Boost it With Blue
by Mark Woodman, CMG
Blue—timeless, familiar, and easy, is a hue that always seems to top “favorites” lists. In both the 1993 and 2000 Crayola Color Census, blue was voted the most popular crayon color. Crayola recently released a crayon based on a value of blue inspired by a new pigment discovered by scientists at Oregon State University. A “name that color” contest received 90,000 passionate entries.
Yes, Blue is a Favorite
Interestingly, the connotations of blue being true and trustworthy still ring spot on for most consumers. Blue is a “go-to” for fashion, home, and soon, cars. It is anticipated to be a hot car color within the next couple of years.
There are as many variations of blue-hued paints as there are customers who will put them on their homes and walls. From sky blue to navy blue, you can find something for practically anywhere you want to apply a brush stroke. As we navigate stressful times, blue has become even more important as a color of harmony and honesty. Blue is our color-friend.
With all that is in its favor, does it ever go wrong? Well, yes, and while that’s often in the eye of the beholder, when it does go awry, gray is usually the culprit. Very grey blues often appear too cool and a little depressing, and they generally don’t create a space enhanced with joyous color. Even blue-undertoned whites should be used with caution.
Embrace the Dark Side
Something of note emerged during some recent research: the darker the value of blue, the more authority it commands. Think about when you see navy blue military and airline uniforms, or the head of the country club holding court in a navy blazer. In addition, the best tuxedo color is midnight navy, not black, as it photographs better on almost all complexions. That’s a fairly powerful attribute for a color! To that end, almost anyone can use it to offer a more stable visual note. From store uniforms to branding (lots of blue at banks) to interiors, dark blue is a good way to connote confidence.
You’d think any dark color would do that, but no, dark blue comes out the winner. It’s not as heavy as black (funereal), not as regal as plum (too grand), as plain as brown (dirt), nor as seemingly uncomfortable as maroon (dried blood?). That’s not to say all of those colors aren’t incredible in their own right, just that dark blue commands a different respect.
Pay close attention when someone asks for blue. Aside from creating a specific color for a design scheme, have customers look at slightly bright hues. Then, try using a slightly darker value of the color. The depth will help balance the stronger chroma and can offer you a good mid-point.
The Blue and the Gray
Of course, gray-blue is not a bad thing; it simply has to be used with care. In general, blue is a tough exterior color. Buildings, inherently part of the landscape, rise up as an integral part of the earth, and toned, earthy colors often create a sense of place. Blue tends to be horizontal in nature: the water below or the sky above, and it feels slightly off when painting a house or high-rise.
This is where that gray undertone comes in handy. Think of a blue that has been beaten by coastal weather—rain, wind, and sun all softening it and making it easy on the eye, sort of a “driftblue” hue. It feels far more part of the earth and is easier to translate to an exterior surface.
In trend arenas, we have watched blue for a number of years—it’s been very powerful in its influence on forecast stories. It has hit the “color of the year” spot numerous times, including twice at Color Marketing Group. One discussion point has been the ubiquity of denim worldwide, crossing gender, generational, and economic lines. Blue jeans have come to be thought of as neutral; you can wear anything with jeans! With that, it takes its place as a classic hue, translating blue from fashion to home in an instant.
As great and as popular as blue is, it doesn’t live in a vacuum. It has become an accompaniment to a range of on-trend colors:
• Navy, white, and coral connote the freshness of the seashore.
• Cobalt, yellow, and orange feel as crisp as a garden.
• Sky blue, bright green, and pink still have a preppy vibe.
• Midnight blue, grey, and black offer an urban edge.
• Various blues with white are a classic combination inspired by Chinese porcelain.
Time to be Narrow-Minded
With blue so popular and with so many options available from new iterations to historical, you can help your customers narrow their choices for a great result. Here are some “true blue” marketing ideas:
• What blues look most natural or have historical relevance in your area? Feature them on mood boards or create a custom mini fan deck to highlight them.
• Pinterest boards are one of the top design research tools used by Millennials (and rapidly growing with Boomers). Set up your own blue page (or a page each for various colors), then feature the printed pages in your store. Of course, promote it in your store and on social media.
• Let the seasons speak! Though color has become almost season-less in fashion, consumers still tend towards lighter values in warm weather and darker when it gets cold outside.
Blue, stands the test of time, offers broad options for design, and still creates a mood of trust and honesty. From crayons to jeans to walls, blue is a color that can create not only a sense of style, but also a business boost.
Mark Woodman is a practicing designer and the color and aesthetics consultant to Corian® Design surfaces. In addition, he facilitates trend panels and served as President of the Color Marketing Group, to study and discern color direction. Mr. Woodman’s aesthetic understanding of “real-life” color and design helps balance his approach to product specification, complementing practical application with the excitement of “the new.” Find him at facebook.com/markwoodmandesign/