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Far from colour me bad for the AA March 11, 2009

Posted by Richard Aucock in What I learned today.
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COLOUR sells cars. I know that. What I didn’t know was how important it is for branding.

Nearly two-thirds of people, apparently, reckon that colour is more important to a brand than slogan, typeface or logo. I thought about that for a while.

I then started to muse. Colours and car makers… now then. Ford – well, it’s blue, isn’t it? Mercedes? Silver. Alfa Romeo, red. Renault, yellow. Honda, white. Jaguar, green. Lamborghini, orange. Land Rover, metallic maroon.

far-from-colour-me-bad-for-the-aaIt isn’t just car makers, either. Shell? Yellow. BP? Green. Texaco? Black. Sainsbury’s? Orange. Silk Cut, purple. Egg, green. Coca-Cola, red. And, etc, and so on and thus forth. Try it – it’s a lot of fun. UPS, brown: see? (For proof, Google it.)

This takes us on to the AA, which commissioned trademark lawyers Withers & Rogers to come up with the report. They’re yellow. Not like Green Flag, who are Green. Nor the RAC, who are blue – erk, sorry, orange.

It’s pretty impressive stats they quote – the AA is the ‘most recognised by colour alone’. Respondents were presented with a list of brands, and asked to name the main colours used in their identities. Results are thus:

•    AA yellow and black – recognised by 98 per cent
•    Easyjet orange – 93 percent
•    Cadbury purple and BP green – 88 percent
•    Royal Mail red – 85 per cent.

I’ve always been a sucker for thinking in colour. At least now I’ve learnt there’s method behind it.

Of course, the problem comes when there are conflicts. I also think of SEAT as red, for example. Audi as silver. BMW is blue. Volvo is a funny metallic yellow. Citroen, a particular shade of light metallic blue. Can you give a brand a particular colour, and if so, how bespoke is it to that brand? Is a red Ferrari sullied by a red Alfa, and is this cheapened by a red SEAT?

Indeed, how do you give a brand colour? By history (Jaguar), by high-profile motorshow cars Volvo), by adopting a simple consistent colour that you stick to over the years (Renault)? There’s a debate. But, whatever it is, makers such as Daihatsu, Kia, Hyundai, Mazda and Skoda need to find out, if it’s as key to the brand image as Withers & Rogers says…

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