True colors shine through

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What's in a color? Plenty, if you're marketing a product or service, because color is critical in determining how your brand is perceived. It's perhaps more critical in consumer advertising where there's a strong correlation between colors and emotional response. But color also plays a role in b-to-b advertising, where the decision-making process is said to be more rational. Industrial companies have long associated their brands with a particular color. IBM Corp. has been tangled up in blue since the 1940s, Caterpillar Inc.'s construction and mining equipment is instantly recognizable by its trademark yellow, and United Parcel Service of America famously asked “What can brown do for you?” in a long-running ad campaign. B-to-b brands become inextricably entwined with a color, be it in their logo or in their advertising or both. But not always. Take Xerox Corp., which for many years presented itself with a blue logo. A decade ago, it switched its brand color from blue to red to signal that it was changing its focus from being a company that makes copiers to one that was helping customers manage document flow and business processes. If you're doing something as bold as re-engineering your entire company, red is a good choice. It suggests energy, vigor and passion. It's certainly the most intense, eye-catching color. In an ad created by Young & Rubicam, New York, Xerox notes how it's helping healthcare providers, insurers and government agencies automate and accelerate the claims process while staying ahead of regulatory changes. The copy pairs well with the image of a riot of claim forms, X-rays, prescriptions and pill containers funneling their way on to the screen of a tablet computer. The last thing the reader sees in the lower right corner is the Xerox logo, which these days is a red sphere with white bands that form the letter X. The image and color resonate and underscore Xerox's global reach. Leaving blue behind was a risk for Xerox because it's a color long associated with trust and reliability. Blue, the most popular color in advertising, can also convey a sense of cool and precision. Continuing our way through the rainbow, yellow is cheery and energetic; green is about nature and tranquility—and don't forget money; brown is rustic and genuine; and black is authoritative and sophisticated. Purple is an unusual brand color. It can be perceived as arrogant and pompous, hardly the kind of first impression a marketer wants to make. In the technology space, it's used by Yahoo and In a spread ad by BBDO, New York, Monster seemed overly enamored with its brand color as it reversed a headline and a block of text on a sea of purple. The headline and copy touting its talent management software product known as SeeMore are solid, but the execution cried out for an image or two to better engage the target audience. The brand color itself is not yet iconic enough to prompt instant recognition.
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