My new book, Office Secrets, was launched recently. This book offers a selection of useful workplace learnings and is also a light and fun read. As the book was being developed, my publishers and I were searching for a cover design which would showcase its “unserious” flavour. Most business books tend to be packaged in boring,conventional colours.

We hit on an unusual shade of green for the cover of this book. We selected a light version of fern green, a colour inspired by the ornamental plants. It is a striking colour which conveys a sense of fun and informality, yet has a serious undertone to it. Also, because this colour has rarely been used by a business book in India, the cover stands out on bookshelves.

Ever since the launch of the book, many people have remarked to me that the beautiful cover has made them pick it up. Clearly, fern green has been a very good choice. My wife has even bought me a flowery green shirt from Fab India to match the cover, which I can use during book signing events.

Plantation fresh tea

This successful use of green brought two reflections to my mind. First, why do so few brands globally use green as their primary colour, and why should marketers give this colour a serious thought? Second, it reminded me of a story that goes back to my days as a young manager in Tata Tea back in the 1980s.

In those days, Tata Tea was a relatively small plantation company, aspiring to compete with a global giant like Unilever in the Indian branded tea market. The market leader brand at that time was Unilever’s Red Label tea, which was in a red carton pack, with the red signifying strength. Another major brand, Taj Mahal tea, was in a blue pack, with blue perhaps being a marker of premiumness.

At Tata Tea, we broke away completely from these category codes by launching our lead brand in a green polypack with a simple objective – to highlight the freshness of the tea. I recall that the colour chosen was inspired by the fresh green tea leaf, and was therefore authentic to the product. This colour worked brilliantly for Tata Tea, which went on to become a market leader. In fact, it inspired many more Indian tea brands to use the green colour. More than three decades later, Tata Tea continues to proudly sport the colour green.

Why go green ?

Both these stories illustrate why marketers should not stay with time-tested conventional colours but should be bold and imaginative in moving into untested territory. The use of green is a good starting point to consider for all the following reasons.

Nature is green. Therefore, if your brand would like to highlight its “natural” credentials, there can be no better colour than green. Tropicana, the world’s best known brand of natural fruit juices, does this very well. Because trees and leaves have a million different shades of green, marketers have a profusion of choice. Many shades of green such as atrovirens (a trendy deep green) and celadon (a minty green colour) have never been used by major brands. Brands can therefore appropriate these colours quite nicely.

Green is fresh. The first colour that comes up in our minds when we think of freshness is green. That’s why my favourite fast food brand, Subway, uses green so liberally at all its brand touchpoints, including its logo. This subliminally reinforces the fact that Subway uses freshly baked bread and fresh vegetables and meat, in contrast to many other fast food brands that used processed and refrigerated ingredients.

Green is the colour of sustainability. In a world where many consumers are making their choices based on their brands’ commitment to the planet and environment, green can help highlight your brand’s sustainability credentials. And, finally, green is so striking. Particularly because so few major brands globally use green, your brand can stand out through the use of this colour. A good example of this is the iconic Land Rover brand, which is quite unique in using a beautiful shade of green, in an otherwise largely non-green sea of automobiles.

So, think green. It may make all the difference.

(Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views. )