why the big brands fiercely protect their brand colours and what that means for you

Karen Haller 01
Karen Haller

Why the big brands fiercely protect their brand colours and what that means for you

If I asked you to name the company that uses purple to wrap their chocolates, or the maker or the red soled shoes, could you? Or the company behind the robin egg blue box? My guess is if you have come across these brands you’d know exactly who they were just by their brand colour.

What these and other major brands have been able to achieve is brand recognition simply by through colour. Imagine if your brand was instantly recognisable through colour alone.

Let’s take a look at three major brands who are instantly recognisable simply by their business brand colour and why their fiercely protect it.


The Colour of Cadbury
When we think of Cadbury, what is the colour that springs to mind? It’s none other than their ‘iconic’ purple. Cadbury applied for a trademark to use this colour, which has been in use on its packaging for more than 100 years. This was granted to them by the UK Intellectual Property Office as Pantone 2865c (limited to using the colour on its chocolate bars and chocolate drinks).

How important is this colour to their brand? Important enough for them to spend a number of years in dispute with another chocolate company who also wanted to use this colour. A spokesperson for Cadbury stated how this colour was ‘jealously guard’. This comes as no surprise given the instant brand recognition through colour alone, something which is highly coveted by major brands.


The Colour of Tiffany & Co.
You see a turquoise box and even before you see the name, you know it’s from Tiffany & Co., the world renowned New York City jewellery company.

What woman wouldn’t go slightly giddy being presented with a blue box from Tiffany, knowing there will be an exquisitely beautiful gift inside?  The classic Tiffany Blue Box® symbolises a company steeped in romance, luxury and quality.

So strong is their brand identity linked to this colour, Tiffany Blue is protected as a colour trademark by Tiffany & Co. Tiffany Blue is a private custom colour produced by Pantone®, PMS reference number 1837.  As it’s a trademarked colour, it is not publicly available and you won’t find it printed in any of the Pantone® Matching System swatch books.

No longer merely just a colour, this particular blue has made the Tiffany Blue Box® an international icon signifying the excellence of all Tiffany & Co. designs.  They have been able to do this by maintaining consistent use of colour across all their communications – boxes, shopping bags, advertising and other promotional materials.


The Colour of Louboutin
The red sole shoe has become so synonymous with the Christian Louboutin brand that you only have to see a flash of red to know it is the much coveted Louboutin. For many women, their dream, desire to own a pair.

Placing such high value on brand recognition, Louboutin took a competitor to court for copying the red sole. Christian Louboutin was quoted as saying “The shiny red colour has no function other than to identify to the public that they are mine.” >

It may only be a red sole, but Louboutin believed this “…is likely to cause and is causing confusion, mistake and deception among the relevant purchasing public as to the origin of the infringing footwear.”

Major brands regard their brand colour to be such an integral part of their branding, and they will, if necessary go to court.


The Power of Colour in a Brand
That’s the power of colour in a brand.  No logo, no words, just the right colour placement and instantly your product is internationally recognisable. What’s happening here is the language of colour, communicating directly with our feelings and emotions.

Now, the correct use of colour can increase brand recognition by up to 85%, so you can imagine the time these major brands would have spent researching the right colour to reflect their brand and product.

And what does this all equate to … SALES!!


Colour Trademarks
Not every brand can trademark their brand colour otherwise it wouldn’t be long before we would literally run out of colours. Many brands have successfully sought colour trademarks whilst others have failed. As in Cadbury’s case you would need to prove (amongst other factors) the colour/s had enough ‘distinctive character’ associated with the brand to warrant the trademark within that specific market.


What does colour do for a brand?

  • It grabs attention. Colour sends your brand’s message quicker to the brain than words or   shapes
  • Colour makes up for 80% of our buying decision
  • Colour works directly on your feelings and emotions
  • Colour differentiates your brand from your competitors.


Power of Colour
Why do major brands fiercely defend their brand colours?  It’s because they understand the power of colour. They understand

  • Colour triggers emotional buying responses
  • Colour (when used correctly) can increase brand recognition by up to 85%
  • Colour makes your brand stand out from your competitors


Colour and Your Business Brand
So how far would you go to protect your business brand colour, especially if your competitors chose to use the same colour?

Don’t think because you are a small business your business brand colours aren’t as important. If one of your competitors uses a name or a logo similar to yours, you would ask them to stop using it. It’s no different with your business brand colours.


Communicating Through Colour
As a business owner how much thought have you put into the tone and combination of colours that represent your business brand? Do you know what they are actually saying?

Surprisingly, most business owners use colour as decoration or as an afterthought.

Instead think of colour as a subliminal language, another way to communicate and to attract your ideal clients. Used to its full effect, your branding colours will give you the competitive edge, elicit the right emotional response from your prospects, and significantly increase your sales.

If you would like to know more, then grab your free copy of
7 mistakes most business owners make with their branding colours and how to avoid them.

What do your business branding colours represent?  What does it mean for your business brand identity?


Share the knowledge


  1. Annette Peppis on September 3, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I knew exactly which companies you were talking about in your first paragraph, which just goes to prove how important colour is in branding.

  2. Michael King on September 3, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Nice article, Karen. Plan to post a link to it in my next newsletter – assuming that is OK with you!

  3. Dorothy on October 1, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Before working with Karen I thought I was pretty oblivious to colour – saying something like ‘I’m sooo not visual’. After working with Karen I KNOW how important colour is….especially reading this article where I recognised the brands before Karen named them. Thx

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