Color: A Strategic Weapon in the Battle of Brands

What is the importance of color? Many times, we’ve asked ourselves, why is Johnny Walker’s outline black? Why is a bitten apple white, black, metallic blue? What is the difference between McDonald’s yellow and Subway’s yellow? Why is Pepsi blue and Coca-Cola red?

The answer is simple: color has an impact on the consumer because it has an intrinsic quality to communicate messages and meanings without the need for verbal expression. In a good selection of color, there is the difference between surviving or succumbing in the battle that brands fight daily in the market.

The Black Label

Color is an important tool in psychological communication that brands use to gain something beneficial. Many design their logos taking into account the colors they use. This way, they send random messages to influence the buyer’s purchase decision.

This is what Johnnie Walker understood in order to take his brand to the dominant position it holds in the global market. In his book, “Brand Management,” David Arnold illustrates the importance of colors for brands and uses a squared bottle of whiskey for example, explaining how the aggressiveness of the competitors had a negative impact on their growth rate in the market.

It was found after an investigation that the problems did not come from the politics of prices nor from the system of distribution. Everything came from visual identity. He proceeded then to work on the design of a unified package that fit every country. The changes had to be subtle because the Johnnie Walker “black label” was untouchable, just like the shape of the bottle and the symbol of the “Striding Man” (El Caminante).

The variations made were subject to scrutiny by the consumers. For Asian countries, it was found that the colors black and gold caused an important reaction. For France, it was found that those colors were considered elegant and modern. For English speaking countries, the use of the colors black and gold represented models of excellent, authentic and traditional Scotch whiskey.

The Selection of Color

When deciding the color for a brand it is important to consider what is represented of the category of the product. What happens when a new competitor appears in the same category? Some experts on the topic say that, “a brand should use the color opposite of their competitor.” Like in the case of Pepsi, blue against red. Hertz, the first car rental brand, chose yellow, so Avis, the second, chose red. Walmart is blue, Publix is green. FedEx is violet, DHL is red. Starbucks is green, Juan Valdez is brown. Kodak is yellow, Fuji is green.

Color is a big part of the secret when it comes to the recognition of a brand. A mistake in your color selection could result in the failure of a good idea and the loss of thousands of public investments. The battle for the market is in full swing and the war of brands can be won thanks to color.