Color’s Role in Business Communications

Did you know that there is a blog entirely focused on color combinations, and that they have over two million different color palates listed? I am in awe! When I discovered this site, the first thing that I thought of was how much we take color for granted today, at least in business communications. It wasn’t that long ago that our business and home printers could only print in black and white. Just like the evolution of television sets, black and white was first, followed by color.

If you are not leveraging color to your advantage in your marketing communications, then I would propose that you are not using every available option to make your content stand out.

Some colors clearly have a connotation tied to them. Take “green” as an example … we all know what it means to be green with regards to sustainability and recycling. As a marketer, your use of green should not contradict any pre-conceived notions your target audience already has about what green means.

I have always been puzzled why so many businesses believe that “blue” is the best color to use in logos and other communications. The belief is that blue is a color that indicates being serious about your business. Maybe this is an evolution from IBM being portrayed as “big blue,” and that the largest stocks in the NYSE are considered “blue chip” companies. I have read that from a psychological perspective, the color blue connotes a feeling of warmth and strength, and can indicate confidence, reliability and responsibility. These seem all good attributes to be part of a successful business brand.

“What has brown done for you?” is one of the more memorable ad campaigns that UPS has executed upon, which was clearly focused on associating their brown trucks to their business. This was a brilliant communications program – it could not be copied, had an element of humor and reinforced their brand. In fact, the phrase was a tagline at one time. Sadly, it appears they have ventured away from that phrase to something more generic and boring. Here is a link to one of their better ads.

For those of you selling to the women’s market, “pink ” has to be one of your favorite colors. It is the international color of girls, and is quickly recognized as representative of products and services tied to this market. In some respects, “blue” is also associated to boys, at least as infants or toddlers, but, once we grow up, not so much!

For those of you who are interested, here is a link to a great color blog post that talks about all of the other psychological color connotations and meanings, which will let you gain better perspective on what non-spoken communications are tied to your choice of color.

What is important to understand is that each color has a reference point and a connotation that already exists in your target audience. As a marketer, it is our responsibility to be aware of these pre-conceived notions to be sure we leverage the right color for the right business communication.

Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

Measuring the Value of Outdoor Advertising

As a marketer, you must make many choices on not only what your primary message should be, but also on what medium is the best to communicate your vision. I just read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about a nice win that the NASDAQ just pulled off – getting Kraft Foods to drop their big board listing on the NYSE to go instead with a listing on the NASDAQ (see article here). I can only image what the lead time and typical sales cycle is for such a decision, as it is clearly more than just a simple administrative change such as switching banks. Beyond the logistics of such a change, there is clearly a message at play – Kraft wants to be seen more as a company that is closer aligned with the technology companies that now dominate the listings on NASDAQ.

Stepping aside from that whole decision process and what was involved in closing the deal, the point that got my interest was when I read about what was publicly stated as the key reason that Kraft made the swap. According to the article, it was “the prospect of cost savings and the marketing visibility afforded by NASDAQ’s landmark advertising billboard in New York’s Times Square.” Cost savings in today’s economy is certainly justifiable and reasonable. What was interesting is the reference to the billboard that NASDAQ has in Times Square, which I am sure each of you has had the chance to either see either on TV or in person.

Wow. So, what Kraft is essentially saying is that this outdoor advertising venue was the tipping point that pushed them to close the deal. A couple of questions and comments come to mind here. First, what benefit is Kraft really envisioning? Increased brand awareness? I think that pretty much everyone in the world has now heard of Kraft Foods, so that clearly can’t be the case. How about awareness of what Kraft stock can be purchased for? In today’s digital world of price tickers, I have a hard time believing that it is this type of awareness that they are talking about.

I would propose that the awareness they seek is being viewed as part of the NASDAQ’s group of more tech-heavy, startup type of companies that are more typically on that exchange versus the NYSE. But, this message simply wasn’t part of the article. Maybe NASDAQ is trying to expand their positioning to be more than just a home for tech firms, and this was a way for them to point out other reasons for making the swap? If any of you have any background info that can help explain this decision, your comments and feedback would be most welcome!

So, there you have it. The decision to pay millions (?) of dollars a year by NASDAQ’s marketing team to keep that lease or own that real estate with its prime placement in Times Square actually led to a sale, which can now be tracked directly to that investment. The next question is: “Did the marketing team put this into their ROI calculation to help justify the expense?” There probably was some sort of awareness factor, which then translated into some sort of increased branding … but, to actually get a sale as almost a direct impact from the billboard / outdoor sign? I am guessing “no.”

In concluding, first, I hope that the marketing team at NASDAQ saw the article and is now pointing it out to their executive team. Second, I am not endorsing a marketing campaign composed entirely of outdoor advertising – an integrated approach covering multiple channels and awareness media is best. Third, to those thinking that there isn’t really any value to brand advertising and that any quantifiable new sales are not really possible from such expenditures, maybe that assumption isn’t quite always the case!

Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

The Importance of Visual Communications

Visual digital communicationsI recently met with a group of marketers and public relations specialists from Europe last week. Our meeting was an excellent opportunity to look “outside in” at how I operate as a marketer. One of the lessons learned was the importance of including pictures with my marketing communications.

Now, don’t get me wrong … pictures have been a part of my communications for some time now, especially in blog posts such as this one. You can definitely increase your readership by including an image with your blog post – this has been proven by those who do research for our industry.

My “aha” moment was the level of importance that a picture can play with your communications objectives. Here are three take away points I gained from my recent trip:

  1. Today an increasing share of your readers have English as their second language; when English is your second language, not only can subtle nuances of the language be lost, but sometimes main points as well; a picture or two can really help convey your message
  2. In the “sea” of marketing communications pushed to various reporting, magazine and other online venues, our eyes quickly scan through headlines for clues to see if an article is worth reading; having a picture gives you a much greater chance of being seen by a “scanning” eyeball
  3. From a cultural perspective, other countries place an even greater emphasis on images that you might expect … beyond the benefit of simply standing out from the clutter of content we are bombarded with on a daily basis; there is a credibility perspective that is lost in some cultures (ex: German) for content that appears without an image

So the next time you are writing a press release, white paper or business plan, and you are focused on ensuring your message and communications objectives are covered, take a few extra moments to consider what image can support these objectives to actually increase the likelihood that your content is first found so it can actually be read.

Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.