Cadbury has finally lost its appeals with the UK Supreme Court to trademark its purple Pantone 2685C after years of attempts. While I suspect that this may not be the last try from Mondelēz to enshrine the recognizable purple of Dairy Milk from infringement by other parties, this decision has come at a key time for chocolate brands to be standing out and engaging in store from the shelf out.
Setting legal issues and arguments to one side, the issue of branding a color is key for many global companies that seek to protect their global brand assets in a cutthroat business landscape. The issue truly rises to the fore when the color and the overall design are aped by competitors, and it is with this that hinged the core of the Cadbury’s purple legal argument.
Nothing to gain with Cadbury’s purple
The hue, as Cadbury’s has sought to prove, is indelibly linked to their Dairy Milk brand in the minds of consumers. For a color so indelibly bonded with a heritage British brand, the benefits to a competitor of using said shade in any impactful way are not immediately apparent.
Confectionery is a highly competitive space, a significantly growing market, and one where innovation and range extensions are key drivers of product choice. For other chocolate brands looking to legitimately engage from the shelf out, using Cadbury’s purple doesn’t gain them any ground – far better to be a distinctive and independent entity in their own right than attempting to ride an established heritage brand’s coattails.
Standing out in the battleground
The confectionery shelf space is a battleground of iconic marks and lifelong brand affiliations where design standout can often come second to brand line extensions as drivers of product choice. For a market valued at £3.6 billion ($6bn) in the UK though and in a category fuelled by impulse purchase; making a connection to shoppers during that moment of consideration is key.
According to industry figures, nearly seven in ten shoppers don’t see confectionery products while in store, but of these that do see the chocolate shelf, four in five go on to purchase. This is what drives the heritage connections to longstanding brands with fond childhood connections, and why Cadbury’s itself has seen such success with short term offers of beloved but discontinued brands like the Wispa.
Campaigns for long-term loyalty
However, those really looking to engage with customers from the shelf out and build longer term affiliations should be looking at campaigns more broadly. Many confectionery brands are masters at sponsorship and at running wider ranging campaigns generating positive associations to create longer lasting loyalty bonds.
By placing the product in a broader life context, confectionery brands can avoid being pigeonholed as simple treats and create additional resonance beyond the moment of indulgence. This is further evidenced by other chocolate brands partnering with the Fairtrade Foundation to showcase its mark on their bars to stand out on shelf.
Cadbury gains little from purple trademark attempts
In a rush to maximize the important impulse purchase moment in store, I doubt that many brands would seek to cannibalize their own offerings by looking to adopt Cadbury purple in their brand design.
Trade marking a color alone is unlikely to assist Cadbury in its store engagement – it simply ties a bow on the connection consumers already make with the offering. It is those additional bonds – the nostalgic links, or additional brand offers communicated by the wider marketing mix – which make confectionery stand out in the moment of decision.