Because a brand is a set of standards maintained in the conversations of its people, story-telling is a crucial aspect in unifying the brand experience.

Postcard images from Bryce Winter portfolio

The selection of branding colors is not something to be taken lightly, for color communicates on a deeper (unconscious) level than words alone. Color is registered by the eye using a separate selection mechanism than shape (letters, for instance), and connotes emotion much faster.

Purple as a story-teller:

Purple is not generally well understood as a brand colorway–this might explain why it is one of the least used colors in branding. However, purple is a powerful communicator that directly focuses unconscious attention on the concept of story-telling.

Purple is the color of the Narrator (Theater brand). His/her promise is objectivity (getting ‘out of the way’ of the principal storyline), while adding, accenting or highlighting key points or issues to the audience.

Winners HomeSense
Winners should ‘theoretically’ go back to using purple in their imaging (old logo pictured). They work as a narrator to the overall marketplace.

My brand experience with the color purple starts in the 1990s while heading a new retail design firm in Vancouver, Canada.

We were a small but ambitious new firm, determined to make our mark. My first decision in charge of marketing was that we would place a small sticker on all our clients’ window glass–crediting our firm’s display work. The conversation then took to the form and color of the sticker. We settled on a very simple design that was a about six inches square to be positioned discreetly near the bottom outside edge of the display space. But what about color?

While I don’t remember the specific reasons we chose purple at the time (besides not conflicting with any of our clients’ brands)–I do remember the results!

Display Guy Retail Design Co.’s sales grew by an average  147% every year, year after year, for four years running. In fact, if it had not been for the dissolution of the company due to differences between the principals, I have every reason to believe it would still be growing at that rate.

Display Guy Retail Design Co.
Who knew you could a found a company based exclusively on advertising with the color purple?

What was our marketing? Frankly, the only advertising or marketing we conducted was this small purple square adhered to the windows of every client (I made sure to stipulate this in our contract, btw).

Looking back, understanding what I now know about brand alignment and colorways, I’m not surprised with our success:

Two factors go into the successful use of colors in branding.

  1. Does the color align with the unspoken promise of the brand?
  2. Do the brand’s actions align with its unspoken promise?

What is the character and unspoken promise of Purple?

Purple is the color of the Narrator (Theater brand). His/her promise is objectivity (getting ‘out of the way’ of the principal storyline), while adding, accenting or highlighting key points or issues to the audience.

Let’s take a better look this case history in the use of purple branding:

Display Guy Retail Design Co. was designed to help retailers who were looking for answers on how to merchandise and display their stores for better performance. It accomplished this through a team  of expert designers who worked together with the stores to provide a full-service solution to the perennial requirement for dynamic and changing window displays that highlighted their latest products and/or services. In other words the brand was actually positioned as a ‘brand narrator’ and did this through a unique theatrical ‘team’ of display artists. Not incidentally, the brand faltered when it no longer functioned as a ‘family’ (did not deliver the Theater Brand unspoken promise of unity).

Branding With Purple:

'Moulin Rouge' thème grad évent, Queen's University, Kingston Ontario
This image, from a ‘branded’ grad event (‘Moulin Rouge’) employs plenty of purple. What does the rich coloring in this photograph suggest to you about the mood of the party?

Purple is a special member of the Theater family of branding. Theater brands are ‘how-to’ brands that work together with an unspoken promise of unity. Purple is the color of the narrator. In classical theater, the narrator has a special purpose which is to stand ‘to the side’ of the story and help illuminate the principal plot or characters’ motivations.

If your brand has stories to tell–besides its own–then purple may be an excellent choice, so long as it also acts in concerted alignment with the unifying principles of a theater brand.

Do you agree with this use of purple? Have a purple success (or failure) story to tell?

Please share.