Understanding color associations is essential to making smart decisions and bridging the gap between what you are trying to communicate and what is actually perceived.
We’ve shared earlier a basic understanding of how critical color decisions can be in business. These decisions are difficult because of the color of every individual filter with conscious and subconscious associations. Understanding these associations within the audience for whom your work, service, or product is intended is essential to making smart color decisions and bridging the gap between what you are trying to communicate and what is actually perceived.
As we explore the significance of color within the corporate “kaleidoscope,” so to speak, let’s start out with an obvious favorite and constant within professional marketing – the color blue. Color offers an instantaneous way to associate meaning with a particular company or industry. It’s not just visual, but experiential too. As we examine the color blue, we will see this to be true and come to recognize that blue is a uniquely powerful force within the business world.
There are numerous phrases that use the color blue. Out of the blue. Singing the blues. Once in a blue moon. While these phrases denote uncertainty, sadness, and rare exceptions, there is generally a positive association with color. Blue is often described as peaceful, tranquil, secure, calm, and orderly. It is because of these associations that people are said to be more productive in a blue room.
Blue is known as the color most preferred by men, evoking ties to the corporate world. It is known as the least appetizing color, a fact attributed to the lack of naturally occurring blue food. Furthermore, blue is associated with reliability and loyalty, hence many law enforcement uniforms are blue. If you were to ask a group of people what their favorite color was, a clear majority would say blue, and for good reason; it’s tough to go anywhere and not see it. The sky is often blue. If there was to be one color associated with water, it would be blue. The business world is an “ocean” of blue, as it is prevalent in thousands of corporate identities. It’s a fact – blue is ubiquitous.
So, why give this paragraph of various “blue” facts? Because these facts play a powerful subconscious role in the way we perceive the color blue in the advertising world. They show how the color blue interacts with our minds and attitudes in all situations, especially situations within our commercialized and advertisement-saturated culture. In short, blue builds visual and emotional recognition. Let’s explore how some of these emotional connections are encountered in the business world:
Many people have a fear of flying. This form of travel is often associated with sickness, discomfort, and chaos. To help combat these negative feelings towards flight, many airlines, such as Continental, AirTran, and JetBlue have incorporated the color blue into their brand identity, designed to suggest security, stability, cleanliness, safety, and peace. JetBlue even includes the color in its name. Furthermore, the interior of many airports and aircraft incorporate lots of blues. Blue is also a connection to clear skies. It clearly invades our minds and attitudes in connection to the air travel industry. The question remains, however, is the use of blue effective in this regard?
As a dependable and constant color, blue is also associated with precision and intellect, making it a common color choice for many technology companies. HP, Phillips, and Samsung all use blue in their corporate brand. Just think, if they were to use red instead, that sense of precision and intellect would be overcome by a sense of urgency. We’ll discuss red later.
One last association to touch on that blue commonly has is an association with justice, loyalty, and perseverance, especially when red is included. Many national flags use this color scheme for this reason. Law enforcement is typically seen wearing blue. The United States Air Force brand is a dignified example of an identity that utilizes blue as its hallmark color.
The list goes on and on of corporations that use the color blue. General Electric, Ford, Walmart, The Weather Channel, Gap, American Express, AT&T. What do you think these companies were trying to communicate in the development of their corporate identity? Most likely they found blue to be the best look for their company to communicate ideas of trust, reliability, productivity, and intellect.
As you think of these examples of “blue” corporations, let’s go back to the original question: what does blue do for you? You be the judge. Does the usage of blue within these companies truly communicate sentiments of trust, tranquility, dependability, and peace? We want to hear your opinion. Also, as we’ve shared a few “blue” expressions of our own (i.e. “out of the blue”), what other phrases come to mind that use the color blue?