One of the principal purposes of marketing is to differentiate your company or brand or products from those of your rivals. By doing so you hope to rise above the competition and so be recognised, and thus be better understood or appreciated and therefore more likely to be specified.
Which is why in the construction industry, where a large proportion of building materials are treated as commodities, it is important to carefully consider, along with much else, the colours you use to promote your marketing message.
By far and away the most popular colour used in corporate marketing is blue, a walk out of our office to the local shops for a sandwich revealed a row of four adjacent shops all with blue fascias (Carphone Warehouse, Thomas Cook, Cancer Research and a newsagents if you’re interested).
This reflects the prevailing belief that blue is a safe colour, a colour that will not offend. As we say in the design business, “The client always likes blue”, which is a good reason for you to avoid it, as the MDs of most of your rivals are happy with blue.
All colours come with some form of emotional baggage; we once spent considerable time trying to explain to a waste tank manufacturer that using purple for their products would help them stand out in a commoditised industry.
Every delivery would clearly be from them; every tank on every lorry would have helped to get their message across. But the MD thought it was too effeminate and, worse, was concerned that his competitors would laugh at him.
And then there is yellow. Construction yellow, Pantone 123, the colour of machinery, the colour that screams “CONSTRUCTION!”.
Lots of construction industry companies use yellow. Which is fine if you want to tell people outside of the construction industry what you do, but a little pointless if you are already in the construction industry where it will merely help you blend in with your rivals.
So if you’re in construction it might be best to avoid blue, and maybe avoid yellow; what do you do?
If you’re already using blue or yellow, don’t change it (in fact never change your brand identity unless you have a really good reason) but think about how you might differentiate yourself from your equally blue or yellow rivals.
If you are in the enviable position to be considering corporate and product colours, think about a colour that is different from your major competitors. If no solid colour is available, consider two contrasting colours. Or maybe you don’t need a specific colour at all.
At Highwire we don’t use a specific colour; all our business cards are different colours, same design but different colours; it always creates good comments at meetings. One of the advantages of the 2012 Olympic logo is that it is colour independent; it is highly distinctive yet still allows sponsors to use their corporate colour without affecting its distinctiveness.
Still, whatever colour you settle upon to be associated with your company or your products, make sure you standardise your colour wherever it is used. Slight variations in colour will subtly put people off and reduce their confidence in your products.
Not strictly construction relevant but even a small variation in the colour of food packaging reduces sales, and in marketing, whatever the industry, we are in the business of doing all we can to encourage people, not put them off.
Now don’t get me started on environmentally friendly green…
Rick Osman is a partner in Highwire, www.highwiredesign.com, a design and marketing agency that specialises in the construction industry, and one of the team that created www.hotel-standards.com as well as being a CIMCIG committee member. CIMCIG’s annual Summer Event, which will preview its latest report ‘Taking Sustainability to the Consumer’, is on June 28 at The Building Centre in London - for further details visit www.cimcig.org.