By  on January 12, 2005

NEW YORK — People associate Levi’s with the color blue, Fila equally with red or white, Nike with white and L’Oréal with purple.

That’s according to a study called “Color: Global Market Bias-Part 1,” conducted in the summer and published in October by Cheskin, MSI-ITM and CMCD Visual Symbols Library.

Other style-driven brands, such as Louis Vuitton, have limited color associations in the consumer’s mind.

In the eyes of Davis Masten, chairman at marketing and design researcher Cheskin, “Fashion brands should focus more on color [in marketing] and make a clearer distinction between the identity of their products and their brands. Color is an integral part of communications and culture, one way people make sense of themselves.”

Indeed, Levi’s was the only fashion brand linked to a color by more than 25 percent of the study’s 12,929 respondents, in 17 countries, as 39 percent of them associated it with blue (see chart).

By comparison, white was called to mind by Nike for 21 percent of the respondents; purple by L’Oréal for 17 percent; red or white by Fila for 10 percent in both cases, and purple by Louis Vuitton for just 6 percent.

“It would appear that the variety of product colors most fashion brands offer tends to interfere with a clear-cut brand color association,” observed Lyle Personette, a senior analyst at Cheskin.

Color ought to be used not only to reflect a fashion product being advertised, but a symbolic image, which can create a sense of continuity across marketing platforms and over time, as various product colors move in and out of fashion, Masten advised. For instance, he noted, although Levi’s has poured a “huge amount of money” into Red Tab advertising, most people associate the brand with the blue of its denimwear. 

“We find across all industries, company executives get tired of the look of [a color] well before the consumer does,” Masten said. But it’s risky for brands to tie their identities to a fashion color of the moment, he counseled, rather than establishing a consistent brand identity by sticking with a single color in their marketing presence. The latter approach, Masten said, can pave a path to more rapid brand recognition.

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