Why big brands fiercely protect their brand colours and you should too!

Can you name the maker of the red soled shoes? Or the company who wraps their chocolates in purple? Or maybe you have received a gift in a robin egg blue box? What these and other major brands have been able to achieve is brand recognition simply through their brand 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.


When we think of Cadbury, what is the colour that springs to mind? 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.

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.

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 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.

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.  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.” #1

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

Still not convinced?

When Australia introduced plain cigarette packaging, they effectively stopped tobacco companies being able to attract their existing and potential customers by their distinctive brand colours.

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.  Having this taking away from them, their argument is this infringes international trademark and intellectual property laws. And it loses them that all important brand recognition.

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.

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

To find out more check out my other business branding colour articles.

Please note: The information in this article in no way constitutes legal advice. It is important you do your own research and seek qualified legal advice for your specific circumstances.

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Karen Haller

Karen Haller is one of the leading authorities in the field of applied colour psychology. She is an internationally renowned business colour and brand personality expert, helping clients from across the globe transform the branding image of their business. She has consulted, trained and worked on campaigns for a number of prestigious brands including 3M Post-it, Thomas Pink, Humanscale, Dulux, Orange Mobile, Logitech and The Peggy Porschen Cake Academy. Karen is regularly featured in the UK’s leading magazines, newspapers and on radio. She is a published author, consultant, tutor and speaker on the subject of colour psychology, Colour Intuition™, colour association and colour in culture. Karen Haller runs her own colour and design consultancy specialising in the science and psychology of colour and how that is applied to business branding and interiors. When it comes to the design process Karen believes it starts with understanding the authentic personality whether that is of an individual or a business, revealing the colours and design that expresses their true identity. Karen is a co-author of the leading industry book Colour design: Theories and applications, the first of its kind bringing the arts, science and applications together. Karen was commissioned to write chapter 20 - Colour in interior design, discussing the use of colour in both residential and commercial interiors. Karen speaks regularly to businesses and industry professionals on the importance of colour. She has given talks at Grand Designs LIVE on her Colour Intuition™ system and spoke at the prestigious industry Clerkenwell Design week on the importance of colour and how architects and interior designers have an incredible social responsibility with the colour choices they make. Karen is also a trustee of the Colour Group of Great Britain and on the advisory board of the charity Color Cares. Visit www.karenhaller.co.uk for your free e-book on ‘7 Mistakes Most Business Owners Make with Their Branding Colours’. You can connect with Karen by clicking on the icons below.

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