The Branded Spectrum

12 Feb

Branded Spectrum: Orange

By Jason Allen:

What's up with orange? Of all the colours, it's one of the least popular when it comes to logos. Why is that? Why the bad rap for this gorgeous sunny colour? Adjectives about orange that might come to mind are likely ones related to warmth or fun – energy, spirit, youth – all great qualities we want in our lives, but not necessarily for the companies we patronize. When I was researching this piece, these qualities above were the ones I thought would arise again and again in logos. I was surprised however, to discover that orange is really all over the place.


One association of the colour that surprised me was its tie to masculine brands. I don't think of orange as a particularly manly colour, and yet several brands that are largely marketed to men have selected orange as their primary colour.


Brands using orange


Home Depot is one of the most famous orange logos. Its visual implies a hands-on, do-it-yourself practical world of lumber and tools. Think also of Black and Decker and Stihl, the power tool manufacturers. The orange in these identities speak to men in a way that yellow or red might not be able to. Orange lends colour to a brand without having to be pretty. Harley-Davidson is another identity that heavily uses orange and black together, as does UK lawn mower company, Flymo and JBL – the manufacturer of stereo speakers. With these brands, orange is about force, power and strength. Even some of the softer men's brands like L'Oreal men's skincare and Gillette razors look to orange for marketing purposes – more orange action for men. And there it is – the word that I think sums up a lot about orange. Action. It even bears italics.


Brands using orange


Look across a selection of logos that employ orange and nearly all of them imply action of some sort. Nickelodeon. Payless Shoes. Hooters. Courier companies, FedEx and TNT. Budget rentals. What's going on here? These brands are from several categories and yet they all rely on either action, speed or cost-efficiency of some kind. This is what orange does. It doesn't get relegated to one category at all, but rather goes across different ones to invoke a common purpose of energy and action.


Brands using orange


Also, when orange works, it works well. Because the colour is so memorable and distinctive, orange has the capacity to build serious brand equity – something that so few colours alone can seldom do. Orange invokes definite reactions in people, good or bad, and companies take notice. When ING Bank recently sold its Canadian consumer branch a condition of sale was that the new iteration had to take on a new brand altogether, with a different name and identity. New owner Scotiabank opted to continue with the equity that ING orange had instilled in the brand. They even doubled down and embraced the colour with the name Tangerine. Imagine – orange as an established brand colour in the category of finance (read more about bank logo's here). This wouldn't be a point to make if the brand colour had been blue or green.


This is what orange does in visual identities. It inspires action and provokes reaction, for good or for bad. It's a great adapter in the spectrum, fitting into more categories than you might expect. Its expected qualities of playfulness and youth are strangely complemented by strength and persuasiveness, and I think orange will continue to surprise us by appearing where we least expect it.


Other orange logos include: Blogger, Science Channel, Penguin Books, Fanta, Gulf Oil, Little Caesar's, Timberland, Orange, Amazon, easyJet, GlaxoSmithKline and Buck Commander.


Jason Allen is a Toronto based copywriter. More by Jason Allen in the Branded Spectrum series.


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Color Objects encourages you to get a better eye and appreciation for colors and characters. To get a special selection of pics and info for you, we find designers and artists that make colorful work from all over the world. There's a lot of character in colors, and having a closer look will change your view of the world and people around you. So we share a host of pics and info from design, art, cultures and the natural world. All about colors.

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