, regal, flamboyant and smart persona exuding an exciting and sophisticated brand personality. I would consider Cadbury to be a smart and particularly regal brand. The font they use for their name, being scripted in style, conveys the heritage of the brand that has been established since 1824. A long-standing brand with a strong personality and reputation.

So then we come to red. An undoubtedly strong colour in its brightness, only a strong personality would choose this as their main colour. A fiery, bold, aggressive and active colour, red creates an exciting brand. And when you think of the brands that use this colour, either solely or predominantly for their advertising, you can maybe see why they chose it. In addition to Coca-Cola there’s McDonalds, (we all recognise the red from the chip containers and other branded items of theirs), along with Heinz, Lego, Canon, Kellogg’s, YouTube and Pinterest; they all use substantial amounts of red in their branding.

The next time you notice a new brand, start designing one yourself, or even think more about the familiar brands that you use daily, think a bit deeper about why they chose the colour they did and more importantly – how it makes you, as a consumer, feel.

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