Naming Paint Colors – and Hoping for an Emotional Attachment
By Steve Rivkin
Antique Red. Cherries Jubilee. Lusty Red. Among more than 1,500 Sherwin-Williams paint colors, each with a unique name and color swatch, those are just a few of the choices in the red palette.
The company believes a catchy name helps homeowners develop an attachment with a color. So it draws inspiration from food, geography, song lyrics and literature. “It’s an emotional thing,” says the brand’s director of color marketing.
Some names are straightforward – like Cherry Tomato or Blue Sky. Others are more obscure – such as Indulgent or Stolen Kiss.
The emphasis on an emotional attachment echoes an underlying concept of naming. As Felix Frankfurter, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, once explained:
“The protection of trademarks is the law’s recognition of the psychological function of symbols. If it is true that we live by symbols, it is no less true that we purchase goods by them.”
Sherwin-William’s 2014 color of the year, Exclusive Plum, plays to that symbolism. It’s described as a grown-up take on purple – a sophisticated, dusky violet hue that pairs with copper or leather for a “cozy feel,” or with gold, gray and white for a more “whimsical look.”
For those with analytical minds, here’s how Sherwin-Williams color names and sales break down:
- One-word names (Indulgent, Java) account for 35% of the 1,500+ colors, and 26% of sales.
- Two-word names (Laughing Orange, Blue Nile) account for 61% of colors and 71% of sales.
- Names with three or more words make up the balance.
For a lighter frame of reference, the Bauman staff referenced the following personal analogies:
“How true that color names matter! I think about this every time I get a manicure. I pick up bottles where I like the color, and then I flip it upside down to see what the color is. If the name is intriguing or memorable, I keep it. Some of my favorites include: After Sex, Burma Ruby, Sugar Daddy, Bahama Mama, Tomboy No More, Watermelon and Geranium.” – Sandra
“I can easily recall the names of all the paint colors in my house: Earthen Jug, Outer Banks, Khaki Shade, Straw Harvest, Mexican Sand, Pewter Cast, St. Bart’s and Damsel. Hmm, I seem to mostly fit the two-word majority.” – Mary
What are some of your favorite or most memorable color names?