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The colour of a brand

September 7, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I was on a train with a friend who doesn’t work in marketing, or advertising, or anything to do with a lot of what I write about on here.

She had a game on her iPhone that was connected to Facebook – which was a competition to guess as many logos as you could.  If you got stuck they’d give you a hint, but otherwise it was totally to do with images rather than words.

It got me thinking about what becomes instantly recognisable as coming from a particular brand.

It looks like I’m not the only one at the moment.

I have an interest in fashion-stuff as well – and I’ve been following Christian Louboutin’s battle with YSL about who has the right to red soles on their shoes.  And I care enough about their brand that I am glad that the judges in the case have ruled that Christian Louboutin can trademark the soles.

In fact, I’d argue that their red sole is much more memorable than the logo, which less distinctive and just (and I realise the irony of what I’m about to say) what appears to be his signature.

What surprises me is that the US court appears to have ruled that while they have the rights to distinct red soles, they can’t trademark the colour itself.

Colour is hugely important to how people recognise brands – Cadbury’s purple, Sainsbury’s orange, Boots blue – these are things that are intrinsic to their branding, and they would be a lot less recognisable without them. For example, I’d hazard a guess that 80% of the female population of the western world could tell you what this brand is from the colour alone:

I’d love to see the arguments for and against colour being trademarked, as right now I can’t fathom how Louboutin’s particular shade of red isn’t seen as a fully trade-markable asset.  I guess the relevant clause is that phrase ‘colour in context’ – but I do wonder exactly what that context has to be before it is too tenuous to be connected to the brand.

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