The Pink War

The word pink shot and dripping pink paint

If you’ve ever worked closely with color, then you’ve undoubtedly experienced the backlash associated with the color pink. American’s across the board despise the color, or do they?

Looking manly in pink

I’ve heard from numerous clients when developing visual identities that they absolutely do not want their brand associated with pink. Over my 16 year career this has been a constant. A cause that every business owner could stand against, and I originally wrote it off as a mild form of homophobia. Male business owners and CEO’s don’t want customers to think they are feminine. Is the default gender of all businesses masculine?

The color of the weak

Strangely, I’ve received much of the same feedback from the female business owners and CEO’s. One marketing director even went so far as to take a poll of the females in the office confirming with her less than scientific survey that grown women do not like the color pink. Pink has come to symbolize femininity, and some how that has become a negative trait. So why is pink even a color if it’s feared by men and women alike?

Don’t get the business blues

It’s easy to argue that babies are often dressed in blue or pink to indicate gender at a very young age. The odd thing is that blue doesn’t live on in adulthood as a masculine color. In fact it becomes gender neutral. Unlike pink, blue is one of the most loved colors in America. Notice how many corporate color schemes use blue and grey to represent their brands. When everyone’s wearing the same uniform it’s hard to be an individual. Break down the color walls and differentiate your brand even if that means flying your pink flag.

Operate in the pink

The reality is that American’s must like pink, but maybe it’s a guilty pleasure just like the fact that you’ll never admit to secretly singing The Wiggles when you’re kids aren’t around. Brands like Susan G. Komen, Mary Kay and Victoria’s Secret have built their empires on the color pink, and it’s no surprise that these industries speak to a femininity in America. However, have you ever considered the power of pink in brands like Pepto Bismal, Sweet Tarts, and Dunkin’ Donuts. None of these examples speak exclusively to females, and I’d even go so far as to say that there is nothing feminine about them. The common thread is that all of these brands own the colorspace they are in, and stand out from the crowded space of their vertical markets.

Pink comes in more shades than Barbie

Just because your default association with the word pink is Barbie’s dream house, doesn’t mean that’s the only option out there. Pink can be electric and tart when it’s pared with electric blue and radiant orange. It can be classical or vintage if you mute it and use it with brown. And it can even be warm and savory with the addition of yellow. It helps to think in terms of the feeling your brand is trying to evoke rather than the label “pink” and all of the baggage that comes with it.

It’s time to let pink out of the closet, and embrace it as a powerful color that extends beyond the shallow connotations of gender and femininity. We need move away from the perception that business is masculine and embrace the reality that a successful business is both masculine and feminine. Build your brand color around your audience and differentiate your approach from the competitors. While they are playing it safe and blending in to the other blues and greys, you’ll let your true color shine and connect to your target market in a memorable and meaningful way.

For more information on developing a color palette, be sure to check out “1980 Called. It Wants Its Color Back.”

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