Paint It Black

Tuesday, 15 October 2002 - San Diego, USA

Black Paint Ink USA

Presentation Summary

An address to the Color Marketing Group Annual Conference. The man in black takes his paint brush to the rainbow at the Color Marketing Group’s Fall International Conference. A new spectrum coloring where we are and where we have to get to. Paint brands beige. Paint emotion purple. Paint love gold. Paint Lovemarks red. Paint colour white. Paint the edge silver. Take a step back. Black attack!

My favourite color is black. All Black. Guinness Black. Lexus black. Adidas Black. Sony Black. Team New Zealand Black. All clients of Saatchi & Saatchi.

But inside all that Black, I’m just a rainbow warrior waiting to break free. Thank you Nancy for inviting me to this beautiful city. San Diego has a very special meaning for all New Zealanders. It was here in 1995 that Team New Zealand took on the best in the world, and took home the America’s Cup. The greatest prize in International yachting. We were the smallest nation ever to compete. And in 2000 we became the first and only non-US nation to successfully defend the Cup.

I am a director of Team New Zealand and two weeks ago we began the 2003 defence of the Cup in our own waters. Auckland. I hope to see some of you here for this fantastic event.

You color experts know that color has deep and specific cultural meanings. New Zealand is a textbook example. In New Zealand, black is the color of passion. The color of commitment. And the color of victory. New Zealanders bleed black.

I have been pushing my fellow countrymen to change our flag. This is what it is like today. Here is my idea for the true flag of New Zealand. [image of flag with America’s cup fleet]. Inspiring.

We need inspiration now more than ever. We’ve been through a tough 12 months. A time that has shown us the worst humanity is capable of. Out of these terrible events must come a renewed commitment to make the world a better place … for everyone. This is the role of business. Business can create self-esteem, wealth, prosperity, jobs and choices. Capitalism is the only answer but not today’s capitalism. Not the capitalism of exclusion. No – we need the capitalism of inclusion, of diversity, of hope – for everyone.

I believe business can deliver this only. Business can power development. Without economic development, social equity and ecological balance are a quixotic dream. Business has to stand up. We can touch lives. We must improve them. The 20th century was an Age of Extremes. The 21st century is shaping up the same way unless we take action together. Over a billion people still live in poverty. This is an urgent and real problem that cannot be pushed to one side. Our millennium report card would have to read: Awful. Must do better.

Last month I spent the weekend at Cambridge University. I’m the CEO in Residence at the Judge Institute there. The challenge to business was a very live topic of debate. The consensus? We need new ideas. Ideas that can transform human lives. Ideas that can transform organisations. Ideas that are transforming my business and can transform yours.

Saatchi & Saatchi is in the ideas business – just as you are. The dream that inspires us is “To be revered as the hothouse for world-changing creative ideas that transform our clients’ businesses, brands and reputations.” Over the last thirty years we’ve created some of the most memorable ideas to shape social change.

While New Zealanders and the Rolling Stones want to paint the world black, we do have other colors to play with. Colors may be becoming more complex and sophisticated, but let’s keep it simple. Let’s start with … beige.

1: Paint Brands Beige

Ten years ago I would have painted brands a seductive gold. Now I’ve gotta paint them beige. Beige is the color of the bland. The inoffensive. Astronomers at John Hopkins University shocked me earlier this year when they announced that the color of the universe is not the intriguing pale turquoise they all promised, but …. beige? And their top candidate for a name for this color? Cosmic Latte!

Here’s a challenge for this Conference. Come up with a sexy name for the color of the universe. And get it to John Hopkins fast. Please!

If I am not inspired by beige, why paint it over brands? Brands had a dream run in the 20th century. They pumped economies around the world. You shared in the excitement and the value they created. So did I. Big name brands dominated my working life. Pepsi, Gillette, Tide, Pampers. I have watched the rise of brands and been part of their struggle against the forces of evil.

But brands have run out of juice. A powerful dynamic has been driving business and it is gaining ground. Commodification. The erosion of distinctions. More competition. The rapid imitation of innovation. Ever higher standards of performance and quality. Pressure on margins and price.

Brands need new attitude. And fast.

The Color Industry has been an important ally in brands’ fight against commodification. Manufacturers enlist you to look ahead and to guide their decisions.

You may track color trends with awesome precision but color alone will not be enough to re-inspire brands. As brands search frantically for difference you will be implicated. Your expertise will be dragged down to the status of commodities. Brands need more than a new palette to break out of beige.

2: Paint Emotion Purple

Don’t back off. Pin your colors to the mast. The rich colors of passion. Here I know I am with friends. With people who understand the power of emotion, the stuff that lurks beneath the conscious mind and makes us truly human.

I have always believed that by touching emotion you get the best people to work with you, the best clients to inspire you, and the most devoted customers.

Emotion is back in vogue. The human brain turned out to be more complex, more densely connected and more mysterious than any of us dreamt. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to get this!

Humans are powered by emotion, not by reason. It’s how we make decisions. If the emotion centres of our brain are damaged in some way, we don’t just lose the ability to laugh or cry. We lose the ability to make decisions. Without the fleeting and intense stimulus of emotion, rational thought winds down and disintegrates.

I am convinced that great ideas people, true innovators live by the “I’s” and the “E’s”.

  • I for Ideas, Imagination, Intuition, Insight and Inspiration.
  • E for Enchantment, Excitement, Emotion, Empathy and Edge.

To prosper in the years ahead, businesses need to connect not just with mind – but also with heart.

The link between emotion and color is instant and intuitive. You are color experts. You must now become emotion experts. To engage with the new realities of emotion. Work out what they mean to you as well as consumers. And do something different because of it.

Analyzing emotions and refusing to acknowledge your own dumps us in the same old rut. What a waste. Emotion is a serious opportunity. A realistic profit driver for the 21st century And best of all, emotion is an unlimited resource. Always there – waiting to be tapped with new ideas, new inspirations, new approaches.

3: Paint Love Gold

Love is the most powerful of emotions – and like gold it radiates energy, warmth and premium value. Love transforms desire into delight. Puts passion into friendship and creates relationships inspired by loyalty beyond reason.

I care deeply about business, and I love people. The role of business is to make the world a better place. In business – as in life – Love changes everything. And Love brings the greatest rewards.

Only Love can power the next evolution of branding. Just pushing for more emotion won’t do it. We have to stand for more. We have to stand for Love.

Love is in the air. When I first said the “L” word in public three years ago, everyone squirmed. Now serious business people say Love without blushing. And mean it.

To make a difference today every successful business needs to create life-long love affairs with customers. The emotional temperature of business is hotting up and the emotion is Love.

Flick through magazines, check out the billboards, tune into any channel. Love is hot.

The most beautiful magazine in the world – Visionaire -explored Love in its latest issue.

The business magazine “Fast Company” picked up on my Love message in 2000. By the next year “Fortune” magazine was asking: “What’s love got to do with it?”

“Fast Company” is at it again with the cover story: ‘Love is the Killer App’.

Advertising is falling in love with love too.

  • Chrysler has just launched a new tag-line Drive = Love.
  • Volkswagen has stamped love on the bug.
  • Ford have put their heart into it.
  • The new Mini thinks it might be in love too

These car guys catch on fast. Last year they were asking, “How much metal did you move?” I challenged them to ask, “How much did the metal move you?”

Whatever business you are in, the questions are the same. How can we create new sources of power and insight? How can we come up with fresh ideas? How can we inspire our people to be the best they can be?

Saatchi & Saatchi has taken Love as the gold Standard and created Lovemarks.

4: Paint Lovemarks Red

Not lacquer red or fire-engine red but the deep red of passion, of desire, of commitment. Red is the new Black!

Lovemarks are an idea that can transform not just brands and marketing, but how companies sees themselves and how they feel about their customers.

Lovemarks are the future for branding. Darwin would have got it straight off. Product to trademark. Trademark to Brand. Brand to Lovemark. Lovemarks are super-evolved brands.

  • Lovemarks connect the company, their people and their brands.
  • Lovemarks inspire loyalty beyond reason.
  • Lovemarks belong to the people who love them.
  • Lovemarks are the ultimate premium profit generator.
  • Lovemarks are personal. 

Lovemarks are the charismatic brands that people love and fiercely protect. You know them instantly.

  • Harley Davidson, definitely. Suzuki? I don’t think so.
  • Here’s an iMac; here’s a ThinkPad. Sorry IBM.
  • McDonald’s. Lovemark. Burger King. Got the taste but not the Love.
  • New York Firemen. An inspiring Lovemark. New York Parking warden. Needs work.

My personal color: Lovemarks.

You already know about black, but how about sky blue. As seen from an airplane window. Blue is the color of optimism, of our future. The color that showed what a beautiful planet we share.

And finally, green. Bright, iridescent green. Only to be found where some of the amazing icebergs of Antarctica touch the ocean. I went down to the ice earlier this year and was stunned to find such a color in that extraordinary place. The last stopping place on earth.

Lovemarks evolved from one insight. The Love/ Respect Axis.


Respect we all understand. For any business it is now table-stakes. Make a product any color you like, even toss in a box of chocolates, but if the product has got no respect – forget it.

Some stuff lives deep in the caves of Low Respect and Low Love. Straight commodities like iron, oil, sand. Public utilities like gas, water and drainage. Can’t live without them, but don’t raise the temperature.

Move on to Low Respect but High Love. A real mix: from the “we-love-them-but-won’t-admit-it”, to the “too-cool-to-survive” fads. From Madness to Tommy Hilfiger, the Furby and Britney Spears. Avocado to Olive. Where you store your paisley ties and shoulder pads. Likeable, fun and sometimes unrespectable… and never enduring.

Where are brands? Here with High Respect but Low Love. Great products, solid R&D, serious customer research. But all fixed on the “e-r” words: newer, brighter, stronger, bolder. None of them an escape from the commodity trap.

Consumers now won’t put up with anything short of great performance. The coffee is always hot, the beer is always cold, and colors don’t fade – unless they are meant to. Today everyone has to be here just to stay in the game.

But in this uncharted territory we can tell a new story. This is the Love dimension of the Love / Respect axis. Here the breakthroughs are. Here we can make deep emotional connections with customers.

Lovemarks are inclusive. They want it all. Forget “either/or”. It’s “and/and”. Love and respect. Heart and mind. Emotion and reason. Local and global. And, and, and.

Time to put the “and” back into brand.

Our client Toyota gets it. For decades their passion has been Respect. Total commitment to continuous improvement. Quality control that makes your hair stand on end. A customer sneezes in Seattle, they hear it in Tokyo. But now, thanks to Lovemarks they are also hooking into emotion. We’ve developed the methodology, refined the processes and in the U.S. built the advertising we do for Toyota on Lovemarks.

Senior Vice President at Toyota USA Don Esmond crystallised the new Toyota challenge: “It’s time to move from the most respected car company in America to the most loved.” That would put Toyota right here: High Love and High Respect. A Lovemark.

Brands can only evolve into Lovemarks with Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy.

Mystery to draw together the stories, the metaphors, the icons that give a relationship its texture. Complexity, layers, revelations, intuition, humor and excitement.

Sensuality as a portal to the emotions. Vision, sound, hearing, touch, taste. This is how we experience the world.

And the warm breath of Intimacy. Empathy and inspiration lit up with passion. The intimate connections that are more important than ever.

Drawing on Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy, Saatchi & Saatchi have identified the elements that make up a Lovemark. We tested our ideas on Fortune 100 companies as well as cars, cities and countries, universities, people, religions.

Lovemarks are Open Source. And they are going to stay that way. Brand management has consolidated into a set of formulas. A wanna-be science. Too many people with the same rule book. An obsession with proprietary products and processes.

Lovemarks are too important for us to stamp our names all over them. They flourish when they can connect with what truly matters to people. They wither at the touch of the ™.

Lovemarks have given us fresh insights for instant improvements. Unexpected new horizons. A twist in the tail of the familiar. The courage to tackle even the toughest issues.

5: Paint Color White

I believe you are the good guys in the crusade to give brands new value, new integrity and new emotion. I believe you can help save brands from themselves. As allies and collaborators, let’s paint the color industry white. And check out how close it comes to a Lovemark.


Mystery is where your score goes through the roof. You have created a successful industry on the most intangible of intangibles. And you are taken very seriously.

Even more impressively, you don’t operate with algorithms and detailed metrics. You do it through a process of judgement, discussion and more than a touch of calculated mystery. What does happen in those Workshops? How do you reach agreement? And what are those colors anyway? Gingko. Langostino. Orsando. Eureka. And best of all – Mysteria.

In my life color gives rise to passionate debate. What color for our next car. Where to hide the refrigerator that’s in last year’s teal. What’s to be done when the kids come home with purple hair.


Sensuality opens the physical power of the five senses. Sound, vision, smell, touch and taste. You have a lock on vision. But you noted in your 2002 consumer forecast that color is morphing, blending and overlapping. I have seen the same flow in many fields. Media is a great example. So is fashion and automobiles, meal-times and movie genres. Boundaries are drawn to be crossed.

With the pressure to create experiences rather than just products or services, more sensory dimensions count. You are experts but you need to become sensualists. To entice the other senses up-close and create exciting new hybrids and combinations.

Take taste. Andy Warhol used taste to amplify vision. That’s how he differentiated his famous Marilyn portraits. Combining color and flavour he named them cherry, lemon, orange, mint, licorice. Apple made the same leap. Named their first iMac range fruit flavors like strawberry, lime, tangerine and grape, and marketed them with one word YUM!


Intimacy is about being close enough to anticipate desires before they become needs. But here’s a question. Who are you intimate with? Your clients? Your colleagues? Is there are a consumer in there somewhere?

I sense a vulnerability. Are you super-tuned to public taste and in solid Lovemark territory? Or are you the security blanket clients need to get the production line rolling? Not intimate with consumers at all but a confidence boost.

Are you listening to the wrong voices?

I think your industry touches Lovemark territory but you are held back by your own lack of confidence and ambition. You have unique processes I want to learn more about. You have made real progress in measuring the immeasurable, touching the intangible. But you run the risk of losing your independence. Of dropping into formula and rote responses. Then you simply draw the starting line each season so manufacturers begin at the same place. The same palette. The same rationale. The same indifference to real innovation. Commodities every one of them.

6: So finally, Paint The Edge Silver

The color of the horizon in the morning. The gleaming edge. The cutting edge. I take edge literally. Maybe living in a country on the edge of the world makes this inevitable. Edge means we shake off convention. Invent new stuff. Make life better. Make it worthwhile.

The Edge reminds us that great ideas come from somewhere. And we see ourselves in them. People live in the local. And they love it there. I have never met a global consumer. I never expect to. We define ourselves by our differences. Many giant companies are just waking up from their shared fantasy of a global and homogeneous world culture. You more than anyone understand the rich nuance that color brings to each of us.

We are looking to learn from local brands that play this game so brilliantly. They don’t just look for difference. They find what makes them better.

What This Means To You

I want to end with an action list. Four ideas to get started on right now.

  • Get intimate with Lovemarks. They can be your inspiration as brands waver and everyone wonders “What’s next?” Check out my web sites and We are just at the beginning. Join the discussion, learn to live with love.
  • Go to the edge for ideas. Doing things the way they are always done won’t cut it. Recognise yourselves as true Ideas People and don’t pull up at color.
  • Respond to all your senses. A key opportunity for your industry. Understand how we create our world not just through sight but through hearing, smell, touch and taste. Dive in to them all.
  • Follow your heart. Feel it, don’t just analyze it. When I feel my head bully my heart I know I’m about to make a mistake.

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