Colour is a universally powerful form of communication. It transcends culture, language, age and discipline. It is personal, corporate, rich in symbolism and association, and relatable. It is arresting, powerful, descriptive and needs no explanation.
When it comes to brand associations, colour has played a fundamental role in consumer recognition and connection. Alongside shapes and motifs, colour is an integral component of a brand’s collection of codes. Some of the biggest names in fashion and jewellery have a colour association.
At the mere mention of Tiffany Blue®, Hermes orange, Valentino pink, Cartier red, Jacquemus blue, Selfridges yellow, Bottega green, or Ferragamo red, our mind’s eye locates the visual reference. So powerful is colour to a brand, that for April Fool’s Day 2021 – shortly after being acquired by LVMH –Tiffany announced a colour change across social media platforms, from its signature blue to canary yellow. Reaction to the stunt went viral, inspiring a temporary yellow remodel of Tiffany’s Rodeo Drive store, and presenting an opportunity to display a collection of yellow diamonds, including the nearly 130 karat Tiffany Yellow Diamond in what proved to be a clever and cool marketing venture targeted at a digitally savvy younger consumer. This colour-driven marketing opportunity was a sleek move during the pandemic, drawing people back to stores with experience central to the makeover.
Months later, during the NYFW summer season, Fendi’s resort 23 collection was centred around the 25-year anniversary of the brand’s signature baguette purse. As part of the LVMH group it was little surprise that Fendi’s iconic accessory appeared in Tiffany Blue®, marking a coming together of two globally recognised house codes.
Bottega Veneta has dabbled with the power of colour too. Under former creative director, Daniel Lee, the brand’s signature “Parakeet” green (aka Bottega Green or Bottega Veneta Green) not only dominated the seasonal offering but also transformed landmarks across the globe from the Great Wall of China to custom pop-up spaces during Ramadan in Dubai.
Jacquemus’ pop-up installation series at Selfridges in summer 2022 was aptly named ‘Le Bleu’. Inspired by water, a series of experiential installations included a walk-in shop with wall-to-wall vending machines selling blue product including the brand’s signature Chiquito and Bambino bags. A reimagining of a swimming pool changing room, complete with lockers and shower heads, and a corner shop on the ground floor interpreted as an oversized ode to the toothpaste tube and water glass all formed part of the immersive experience in ‘bleu’.
Valentino is another of the big players leveraging brand awareness through colour play. Under the creative direction of Pierpaolo Piccioli, all-pink looks rolled out across entire collections (aw22/23), installations, events, and marketing campaigns featuring the likes of Zendaya and Lewis Hamilton in head-to-toe pink, each placing the brand’s statement through colour firmly in consumer minds.
When Salvatore Ferragamo became simply Ferragamo the brand chose the colour red to signify the rebirth or reimagining. Similar to Bottega, social media handles were wiped clean and the imminent ss23 showcase was earmarked as the perfect curtain-raiser to signify a new beginning. Under the creative leadership of Maximillian Davis, the vast courtyard of the palazzo of the former Archbishop’s Seminary on Corso Venezia was covered in red – an effective backdrop to showcase his debut collection and nod to his roots given that red is the dominant colour in the Trinidadian flag.
With colour holding such power, and setting some of the buzz aside, fundamental questions come into play. What if the colour becomes a trend? When brands use the green that we associate with Bottega (and this did happen) is it a bit awkward to see Gucci items in Bottega Green? And what about trademark on colour? Just this week Louboutin lost the latest the lawsuit around the red sole trademark in Japan against a lesser known and less expensive indigenous shoe brand. Add the fact that Ferragamo claims red and so does Cartier – is there enough differential?
Personally, the more saturated the hue, the more likely you’ll get into hot water. Rather than a primary palette, shouldn’t we be looking to shades or hues to make signature brand colours more ownable. In my opinion, that’s why Tiffany blue never tires and stands the test of time. It’s a smart move.
Words: Juliet Hutton-Squire