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Promotional Product Strategy
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Establishing Corporate Colours in a Black and White World

For years, corporate researchers have invested tremendous resources seeking the meaning of colours and their impact on the world of marketing. Scientific studies have proven that colours can influence the body's physiology and mental state. In a 1981 study conducted by H. Wohlfarth and C. Sam, 14 handicapped children were observed when the colours of their environment were altered. Changing the colours of the room they were in resulted in a noticeable change in the children's blood pressure and a marked decrease in aggressive behaviour. 


More than meets the eye


Choosing the right colours to identify your business is more than finding a soothing combination that is pleasing to the eye. Colours stimulate our nervous system and evoke various states of emotion. The colours of our environment induce the brain to release various hormones. A simple example is mood swings based on the colour of the sky, blue versus grey.  If colours are so powerful, it makes perfect sense to harness that power for our business needs.


Humans tend to respond far more quickly to non-verbal cues as opposed to verbal cues. Simply put, responders in our brain will react to colours before the brain can translate the text attached to it. This is not to say that your advertising should be text free. However, a good catch phrase or slogan needs your corporate colours behind it. When used effectively, the colours will imprint on your customers' mind. Your marketing goal, thus, should be the consistent use of a particular colour scheme so that your company becomes associated with those colours.


Is there a right colour for me?


Of course, choosing the best colours is no simple matter. There are numerous considerations as well as various legal questions. Some of the major corporations in the world have actually patented their colours. While patenting a colour may sound rather far-fetched, it should not be cause for concern. In the first place, computer generated colour wheels can create a tremendous variety of colours and related shades. Thus, there seemingly should be enough colours for everybody to use. Secondly, patented colours generally apply only to the specific industry of the patent holder and, usually, only to the countries where they are legally registered to do business and have registered that colour as a trademark.


When choosing colours, the legal aspect should not be your only concern. Using a colour that another company has clearly established as theirs can lead customers astray. For example, Coca Cola's red is clearly recognized worldwide. Using that shade of red would clearly be unwise as anyone seeing the colour in an advertisement would assume that the soft drink is being promoted, not a different product or service.


Translating colours in advertising


The various meanings of colours depend on several different factors – culture, race, gender, age. Therefore, the colours you choose should not only reflect your product or service but also should associate with your target market. If you were marketing books for young children, the books would be designed in primary colours that appeal to the children who will read them. But, young children don't buy books – their parents and grandparents do. The marketing material, therefore, would be dominated by colours that would reflect trust and stability (blue), security and nurturing (pink) and playfulness and happiness (yellow). A practical example is the website for Jaguars. Jaguar is a luxury vehicle with a very specific market. Their customers are high income individuals with a self image of sophistication. These individuals seek prestigious vehicles. Jaguar's advertising is dominated by shades of black (colour of sophistication) and silver (prestige).


Making the most of your colours


Your corporate colours should not be exclusive to your logo or corporate letterhead. The repeated use of these colours will eventually imprint on the public. The use of promotional products to advertise your business is a highly effective mode of marketing and is an excellent venue to help infuse your colours on the consumer world. If you decided to imprint on hats, tote bags, or t-shirts – large items with great visibility – it would be wise to have the products produced with your colours as the base. Keep in mind that your product should continue to infuse the desired effects on the user. If you distribute key rings, be sure that the advertising continues to influence the holder and anyone who sees it. The essence is not the free gift – it is your identity with the customer 24/7. Combined with print advertising utilizing the corporate colours, the colours become your calling card.


The image below is a good example of reinforcement of corporate of colours. Enex Testlabs are using a tote bag, lanyard, post-it note, notepad and jelly beans all in their corporate colours (note even the jelly beans are themselves are in the corporate colours).

Certainly, finding the right colours is not easy. They should reflect the essence of your business while, at the same time, attract the right customer base. It is imperative to accurately know the culture of your customers. For example, in North American mainstream culture, white is a colour of purity, cleanliness, or youthfulness. However, in Chinese culture, white is the colour of death. Therefore, logic would dictate that if your customer base serves both cultures, it may be wise to not use white as the primary colour.


When choosing your colours, don't rely only on your instincts. Do your research and consult with media experts. Also, before converting to new colour schemes and designs, it may be wise to test your colours on small, sample markets. Sometimes, merely altering the shade of a colour can make a distinct difference. Black and white have come to represent true and false. But, remember, when the colours are combined, everything changes.



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