The Color of Technology Marketing

technology_marketing_brand_colorsLast week, I was watching highlights of a college football game at Boise State. For those of you who don’t know, Boise State plays on a field of blue turf with orange end zones. And the thought crossed my mind, THERE’S an organization that’s committed to its brand. So, what technology teams make such a similar brand defense?

Owning a brand color
Color is clearly one of the most basic elements in any visual branding strategy. Color evokes psychological and even physiological reactions. It reflects things about your company and products in a powerful, unconscious way. Increasingly, technology marketers look to leverage color more fully as a way to create distinction and reaffirm identity amidst an often-homogeneous marketplace.

Color, like a good logo or tagline, enables immediate recognition and lets a marketing message rise to the top of a sea of competitive communication. Yes, the follow-on offer needs to be compelling, relevant and credible, but getting out of the gates quickly with the help of a unified application of color can give you a great head start. But there are only so many colors out there, right? So which technology companies lead the pack in aligning to a memorable color palette?

Technology companies that show their true colors
In the consumer space, I look at Target as a shining example of dominating a color. They’re actually firing on multiple cylinders where their name already triggers an intuitive response. (If they tried to feature green as their brand color, there would be a dissonance that would never feel right.) But beyond the expected use of red in their logo, their commercials, print ads, uniforms and in-store merchandising SCREAM red. There’s absolute certainty when a Target ad comes on TV, and that’s a massive marketing asset.

So who in technology attempts to follow suit?

  • IBM. Certainly, “Big Blue” has stood as a beacon of color ownership in the tech space for decades, where the very color has become synonymous with the organization. O&M’s brilliant, regenerative TV work for them features blue letterboxing as a nod to that color heritage. The past few years have seen, in my opinion, more of a divergence from the blue palette in favor of shiny black. Not sure why. Perhaps IBM is confident enough in their color legacy that they feel like they can explore other colors. But I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  • Best Buy. (We’ll consider this in the tech space for our conversation.) Best Buy also pushes blue to the forefront. While yellow and black dominate their logo, blue is, by far, what Best Buy is associated with. When it pervades your culture to the point of calling your employees “blue shirts” and your internal social network “BlueShirtNation”, you know there’s a strong recognition there.
  • Symantec. Symantec has been absolutely zealous in its use of yellow for years now. Stemming from its long-time use on Norton packaging, yellow now pervades every public-facing component of its marketing effort. While yellow can be a trying color to work with (Symantec really uses more of a gold), use of a strong contrasting black makes for a strikingly recognizable palette.
  • Verizon. Many tech companies employ red successfully in their brand strategies. Xerox, Oracle, Red Hat, Toshiba. Verizon’s really been doing a great job of using it throughout all communications in a consistent fashion. Used in tandem with black, it proved to be extremely effective in ruling a space full of strong competitive brand colors (T-Mobile’s pink, Cingular/AT&T’s orange)

Take the technology brand color quiz
So, the ultimate test of how effective color is in building brand recognition is to ask customers. YOU. Here’s a list of technology companies who have employed color to some extent. Some a more casual use via logo and web site, some more broadly through packaging and national campaigns. What colors come to mind when you think of these companies?

  • Adobe
  • AMD
  • Yahoo!
  • Intel
  • Vonage
  • HP
  • Apple
  • Dell
  • Microsoft
  • Nokia
  • Kodak
  • Cisco
  • Google

Think of any other technology companies that demonstrate exemplary use of a brand color strategy? I welcome your colorful comments.

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