I am seeing companies become more and more versatile in their use of branding tools - sensory stimuli to make or build brand recognition and loyalty. Brands are getting smarter at connecting with their customers by using branding tools to create experiences that are more in-tune with lifestyle than ever before. Tone of voice, scent, sound and typography to name a few.
One such tool is what Brand builders call colour ownership. What does colour ownership mean? Well, if I was to say to you, name me a brand that is red, you would probably answer Emirates, or Coca Cola. If I was to say name me a brand that is Green, you may say Dubai Islamic Bank, Black and White may be Chanel. Brands invest millions of dollars in building this kind of brand awareness.
So why would businesses like SouthWest Airlines, Emirates Islamic, or Majid Al Futtaim, suddenly decide to change direction in their branding, change their colour palette and relaunch their brand when they have invested millions of dollars in creating, and attempting to own a colour?
To answer this question, we have to look at the business itself. Why did SouthWest, who had previously not changed their brand mark since 2001, do away with their traditional orange colour in favour of a multi-coloured, predominantly blue brand? The change came about through a change in business strategy - or at the very least an evolution. SouthWest became international, the design celebrates the end of an agreement limiting the company from flying to a hand full or states close to it's base at 'Love Field'. To mark this change, the brand went through what we call a refresh. The result, a bold statement to the world that SouthWest are here and open for business. The re-brand has been a huge success. A passionate workforce viewed the unveiling and customers have given it a resounding thumbs up. But remember, colour is only one tool in creating a powerful brand experience. Fine tuning colour in this case has had a dramatic and positive impact on the brand.
What does this mean for SouthWest? The organisation is over 45 years old, yet looking at the brand, one would never guess that. It is young, fresh and appealing to the millions of young connected travellers who step on board every year. By updating it's brand, part of which includes it's corporate colours, SouthWest has not only reinvigorated its staff by engaging them behind a brand that is seen to be going places, it has become a meaningful, loyal lifestyle choice for those who use it.
As I mentioned, we have seen changes in the Middle East too. Emirates Islamic Bank not only changed the way it's brand looks, but also changed it's name. In an over banked market like UAE, it is important for businesses to differentiate themselves. Banks traditionally are blue in colour, blue representing formality, trustworthiness and such like. However, the world of banking is changing, digital services are playing an increasing role in service experience, gone are the days of bank tellers and men in bowler hats serving customers. So, as with SouthWest Airlines, a change in business strategy requires a change in communication and the predominant channel of communication is brand. Emirates Islamic as it is now known went from being a blue bank, to being a purple bank. The management team have chosen a colour that they can 'own', it is a young and vibrant colour that has cultural and social relevancy in the Middle East. It will be interesting to see how this brand and business evolves over the coming months and if the combination of purple and white, along with other innovations in brand and service will help the bank to vault the competition.
Majid Al Futtaim recently re-launched their brand, rebranding their assets as they did so. Again, a change in strategy has driven the organisation to launch a vibrant living brand that cannot be missed around the Middle East.
When I am asked what are the hot colours for this year, I struggle to answer that question as colour choice very much depends on the market the business is striving for, who the players in that market are and what the businesses other goals are (attract young customers for example). Needless to say, I am seeing a multitude of brands move towards being multi-coloured (SouthWest Airlines), I am seeing brands use their mark as a canvas for some form of graphic representation (google, Majid Al Futtaim) to appeal to different market segments or geographies, in banking I am seeing more experimentation with colour and experience as evolving business strategies lead banks towards becoming retailers and finally, I am seeing more experimentation with bright secondary colours, for example in lighting (Emirates).
In summary, as we see businesses focussing more and more on new channels of communication and as we see businesses evolve to appeal to new, younger customers, we will see brand builders investing greater effort in creating powerful, engaging and relevant experiences with strong recall. Colour is a primary tool in doing this. Expect a vibrant and colourful future.