Branding is as much a science as it is an art. The video above is an overview of part of the branding process at Saltwater: determining a brand’s color opportunity. There’s much more to determining a brand’s color palette than picking colors that work well together. There’s strategy involved in finding the color gaps in a market, psychology behind how people respond to certain colors, and creativity in building a way to own a brand’s chosen colors.
Below, members of our creative team discuss brands that leverage their colors well and others that don’t.
Which brands use their brand colors most effectively or creatively?
Diane LaPorte, Creative Director: Some of my favorites are the Tour de France, Target, John Deere, Tiffany Co., and Chanel, since absence of “color” can be more powerful
Dunkin’ is a good example. I’m not a fan of the colors, but you definitely recognize the brand.
Kristin Burke, Designer: Google. They do an excellent job owning their four main colors. They use all three primary colors (red, yellow, blue), with the addition of one secondary color, green. No matter what the application, whether it’s a department logo, application, platform, they use these four colors as a mix within their sub brands so viewers can immediately identify them as part of the Google family.
Kyle Mooers, Sr. Art Director: Coca-Cola, Ferrari, FedEx. Coca Cola and Ferrari are synonymous with the color red.
Jen Rygiel, Sr. Art Director: Coca Cola and Target. Also, Apple & Nike both use a colorless brand with great success.
What is a brand that could stand out more if it used a different color?
DL: Just about any insurance company. Also, Holiday Inn. In the mid-range hotel market, logos run the full spectrum of colors, so it’s not so much that Holiday Inn would stand out more as it would greatly benefit from having a slightly more upscale corporate color that better reflected the level of their accommodations.
KB: Speedway, the gas stations chain. They utilize the color red, which makes them invisible next to their larger competitors like Citgo, Texaco, Mobile, Chevron and Shell, who also use red. The only gas station competitor of theirs that doesn’t use red is BP (green and yellow). However, Speedway may have a chance to rise above their competitors as they were just purchased by 7-Eleven, the top convenience store operator in Japan. Whether the Speedway name stays or 7-Eleven decides to bring gas services under their belt, is yet to be determined. If the name stays, it would be nice to see some renewed branding efforts from their new owners. Article here.
KM: It’s a tough question because not all brands rely on 1-2 colors. Technically any brand could stand out more by switching colors—if Coca-Cola was pink tomorrow I think that would be highly noticed.
What is one thing brands should do more of when it comes to brand colors?
JR: I think consistency is most important. If a brand wants to depend on one color, then they need to stick to that color. Even if a brand wants to be colorless, then truly make it colorless and make sure one color doesn’t out-weigh the others because that focus color will become the brand color in the mind of the consumer.
DL: Brands should look at things in a slightly different way. An example of this is IndiGo, an Indian airline. Not only a clever name, their logo color is indigo (yes, the color is spelled the same as the name of the company). Even though it falls into the established “blue” category symbolizing the usual: air, sky, trust, safety (which you definitely want in an airline), it’s the twist of the name of the airline and the choice of color that makes this brand effort stand out creatively. It is one logo that actually made me step back and say “Wow, someone actually did some serious thinking here”, and a big part of that is the color.
KB: Brands should ideally stick to their brand guidelines and color palettes. Once that is established, then they can choose to evolve their brand colors and guidelines from there. If they do a complete overhaul then they risk killing their brand’s recognition. The last statement depends on the size of the brand. If you are small, stick with your colors and guidelines. If you’re big, like New Balance, go ahead and venture beyond your color palette, because your logo speaks for itself, no matter what colors you choose.
What is your favorite part of determining a brand’s color palette?
KM: Uncovering the story that gives reason to the specific color(s) used.
DL: Getting immersed in researching the company and its competitors and seeing where that leads, then developing a personality for the brand based on color. For me, watching how a color palette emerges and ties the brand together is one of the most satisfying parts of a branding effort.
JR: I love when there is a true meaning behind the color palette chosen for a brand to make it have a story.
The livestream for Paul McCartney’s secret concert begins with a close-up on Paul. His face is contemplative as he playfully tests the acoustics of the room, clapping a few times and calling out “oh-oh.” He pauses, then sings two words: “Hey Jude…”
Off-camera, the crowd responds: “… Don’t make it bad.”
Paul smiles, and nods. “Very good.” The crowd erupts into applause as he grabs his guitar and kicks off the concert with the opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Over the course of the evening, Paul plays 26 songs in just under two hours, drawing from his career of 50+ years as a member of the Beatles, Wings, and as a solo artist. By any standard, the concert was incredible, but the audience did more than just experience a concert.
Whether they realize it or not, they also participated in an exciting, memorable experiential marketing campaign—one that communicated to them, and all of us, Paul’s brand identity.
BRANDING THROUGH EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING
Experiential marketing is emotional and memorable. It makes an impression, can generate a lot of buzz, and lends itself particularly well to fostering brand relationships with audiences.
But it’s often confused with event marketing. The misconception is understandable, especially when the “experience” happens to be an event. But the key difference is communication. Event marketing is one-directional, with brands speaking to audiences, and audiences passively listening. In contrast, experiential marketing is interactive branding, with communication going both ways—allowing audience members to contribute to the experience and build unique relationships with the brand.
That’s the kind of experience Paul was hinting at when he started mentioning in interviews an upcoming “secret concert”—one that would occur Friday, Sept. 7, somewhere in New York City, to celebrate the release of his new album, Egypt Station (which is a pretty good album, by the way).
The buzz, of course, was huge. A secret Paul McCartney concert in NYC? Fans and media outlets were abuzz, and people throughout the city tried winning tickets by following Paul on social media and entering the concert code into their Lyft apps.
By Friday, about 200 winners were selected, and that evening, they were brought by Lyft to the surprise venue: Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Station. There they participated in the McCartney experience of a lifetime.
THE CONCERT: AN INTIMATE, INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE
The venue itself was intimate, with just 200 audience members and a handful of celebrities mixed into the crowd. The effect, I’m sure, was surreal for attendees, to be standing on equal footing with Meryl Streep, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Jimmy Fallon, and Jon Bon Jovi, everyone there gathered to see one man: Paul McCartney.
Paul himself was charming and accessible. The stage was low, and people were close enough to potentially reach out and touch him. He sang with surprising vigor, especially considering his age, and he bantered with the audience, told stories about the Beatles, discussed song inspirations, and had the crowd sing and dance. While many musicians do the same at concerts, the effect was entirely different with someone as iconic as Paul McCartney in such a small, intimate venue.
Throughout the night, Paul directly connected with individuals in the audience. For example, at one point, he prefaced a song by explaining it was about bullying. He asked if anyone in the crowd had ever been bullied, and a few people responded. Paul asked two women to come onstage and share their stories—the first bullied for being uncool in high school, and the other, ironically enough, bullied for being a Beatles fan.
The moment was emotional and reaffirming, but it became candidly humorous as Paul asked for the names of the bullies. The crowd went “oooh!” and laughed, and Paul playfully called the bullies out before beginning the song and inviting the women to stay onstage to dance.
The connections didn’t stop there. Later in the show, Paul asked if it was anyone’s birthday. Toward the front, someone shouted and held up an ID. Paul laughed and said, “Why are you holding your thing up?”
“To prove it!” the man responded.
Paul took the ID and said, “Oh wait a minute… This is a false identification card! Come on, man. Cops! Come on, get him.” Everyone laughed, Paul returned the card, and he said, “Okay man, this is for you. This song is for you, and for anyone else in the audience who’s got a birthday sometime this year.” He then broke into “Birthday.”
Paul also worked to immerse the crowd in the experience, both musically and aesthetically. Early on in the show, during “Letting Go,” he sent his trombone, trumpet, and saxophone players into the middle of the crowd to play. Later, when he sang “Let it Be,” the lights were dimmed, and the crowd was given electric candles and lanterns to illuminate the darkness.
“I’m coming amongst you,” Paul said at one point, grabbing his acoustic guitar and walking out through the crowd. He shook hands and made eye contact with fans as he made his way to a slightly elevated platform at the center of the crowd. From there, he sang “Blackbird,” projecting notes of authenticity and even vulnerability as he fumbled a few lyrics.
Throughout the concert, Paul fostered this atmosphere and its interactions to create a unique experience, but also to communicate to the crowd who he is and what he represents. He’s a legend, but down-to-Earth. He’s one of the most successful musicians in the world, and yet he cares about his fans and their lives. He loves to have a good time.
On Friday night, he built this brand identity with 200 individuals, but also broadcasted it to the world over YouTube Live—a particularly important move as he tries to make himself known to younger audiences who didn’t grow up listening to his music.
The result? An unforgettable experience for the crowd, with many having had a unique interaction with Paul. And for those of us watching at home, while we weren’t physically there, Paul’s brand message came through loud and clear.
WHAT OTHER BRANDS CAN LEARN FROM PAUL
When someone as famous as Paul McCartney executes an experiential marketing campaign, the results are inevitably going to be huge. But Paul made a lot of smart moves during this concert, and while only larger brands will be capable of replicating his scale, the following guidelines will apply to any effort you make to build brand identity design through an experiential marketing campaign:
Make it interactive. The big difference, again, between a normal event and an experiential one is communication. You need to design your experience so that it’s not just your brand talking to the audience, but your audience talking back and shaping the messaging. Paul did so by conversing with the crowd, bringing them onstage, having them sing and dance along, and entering the crowd to sing among them. Whatever your campaign, you should strive to move your audience away from passivity and into active participation.
Make it emotional. Emotion is perhaps the most important element of experiential marketing. It’s what makes the experience memorable, and it’s the foundation of the brand relationships you form. Paul made the concert range in emotion from touching to joyful by making himself intimately available, telling candid stories about his decades-long career, and asking audience members to share stories of their own. If you’re planning an experiential marketing campaign, be sure to identify which emotions your brand wants to bring out in people and tailor the experience to do so.
Spread the word. In the days leading up to your experience, alert the press so they can be there to cover the story; and as long as it isn’t meant to be a surprise, be sure to drum up excitement within your audience to boost attendance. Paul did so via interviews and social media, and the result was extensive media and fan attention leading up to (and after) the performance.
Create shareable content. Experiential marketing can project your message far and wide, but you’ll need to facilitate that through shareable content. That can include, among other things, social media posts and video clips from the event. Paul livestreamed the concert on YouTube with a shareable link, but even after the concert, he posted smaller, more digestible clips of him performing each song. You can take the same approach with video and social media, so long as you tailor it to your specific experience and audience.
Drive traffic to key channels. The end-goal of experiential marketing campaigns isn’t to sell products (although it can boost sales), but to build brand relationships and disseminate that messaging across audiences. Part of that can, and should, involve boosting your presence on key platforms. Paul, for example, incentivized fans to follow him on social media with the chance to win tickets to the concert. He also drove traffic to his YouTube channel by posting the livestream recordings, which in turn gave more exposure to the Egypt Station music video he released days later. While planning your campaign, be sure to identify the channels you want to boost, so you can effectively direct your audience there.
With those guidelines, I leave you now with Paul’s secret concert at Grand Central Station, so you can watch him in action yourself. The concert begins with a nod to “Hey Jude,” and ends with the final three songs from Abbey Road—the last album the Beatles recorded together (for you Beatlemaniacs out there). So kick back, hit play, and enjoy getting to know Paul.
Three major brands are in the midst of brand rehabilitation campaigns: Facebook, Uber, and Wells Fargo. Each is cleaning up the mess after scandals rocked their organizations. After Fake News & data impropriety, toxic work culture & sexual harassment, and rampant fraud, we have just one question left about these brands as they pick themselves up from the mat: who is doing it best?
It brings Facebook back to its roots. Any Facebook user who was on the platform in the early days is nostalgic for “how things used to be” and the idea that Facebook itself will lead the charge, to whatever degree, of bringing us back to the halcyon days is effective. (But don’t hold your breath.)
Facebook doesn’t take responsibility for the recent problems that promoted the need to repair their image. They position these issues as problems or bugs that just popped up, rather than as an outcome of Zuck’s unofficial mantra, “Move fast and break things.”
Overall, the “Here Together” campaign relies on nostalgia to remind users why they liked the service in the first place, and to show that the company understands that and is working to recreate that.
With a new CEO in Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber has a real occasion to roll out these ads. They’ve already done something tangible to remedy the problems that plagued the company under founder Travis Kalanick.
Uber is all grown up. Khosrowshahi wears a suit through most of the ad, and makes a series of corporate-y sounding promises that are a stark contrast from the usual messaging you hear from the leading players in the sharing economy. This isn’t a major negative, but will be interesting to follow Uber’s adoption rates if it goes corporate in response to it’s problems and Lyft stays fun, friendly, and informal.
The “Moving Forward” idea makes a clear departure from Uber’s past, and shows users that they are a new, more accountable, more responsible company.
An honest and transparent ad that does what both Facebook and Uber tried to do: remind people of who their company was early on, and be accountable for recent transgressions while turning the page on them.
Not too much. This is a great ad. Except…
The same week the ad rolled out, another scandal hit Wells Fargo after employees improperly altered documents about corporate customers. Their CMO, Jamie Moldafsky, came out and said that the internally-identified infraction was a great example of the new culture of trust and accountability that the ad illustrates. However, it’s an even better example of the fact that an ad campaign can’t reset an entire company culture. They’ve still got some work to do before they can live up to the campaign’s tagline: “Established 1852. Reestablished 2018.”
What do you think? Which company is running the best brand rehabilitation campaign?