When it comes to setting the right tone for consumers in an experiential space, there may be no more powerful design tool than a splash of color. Color can create a mood, send a message and convey a sense of your brand’s intrinsic qualities. The trouble is, most corporate color palettes are quite limited, and frequently misrepresented.
Take Yahoo! for example, which recently registered its signature purple with the Pantone Matching System to make sure everyone who works on its marketing campaigns uses the correct color. Working on Yahoo! programs requires an event marketer to be sensitive to its eye-grabbing purple, while making sure that the experiences don’t appear as if Barney the dinosaur picked out the furniture.
New York City-based e2 Marketing, which handled Yahoo!’s Winter Olympic Games activation in Vancouver, among several other programs, has managed to pepper the purple throughout each experience tastefully. In some cases, the team does things like taking items traditionally one color, such as a red fire hydrant, and making it purple. Or, they make the food and cocktails served at an event purple. They have even customized wallpaper in the bold color.
“Unless you’re going the all-white route, it’s a definite no-no to eliminate a brand’s color altogether,” says Corrin Arasa, president at e2. “What we do is use pops of color. A lot of times with Yahoo!, we use pops of purple as a signature element that draws consumers’ attention to it. You have to strike that balance. You always need to include that brand’s colors, but you should feel free to explore complementary colors that are in season to evoke the mood that you want to create in your experience. It’s important to highlight what the brand’s color is, but if you fall into the trap of always doing the same color scheme for every experience things can start to feel dated.”
Some event marketers are fortunate that the colors in season align with the colors in their brand’s palette. In that case, Arasa suggests really playing up the brand’s colors at events that year. One of this year’s hip colors according to Pantone’s 2011 spring forecast report is Coral Rose, which can do wonders for brands that have that hue as part of their logo. Yo, ING—it’s time to go wild!
In other cases, picking a bold color for an experiential program is a core part of the strategy rather than a mood device. When Tillamook took its cheddar cheese sampling tour on the road in 2010, it played up the vibrant orange hue of its cheddar by creating a fleet of four custom-built VW buses reminiscent of its cheese loaf, and complemented the orange with the royal blue from its logo.
“The tour was going into market without much notification to consumers ahead of time, so we wanted something that was really eye-catching and we played with the brand’s color palette and used their blue and orange, which are so striking you can’t miss it,” says Katja Asaro, managing director at Portland, OR-based Henry V, which handles the program. Like Yahoo!, Tillamook turned to Pantone to make sure the colors they used were universal. They didn’t register Tillamook-specific colors with Pantone, but added the color resource’s existing colors into their corporate brand guidelines.
“Because Pantone is so universally used you stand a chance of being able to communicate more easily if you have a client across the country or the world and you say ‘The color I want to use is Pantone 1234,’ for example. If they have a Pantone book they can readily look it up and know exactly what color you’re thinking of doing,” says Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute and an independent color consultant (colorexpert.com).
Though there are other color resources to turn to, Pantone is the go-to for designers, decorators, graphic designers, event marketers and other professionals that work with color. “From an experiential design and a marketing standpoint, Pantone is the de facto people use. The Pantone swatch book is a must-have piece for any event marketer, or anyone who is visually oriented,” says Arasa. “What I think they’re doing a really good job of, as well, is their annual forecasting of colors. Their predictions of colors are generally right on.” Arasa is especially excited about this year’s Beeswax, Russet and Regatta selections. “The three combined can provide a great color palette to create an event that is a bit more luxurious and upscale.” The question is: how will they match up with Yahoo! purple? EM