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The Business of Brand Color


By Jill Pilaroscia

When it comes to branding and business, color has the ability to communicate instantaneously without words.

Color can trigger emotions, memories, desire and recognition. A thoughtfully conceived color campaign makes any brand recognizable and memorable to its target audience.

Let's see how.

Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany Blue is arguably one of the most recognized colors in brand advertising.

Courtesy of Tiffany's 2011 Christmas ad campaign

Tiffany & Co.'s iconic (and trademarked) blue dates to 1845.

The color was selected  in 1845 by the company's founder, Charles Lewis Tiffany, for the cover of the first mail-order couture jewelry catalogue published in the United States.

Trademarked by Tiffany & Co., Tiffany Blue is a private custom color. You can find it in the Pantone system as PMS number 1837, which is the year the company was founded. The robin's-egg blue was chosen for its popularity with Victorian brides and for the turquoise-colored gemstones that were in style in the mid-19th century.

Christian Louboutin

Christian Louboutin's provocative red-soled shoes distinguish his product from those of other designers, effectively transforming every pair of seductive heels into a walking advertisement.

Courtesy Jill Pilaroscia

Photographed by Peter Lippmann as a part of Louboutin's 2011 Fall-Winter ad campaign, this scene was inspired by Francois Clouet's portrait of Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of France.

Louboutin trademarked his signature red in 1993. The color is registered as Pantone 18-1663 TPX and was recently at the center of legal proceedings between Louboutin and competitor Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) for rights to the red sole.

YSL has since dropped its lawsuit, and Louboutin has expanded the color into a line of nail polish—named, appropriately, Rouge.


Prada has a history of privilege, which is conveyed in the trademarked Prada Green introduced in 1983.

Courtesy Jill Pilaroscia

The Prada store in Nanning, China, is suffused in trademarked Prada Green.

The first Prada shop was opened in Milan in 1913 by Mario and Martino Prada. By 1919, the shop was honored as the Official Supplier to the Italian Royal Household, becoming an established brand amongst the European artistocracy.

In 1983, Prada opened a second location in Milan and introduced the pale green that would become known as Prada Green. The new store merged its traditional history with modern styles, establishing Prada as the fashion powerhouse we know today.


Thierry Hermès founded Hermès in 1837, producing high-quality harnesses and bridles for the carriages of the European nobility.

With roots in functionality, Hermès orange became the company's calling card during World War II.

Courtesy Jill Pilaroscia

Hermès' signature orange sparkled in this 2009 ad campaign by Raquel Zimmerman.

Paper products were hard to come by, and the orange color was all that was available for packaging their merchandise.

Many decades later, the iconic orange remains the company's calling card and is recognized across the globe as a symbol of quality and sophistication.

What Color is Your Brand?

We have seen color's power in branding. The caveat: Color can also be highly subjective.

Courtesy Digibuzz

Successful color campaigns balance color psychology with an understanding of the brand's target audience.

While there is evidence supporting the idea that certain colors incite specific emotional responses (for example, yellow makes people happy; blue inspires calm; red excites), these responses are subject to other undercurrents—such as personal experience and cultural associations—that affect how color is perceived.

Successful color campaigns balance color psychology with an understanding of the brand's target audience.

While colors come in and out of style, savvy color selection creates a brand image that is both identifiable and timeless. Color is smart business.


Jill Pilaroscia

“Life in Color” is co-authored by architectural color consultant Jill Pilaroscia (pictured), BFA, and creative writer Allison Serrell. Pilaroscia’s firm, Colour Studio Inc., is based in San Francisco. A fully accredited member of the International Association of Color Consultants, Pilaroscia writes and lectures widely on the art and science of color.



Tagged categories: Color; Color + Design; Colour Studio Inc.; Consultants; Designers; Business matters; Marketing; North America

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