Welcome to orange decade as marketers color your world

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Gray may be the new silver (in cars). Red could be the new orange (in logos). Turquoise and teal will help set the tone in 2006 (in fashion). But when it comes to America's favorite color, consumers are still singing the blues.

Confused? Just remember what the color experts say: There are no absolutes in consumer color choices, especially when trying to connect a color trend in one industry-say, pink in apparel-to another.

Consumer color trends could either be described as painfully consistent or consistently inconsistent. The pendulum metaphor so often employed to describe fashion and style cycles seems apt, yet woefully inadequate.

After all, try to reconcile the following expert opinions: Orange is the color of the decade, yet you'd be hard-pressed finding an orange car since silver reigns as consumers' auto color favorite of the last six years. White inhabits the decades-long and undisputed title as the No. 1 appliance color, even though stainless-steel appliances are on the rise, in part due to the popularity with consumers of, you guessed it, silver-painted cars.

Blue has held strong as America's favorite color for the past decade, according to color tracker Pantone. But blue and gray are widely considered passe when it comes to creating a corporate identity that connects with consumers. Instead, orange has emerged as one of the most popular brand-making colors. Think Cingular, ING, Home Depot, not to mention Orange Mobility, a British mobile-phone company that painted an entire town in England orange.

"Orange is hopeful and active, authentic and young," says Jack Bredenfoerder, design director in the Cincinnati office of WPP Group's Landor Associates and a board member of the Color Marketing Group, a forecasting trade association. "The stodgy corporate blue and gray doesn't stand out anymore."

Mr. Bredenfoerder dubs orange the color of the decade even as he forecasts its impending decline, predicting the rise of red in the next few years. The influence of Target Stores with that color is in part a factor, but there's also the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, likely to bring China's red to the forefront.

In the auto world, silver's dominance is waning, says Karen Surcina, color marketing and technology manager at DuPont Co., which for the last 53 years has tracked trends in vehicle colors. "It takes two or three years for a trend to build," she says. "[Silver] is now the most popular color-it's been one of the longest trends we've seen."

What's on the rise with silver's inevitable decline? Blue and gray, despite the virtual expulsion of each color within the world of corporate identity hues. But the description of one color isn't as simple as that of a Crayola crayon.

"Gray, now infused with an array of colors, and a stronger, bolder blue" are challenging silver, according to DuPont.

Ms. Surcina says silver's reign reflects our "age of technology."

Indeed, the ubiquity of liquid crystal displays on computer monitors, cellphones, handheld video games and Palm organizers is one of the biggest influences on the color palette in the last decade, says Lisa Herbert, exec VP-fashion home and interiors at Pantone. The company produces millions of swatch cards for its Color Matching System.

The result of our "screen-based" lives is the rise of bright indigo blues, she says.

Ms. Herbert notes that turquoise and teal also are expected to be big color hits in the fashion and apparel worlds in 2006. And yellow is moving up the ladder, influencing home fashions particularly. Similar to Mr. Bredenfoerder's views at Landor, research by Pantone also points to a continued "brightening" of corporate logos away from gray and blue.

Despite the studies, Ms. Herbert notes consumer reactions to colors are constantly shifting, even if white remains the No. 1 appliance and the No. 1 choice for personal-care products such as deodorant and toothpaste.

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