I decided to break from writing about small business strategy and actually speak from my own biz context: I’m a graphic designer after all, not a marketer per se, so what can I share about love in a business context? How about what it LOOKS like…or at least how it COULD look.
Citing Google Images search results as an opener is the digital-age equivalent of starting an article or speech with Webster’s definition of the topic word: it’s cheesy and belies an initial inspiration void when one sat down to write the thing. And yet (or “and so”):
Plug simply “love” into Google Images, and you’ll get pictures of hearts…like millions and billions of them. Not anatomical ones, either, but the ones that look like butts if you turn them upside down. (Read more about bad medieval artists and extinct contraceptive seeds here). There are a few themes that rise from within the red-and-pink deluge of images that give us more clues as to what love looks like to our culture:
• There are lots of images featuring primarily or only text, and these fall into two distinct categories: sentimental or scriptural.
• Lots and LOTS of the images feature some visual representation of swirling, rising energies, whether it be depicted as pink mists rising from hearts, as light bursting upward, as clear skies decorated with puffy white clouds, or even balloon-like hearts themselves floating upward and away.
• Silhouettes. On the beach.
There’s even something glaringly missing, relative to the typical practices associated with Valentine’s Day:
• There are actually almost no images featuring chocolates, flowers, diamonds, or even sex.
Then, of course, there’s also this:
So our visual language of “love” shows us that this emotion is profound, yet light and exhilarating. It can be huge and nearly formless, or can be shared intimately with just one other. It is not necessarily consumed nor consummated.
Clearly, romantic love dominates the topic, but what about love of country, or when one “loves” rollercoasters, or snowboarding, or blogging? Do you LOVE your car? Some of these kinds of love can be well expressed as colors…perhaps those of a flag, or yellow for an exciting activity, or light blue for something that puts you into smiling contentment.
So what’s with all the red? One of my favorite resources is the Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color, and after noting that the color red commands our attention by representing both blood and fire – elements that sustain life, but also indicate danger – here’s what it has to say broadly about this most dramatic of love colors:
The pituitary gland really springs into action when it sees red. A chemical message is sent to your adrenal medulla and releases the hormone epinephrine. This alters your body chemistry, causing you to breathe more rapidly, increases your blood pressure, pulse rate, heartbeat, your flow of adrenaline and Galvanic Skin Response (perspiration). These reactions are physiological, and we have no control over the effect. As a result, red is indelibly imprinted on the human mind to connect with excitement and high energy.
Potent stuff! What if you want to put a little love in your business, to communicate that YOU love what you do, and/or that you love your clients and customers? How could you represent that, visually? The physiological effects of red are hard to pass up, but let’s look at a few other samples:
• Pink has a very wide range, much of which pushes into “fake and plastic” territory…but many shades can be seen as sensual, healthy, or optimistic.
• Orange tends to stimulate the appetite for food. Brighter shades are very “hot”, while softer shades come across as nurturing and approachable.
• Yellow is generally cheerful and high energy, associated in every society with the splendor of the sun.
• Many browns can elicit positive associations to earth and health, but in some contexts can simply seem dirty.
• Blues tend to be trustworthy and restful…great feelings to give to someone(s) you love!
• Clean, fresh, and secure all come in one color: green.
• Like pink, purple is a rich and complex color, usually associated with sweetness and high value.
• Neutrals like grays and beiges are all about stability and timelessness. If you want to say “I’ll always be here for you”, gray might be in the picture.
• White whispers purity and simplicity, though it can be easily and subtly tinted warm or cool…and quickly get sweet or frigid.
• Black is dramatic, powerful, even a little dangerous. It’s also very “heavy”.
Some of those are pretty easy picks for communicating certain types of love, but what about the imagery we noted before?
Every once in a while (time) or here and there (space) make a poetic declaration to your customers. Remind them (and yourself) what they mean to you, and what your commitments are. BUT BACK IT UP with action, because humans unfortunately see through overly romanticized but essentially meaningless bullshit in business no better than they do in relationships…which is to say, we swoon easily. Eventually, she hits her head as she goes down, and he throws his back out trying to catch her. Better if we just walk our talk from the beginning.
Light-emitting, lighter-than-air energies
DON’T go all MySpace and put mists and glitter all over your website and customer-appreciation mailers. Just….just, don’t. We can certainly use specific colors to achieve some of our happy-energy communicating goals, as noted earlier, but we also want to keep things light. In visual terms, dark = heavy, so use dark anycolor sparingly when trying to communicate love. Most broadly, I’d say gradients that are lightest (though not necessarily white) on the top would to a decent job at communicating lightness of weight. More common lighter-than-air objects not overtly associated with romantic love include clouds, bubbles, and hydrogen-filled dirigibles. Ok, maybe not that last one.
Silhouettes and intimacy
Black profiles of beach-strolling couples are as corny as starting an article with Google Image results, but what they tell us is that feelings of love can be simple and focused. When showing your clients love, strip out the details and make it specifically about THEM. Look into their virtual eyes. Listen. Whisper “I love what you bring to my experience. Thank you.” No strings attached.
How could I not share a couple of my favorite love-flavored clips with you?
On the left, Sandler’s had “the blues, the reds, and the pinks” and it ain’t doin’ it for him. Perhaps you can now suggest a different strategy to those trying to woo him? On the right, Pumbaa and Timon represent your competitors as you cuddle up to your customers. Also, one of your competitors is Nathan Lane.
This topic is most easily introspected on as a consumer: what business communications have you RECEIVED that you perceived as loving?
This post is part of the monthly Word Carnival: small business bloggers sharing hard-earned – and often funny! – wisdom about business and life, for free. For you. Check out all of this month’s articles (as well as archives from way back to our humble beginnings) at wordcarnivals.com.