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The Strategic Power of Color in Branding: Lessons from Monzo's Experience

The Strategic Power of Color in Branding: Lessons from Monzo's Experience

Monzo’s ‘hot coral’ coloured bankcards are so strikingly different in the staid world of banking, that I’m sure they get some customers purely because of their cards!

It can be very powerful for a company to have a colour that is synonymous with its brand. Just think of BP’s green, Tiffany’s turquoise, Veuve Cliquot’s yellow, Cadbury’s purple, and UPS’s brown, to highlight just a few brands that have succeeded in trademarking their colours.

Trademarks are the strongest form of protection to stop copyists of visual identifiers. Hence why Monzo applied to trademark its ‘hot coral’ colour.

However, its application failed. To understand why, let’s consider why UPS succeeded in securing a trademark over its colour.

While UPS has been using its colour for a long time, longevity alone isn’t enough to succeed when it comes to trademarking a colour. What’s needed is for a business to be known and recognised through its colour alone.  

So a business that wants to own its colour needs to double down on it. Everything it does must actively strengthen the connection between its colour and its brand.

UPS has long used brown vans and driver uniforms as part of its visual identity. And the company invested heavily in its Pullman brown colouring in its marketing campaigns too. For example, it used the slogan ‘What can brown do for you’? in a series of ads.

UPS’ website and Favicon feature the recognisable brown colour too, as one would expect.  

The fact that everything UPS does accentuates its brown colouring, is the reason the public associates brown with UPS.

That’s the reason UPS succeeded while Monzo failed.

Monzo probably applied to register its colour too soon.

The company needed to try much harder to become associated in the public’s mind with its colour. Among other things, that means sacrificing on the use of other colours.

There isn’t a focus and doubling down on coral pink on its website or favicon. Instead, the company is using tricolours.

This isn’t a winning approach for a company that wants to trademark its colour. So, I suspect Monzo no longer has an ambition to own its shade of coral pink.  

Indeed, further research indicates that the company has now refreshed its visual branding by, among other things, expanding its colour palette.  So, Monzo is unlikely to ever secure a trademark for its coral pink colour.

That’s a real shame. Monzo gave up the fight too quickly and rebranded instead of investing in marketing campaigns to promote its coral pink.

It was so unusual for a bank card to be in coral pink that I am sure they would have succeeded in securing a colour mark if they had persevered instead of rebranding.

Ownership of colour is such a strong brand asset to cultivate that it’s worth the huge commitment it takes to succeed.  

What do you think?