Dec. 17, 2012

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How one man turned red after seeing pink;
Everything you must know about color marketing


A new, giant banner for Creative Haverhill


COCO+CO.’s mission is to help client partners ethically win market leadership and stakeholder respect by uniquely achieving a harmony of strategic and creative resources.  Objective, experienced and audience-centered, the resulting public relations, advertising and marketing programs will earn trust, respect and confidence.

About COCO+CO.

COCO+CO. provides strategic corporate communications with an emphasis on brand consistency across media. COCO+CO.’s Connections Process helps you to realize your goals with a carefully integrated two-phase program: Strategic Preparation and Creative Execution.

Greater Boston:
189 Ward Hill Avenue Ward Hill, MA 01835



A simulation of how Harrison wanted his hunting jacket photograph to appear in his annual report, left, compared to what actually was printed, right.

How one man turned red after seeing pink
Everything you must know about color marketing

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By Tim Coco
President and chief executive officer

COCO+CO.’s modern, state-of-the-art headquarters in the Ward Hill Business Park.
Why success-oriented businesses choose COCO+CO.

Organizations looking for expert marketing assistance turn to COCO+CO., a full-service advertising agency with a depth of experience spanning more than 21 years. These companies seek—and receive— expertise, commitment and reliability.

Bricks & mortar, literally, ensure reliability & quality

COCO+CO. operates from dedicated, modern and fully equipped facilities located in an easily accessible office park. Experienced and talented staff quickly deliver blue-chip materials using industry standard, high-end and state-of-the-art hardware and software.

In-house creative & strategic delivery; no outsourcing

Clients long ago realized that, while it seems less costly to turn to contractors or home-based businesses, there is too much risk. They know deep levels of vendor outsourcing sacrifices quality, accountability and timeliness. They require the peace of mind associated with appropriately insured vendors, data security, regulatory compliance and proper licensing of intellectual property.

Zealously ethical

COCO+CO. not only meets these necessarily stringent requirements, but also uniquely offers the defined and proprietary Connections Process; a mix of creative and strategic disciplines under one roof; important contacts; and a zealously ethical reputation backed by a binding Resolution of Principles.

“Harrison” inspired this article about color. He now knows the difference between an amateur and a professional—and it is a shocking pink hunting jacket. Harrison, a prominent CEO, insisted others should learn from his mistakes, but on the condition his real name not be used.

Harrison came to COCO+CO. for help after he followed budget-cutting advice and brought advertising duties in-house. He said he was misled to believe a PC, software and color laser printer would make the endeavor feasible and cost-effective.

Somehow, his prized annual report, done in-house, came out dreadfully wrong. A photo of Harrison in his expensive red hunting jacket came out shocking pink. For some this wouldn’t be the end of the world, but you have to know Harrison. He is as conservative as they come—in attire, personality and politics—and “damn proud of it,” he says. He said the photo of him apparently wearing a pink coat didn’t reflect that proper image.

Computers and color models—CMYK, RGB and PMS

A computer is a tool used by graphic and Web designers just as a hammer is a tool used by house builders. Almost everyone knows the basics of how to use a hammer, but few amateurs successfully build whole houses. Similarly, successful graphic and Web designers possess knowledge, experience and skill not found in most amateurs.

Full-color printing presses (and most professional color laser printers, for that matter) use the CMYK color model. That is, the full range of color is derived from using four inks—cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). To the contrary, every computer monitor uses the RGB color model. This dates back to the invention of color television when all colors were derived from a mixture of red, green and blue (RGB) light. Software programs such as Microsoft Word and Publisher use the RGB format. Moreover, images from your digital camera are RGB formatted. CMYK and RGB are not inherently compatible. This was the first of Harrison’s many problems producing his company’s annual report in-house.

There is also something called “spot color” for individual colors, and the most popular color model in this category is PMS—for Pantone Matching System. For every PMS color, there is also a CMYK equivalent. RGB equivalents used by Web designers are available, but less reliable.

For all that has been revolutionized by desktop publishing, color printing presses have changed very little in essence. These still use CMYK and job printers expect to have up to four “plates”—one for each CMYK color—on their printing presses. They also expect any design software (which never includes Microsoft products) to produce four corresponding color “separations”—one for each plate. Without a complicated conversion process, Microsoft and many other products will produce three separations that don’t correspond with the four plates used on a full-color printing press or even a full-color laser printer.

Luckily, for quick office prints, laser printers usually come with software “drivers” that make RGB to CMYK conversions on the fly. Very rarely will these colors exactly match, but they are good enough for non-critical jobs. Documents outputted by this process, including many exported in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format, still can’t be used by job printers who utilize professional imagesetters with highly calibrated raster image processing (RIP).

Color monitors and calibration

Experienced and skilled graphic and Web designers have to be able to trust the colors they see on their computer monitors. This first involves using superior hardware. More importantly, though, the monitor must be properly calibrated.

Calibration involves using a software/hardware combination such as GretagMacbeth Spectrolino ProfileMaker Pro that can cost as much as $6,000. As Harrison suspected, there is more to professional design than a run-of-the-mill office computer set-up. It is never wise to make a color choice based on what you see coming from an uncalibrated computer monitor or, worse, a color office printer. This was Harrison’s second mistake. If you can’t trust what you see on your uncalibrated computer model—believe me, you can’t—then ask for professional proofs and/or PMS printed ink samples from your printer or designer.

By the way, high-end Macintosh computers—while more expensive than Windows PCs—remain a staple of design professionals. This is because Macs are capable of producing more accurate colors than Windows PCs found in most corporate environments. Harrison bought a budget PC.

Tech changes, but not humans’ color perceptions

All printed images are actually made up of small dots known as halftone screens. The smaller and closer the dot, the better the image quality. This is why a typically newspaper image at 85 lines-per-inch (LPI or line screen) isn’t as detailed or sharp as a luxury catalog or brochure image printed at up to 500 LPI.

Again, this component of the printing process hasn’t changed much with the revolution in computing and technology. It has much to do with how the eyes and brain interpret colors and images and, until Human 2.0 comes out, won’t change much.

In order to take advantage of high quality—or high line screen—printing, images must be available at high ratios of dots-per-inch (DPI). The rule of thumb is the numbers of dots-per-inch should be as much as twice the numbers of lines-per-inch. That is, the image you select for a superior quality annual report, for example, should be at least 600 DPI at actual size for a printer utilizing 300 LPI quality. For years, this concept has been dumbed down to simply asking for 300 DPI images that are much better than a newspaper actually requires, but somewhat lower quality than a glossy brochure is capable of reproducing.

Compare the print DPI requirement to what actually appears on a computer monitor that is only 72 DPI. While images on a website look clear on the screen, they are of too low a DPI resolution to appear in a printed product—at least at actual size. Such images are said to be “pixelated” when appearing in print. There is a partial work-around. The resolution of an image increases proportionally as the image is shrunken. If your digital camera takes an image of 17 inches wide by 25 inches tall at 72 DPI, this image can be reduced to 4 by 6 inches and be rendered at 300 DPI for a glossy brochure. If, however, the part of the photograph you actually would like to use is 4 by 6 at 72 DPI coming out of the camera, the largest size that can be used in print is only about an inch wide by an inch and a half tall. This misunderstanding was another of Harrison’s mistakes.

Another point to be illustrated here is that all print shops are not equal. If you were to solicit bids from a 500 LPI-capable printer and a 150 LPI-capable printer, you would not be making a very good quality comparison. Further, chances are lower bids will offer inferior quality. Sorry Harrison, add that to your list of errors.

Let’s look at a website example. It is possible to use a 300 DPI image on a website, but it will appear either unusually large or, if scaled to a smaller size, will take an inordinate amount of time to download to a user’s Web browser. Since the monitor is incapable of higher resolutions, the viewer won’t see a noticeable difference in quality, but will have to wait longer to see any image at all.

How literate and savvy is your computer?

Besides all of these technical considerations, those intending to design in-house must realize the computer is only a tool. It is the human in front of it that must know how to write marketing-savvy copy, spell and use grammar correctly and know the difference between inch and foot marks and apostrophes and quotation marks.

The fonts you use also must either be available to your outside printer, converted to outlines or otherwise properly embedded in your document.

If you are not confident your elementary school English instructor wouldn’t mark up your annual report with red pencil, then choose a professional. As Tom Peters wrote in his book, “In Search of Excellence,” “stick with the knitting” and do only what you do best. Outsource the rest to trusted advisors.

Thanks Harrison! Welcome aboard as a client!

For more ideas or learn how COCO+CO.’s defined Connections Process can help your business grow, call 978.374-1900.


COCO+CO. donated creative design, layout and production for the giant 12 foot by 12 foot Creative Haverhill banner that hangs from Pentucket Bank’s operations center in downtown Haverhill. COCO+CO. also donated designs for business card-sized handouts for the non-profit group.

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