Following on from my post about the colour matching and colour memory app Brandseen it seemed a good time to mention another online game testing brand recognition. Created by London based design research agency The Big Picture, Name That Brand is a fun way to test how deeply companies have embedded their logos into your psyche. Based on visual memory and to some extent Gestalt theory, for each of the ten questions, which get progressively more difficult, an enlarged fragment of a logo is presented to the viewer. The aim of the game is for players to guess the brand name of said logo, with bonus points awarded for quick responses. The logos aren’t confined to corporate multi-nationals either. They include charities, bands such as AC/DC, comic book heroes and organisations, aswell as consumer brands from across the world.
After playing a few times it became increasingly evident that I have either spent far too long looking at logos, or that marketing campaigns to increase brand awareness have worked really well on me.
The obvious difference between Brandseen and Name that Brand is the way the logos are presented. Although both games are a test of memory and recognition they approach it in very different ways. Brandseen presents the full form of the logo only requiring the viewer to recognise brandmarks that don’t include the name of the company (like Apple), allowing then to focus on identifying the correct corporate colour for the brand. However, in Name that Brand the fragments are displayed in full colour, so when presented with a segment of a logo, colour become a means of of identification, or can at least give an indication of the sector a brand operates in.
This is because certain colours have strong associations with particular sectors, silver for cars (think Mercedes, Jaguar, Aston Martin), bottle green for lager (Heineken, Grolsch, Carlsberg) and red is often associated with budget chains and petrochemicals. However this theory breaks down to a degree when you reach the colour blue. Not only is it the most popular favourite colour across the world, it is the most popular choice of corporate colour. Blue dominates in computing (Dell, IBM, Intel), consumer electronics (Panasonic, Samsung, HP, Nokia), banking (Barclay’s, Natwest, Halifax, RBS), healthcare (the NHS, Pfizer, Roche, Boots the chemist), social networking (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace). Even WordPress’ logo is blue. A great illustration of this can be seen below in an infographic which was originally published in Wired magazine and charts the logos of some of the world’s biggest and most powerful brands on the colour spectrum.
Blue has always been a corporate colour. It is safe, calming, reliable, engenders trust, people relax when looking at it and it reminds us of the vast expanses of the sea and the sky. However in terms of brand strategy that very crowded region of the spectrum indicates that for many of the world’s biggest brands their corporate colour has become near useless at generating distinctiveness and recognition in the minds of consumers. Panasonic, HP and Samsung all compete in similar product categories. Yet the average person in the street would struggle to differentiate between the three shades of blue, or identify each brand on colour alone.
The irony of it all is that corporate colours can become valuable brand assets. If the colour is distinctive and used as an integral part of the brand strategy, over time it becomes memorable and instantly recognisable as associated with that brand. There are some companies have realised the value of this like Cadbury’s, Heinz and Tiffany’s who have taken it to extreme lengths and tried to copyright or patent their colours. Legal battles have occurred between Orange and Easyjet over the colour orange, while T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom have been ridiculed online (see Free Magenta) for their heavy-handed approach towards Engadget mobile who also used magenta in their identity.
In some ways Name that Brand serves to replicate some of the ways we encounter brands in everyday life. There are many occasions where we may only catch a glimpse of a logo, or find it partially obscured. As we are more likely to remember areas of colour than details of shape or typography it is at these moments where colour can be of greatest significance in brand recognition. It can either jolt the memory or fade into a vast sea of blue.