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Color-Blind Customers of Today



By Naseem Javed


Think of Blue and what comes to mind is a blue ocean.

A blue sky?

Sometimes Big Blue, which is IBM. They did truly acquire a secondary meaning and a legendary position of being recognized as such. After all it was a great army in blue suits pushing forward the towering blue mainframe computers. All this was only just yesterday.

Running Out of Names Ö Or Out of Imagination

Those days, to be identified by a specific color or even called by that name was a great Corporate Image coup. Today, it seems that all corporate identity firms have clearly run out of unique, powerful names and are now trying using specific colors as a calling device to identify a corporation: Corporate Identity by a unique color, that is.

"Listen to Orange Every Day." There is no demand to eat the fruit or drink the juice. Simply, dial and listen. ORANGE is one of the largest telephone players in Europe, which recently painted an entire town of England in Orange to make their point. It seems they are all happy and having an Orangy day.

Now they are planning to go global with this success, but the name could run into serious trademark and language problems. Orange is very different in each language and has a different association as a fruit and as a color -- a color of yogi in India, and a fruit from Sunkist in America. Trademarks and other domain issues will become a serious challenge.

A Perfectly Good Day Became a Laughingstock

Dictionary words fail as corporate names, as did PricewaterhouseCoopers when it became MONDAY (See Naseem's "Branding Dangerously Within the Julian Calendar".) While the company was in a state of shock and a laughingstock in the world media, it was picked up at a basement bargain price of $3.5 billion by IBM. The Big Blue. The name MONDAY was dropped. Only a year ago PWC was offered $12 billon by Hewlett Packard. Can a name really add so much damage? Sure.

The colors of the rainbow are not so pretty as in the sky.

"What Can BROWN Do For You Today?" BROWN is a new calling device for UPS, the United Parcel Service, which employs 350,000 brown-clad personnel, running around in brown trucks. Despite a $45 million campaign, BROWN is still struggling to provide a meaningful message to the use of this peculiar name. 'BROWN makes me happy.' Really?

Pepsi's Version of '2000 Flushes'

Recently, Pepsi introduced a blue-colored soft drink in a Pepsi bottle called PepsiBlue, maybe as a counter-attack to Coke's Vanilla, a dark-colored Coke with vanilla flavor. Unfortunately to some, PepsiBlue looks more like Windex or 2000 Flushes. Marketing of blue fluids has often been associated with sanitation products, even when it comes to mouthwashes, like Clorox and Listerine in Blue, etc. Where is the BLUE ketchup these days, now that Heinz's GREEN ketchup is in the kitchen?

Yellow is considered for the soft at heart and the timid, but then there are the useful YELLOW PAGES. Also YELLOW FREIGHT, a gigantic freight company of strong men on the superhighways. Call YELLOW, they must be so mellow. Who knows?

Green thoughts are often for money, grass, and vegetables. And sometimes for The GHOSTBUSTERS or THE GREEN PARTY, which is for the environment and flushed with green money.

Henry Isnít a Green Blochhead

H&R Block, the tax preparing giant, is now clinging to a green block as their image and their exclusive color. Perhaps they want be recognized as a Green Bloch [sic]. Henry Bloch correctly picked the name of his company as H&R Block to avoid spelling and pronunciation problems. When he appeared as a spokesperson, using his correct name caused confusion. To correct the whole thing, he simply changed his company's name to Block. Well done, Mr. Bloch. The consumer thanks you for that easy spelling.

Use of color as a name or to identify a corporation is far too stretched. The customer at large is somewhat color-blind to these branding tactics, already recovering from the awkward, dumb, and, at times, obscene names from the wild branding era of the last dotcom bubble. PurpleFrog; PurpleDog; PurpleRhino; all the way to BlueFrog, BlueDog; BlueRhino, etc., etc.

These poor animals were subjected to verbal abuse and named in just about every color of the rainbow. Perhaps this dotcom lesson will end the so-called voodoo branding and possibly avert a strike at the local zoo.

Naming Is More Serious Than a First-Grader's Box of Crayolas

Naming of a corporation is a very serious business and can no longer be left to a color palette. The customer cannot be motivated to a branding surge by coming across a specific color. Imagine every time you come in contact with the color brown: Wouldn't you prefer to think of a chocolate bar, rather than calling UPS or hugging one of their delivery guys on the road? Every time you see green do you really think of money, IRS, or just grass?

If naming corporations by color is really that important, then perhaps a lot of corporations should simply be called RED; red in embarrassment, blushing, or simply for bleeding too much red ink. PINK, if cleared by SEC, and ROSY, if on the rebound.

A Campaign to 'Save the Colors'

Colors are most important for packaging and logo design. Unfortunately they are a limited few and part of our daily life. Therefore, it's dumb to imagine that a single color exclusively identifies a specific corporation.

Logos and big color schemes are the things of the past today. In this e-commerce age, everyone is forced to TYPE and to remember the names with absolutely correct spellings; no one really cares about the logos or colors anymore, just the names. Ad agencies are only hurting themselves with their old-fashioned one-side-painted advice. They must reconverge and regroup their thinking.

In summary, the Corporate ID shops should stop peddling such tacky crafts. Ask them how and why they have run out of naming ideas. Look for professionally executed naming methodologies and search for "masters of naming" architects. There is no shortage of unique, powerful, global names; what is short is the naming expertise.

The time has come to leave the pretty rainbows in the sky alone.


Naseem Javed

Naseem Javed, is a syndicated columnist, author of Naming for Power, Founder of ABC Namebank International, world-renowned lecturer, and an expert on corporate naming issues. Naseem is a committed follower of sobriety in corporate communication strategies and a harsh critic of the "beer commercial" mentality on corporate naming and the influence of voodoo branding on our culture. A hilarious speaker, he has a deadly message on why Corporate Image USA is on fire.


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