March 31, 2014

Powerful in Pink

What do T-Mobile, Barbie, Evian, Dunkin Donuts, Victoria’s Secret, and LG have in common?

They all share a highly visible aspect of their brand identity: PINK is predominant in each of their brand identities. The once “female only” color has found its way into the marketing mainstream of brand communications and consumer spending power.

Pink Tech
In the hands of an expert, pink can be a strategic brand weapon. It is an undeniably effective differentiator, as in the case of brands like T-Mobile, Orkut, and Odeo. Each use typeface, graphic elements, and secondary colors to influence and enhance the shade of pink in their corporate identities.

Orkut, a Google social networking platform, has become one of the most visited sites in emerging economies like India and Brazil. The brand competes with Facebook, MySpace, and perhaps most directly with Ning. But, in the jam-packed marketplace of social media brands, it stands out from the crowd immediately simply by its distinctive color.

Nonprofit Pink
If it’s pink, it must be affiliated with breast cancer research. The National Breast Cancer Foundation, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation are three of the larger organizations whose brand is all pink all the time.

Some analysts credit these three nonprofit powerhouses with taking pink out of the little girl’s toy aisle and making it cool to be pink across genders, among industries, and throughout the entire world by linking it so firmly to a cause that spans boundaries of all kinds.

This massively effective branding coup readily spilled into other brands, with organizations ranging from breakfast cereals to athletic teams re-branding themselves once a year to join the fight against breast cancer and boost their brand profile with both the cause and the eye-catching color.

Academically Pink
Again, a true differentiator, pink is and was adopted by colleges and universities going back to the 19th century -some of which might surprise you.

For example, the official school colors of the University of North Dakota are green and pink, representative of North Dakota’s state flower, the Wild Prairie Rose.

Penn State’s original school colors, unanimously selected by the student body back in 1887, were dark pink and black. Students were disappointed, however, when the pink dye used in that time period, quickly faded to white, leaving the student body decked out in generic black and white. Eventually they voted again; this time to replace the black with blue – but keeping the white.

In 1872, Syracuse University’s first colors were “pink and pea green,” but a year later became “rose pink and azure blue.” Orange was adopted some time later largely because no other school was using it, (and triggered by the derisive jeering of the school’s athletic rivals).

In 2013, Oregon State’s Ducks worked with Nike to create and promote limited edition football helmets, socks and cleats that were auctioned off after a key game to benefit – you guessed it – cancer research.

Power Branding with Pink
Branders have discovered the versatility of pink. It’s a color capable of conveying the sense of lightness and delicacy as well as power and promise. Brighten up the saturation level and what was once demure is now daring. It is also a color that translates well cross-media and cross-channel. Regardless of market or sector – educational, technology, consumer – pink has achieved relevance as one of the key power colors in branding.

New England’s own Dunkin’ Donuts is a great example of better branding with pink. From 1956 to 1960 the company’s logo was a pastry person overlaid with a coffee cup. Then, from 1960 to 1976 the company drastically changed its logo and adopted the striking dark pink we know today. In 1976, the company added orange and a coffee cup.

The Pink UX
Vibrant shades of pink have the ability to catch and hold the eye. This is a significant and predictable advantage in branding. A timely example is San Francisco’s ride sharing venture, Lyft.

Using a whimsical, counter-intuitive brand design tactic, Lyft distinguishes its ride-sharing cars from the usual traffic by securing three-foot, fuzzy, pink mustaches on the grill of participating vehicles. This design device not only captures the attention of anyone in visual range, but imprints the now-famous Pink Mustaches firmly on the memories of customers and onlookers alike throughout the region.

This is not a women-only service. The Pink Mustache is equally popular and effective regardless of gender.

Global Pink
In the U.S. and many western cultures, pink is traditionally associated with the female market, it’s also connotes  gender-neutral qualities like youthfulness, sensuality, exuberance and joie de’vivre.

On a global scale, pink carries different meaning from country to country and region to region.

– The Chinese were first introduced to pink by Western traders and missionaries.  The Chinese name for pink at one time even meant “Foreign Color,” but is now more commonly translated to “Power Red.”
– The color pink has a masculine association in Japan, where the celebrated blooming of pink-blossomed cherry trees represents the Japanese Samurai who died in battle in the “flower of their youth,” so to speak.
– India associates pink with hospitality. India’s Jaipur City is also known as “The Pink City” was nicknamed for both its welcoming tradition and the distinctive pink stone used to build so many of its major structures.

The color can also engender different reactions based on its intensity and the context in which it appears. Low intensity or saturation levels (e.g., pale pink, ballet pink) have been found to quiet the mind and have a calming effect on people. This has been so effective, that some law enforcement agencies and corrections facilities have painted their holding cells pale pink and adopted light pink uniforms for inmates.

Physiologically, lighter shades of pink have been used in diet therapy for both its soothing qualities as well as its ability to suppress appetite. But kick the saturation level up to fuschia and magenta, and the effect becomes energizing, exudes confidence, and stimulates action.

Pink Is NOT the new black – in many ways it’s better. It’s not just for doll clothes, lingerie or Valentine’s Day cards any more. And, best of all, we’re leaving “pink is for girls” in the past. Where it belongs.

What other dominant pink brands have we missed? Is the day fast approaching that when a baby boy is born, he will receive a pink balloon?

For more on Pink and Brands, check out these online resources:

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