Complete Collar Colors: Understanding Consumer Personas

May 22, 2019 | 2 comments

We’re all familiar with the difference between blue and white-collar work, but a new group of collar color designations has made its way into the professional sphere. Recently a part of the American vernacular, this new collection of collar colors has brought about a new era in buyer persona development.

When we work to create buyer personas for our agencies or our clients, collar colors are a critical piece of the business development puzzle. A consumer’s collar segment gives you insight into their culture, mindset, motivations, questions, what they’re ultimately looking for in a product or service—and the buying experience as a whole.

Below, we’ll discuss the latest designations that could prove relevant to business development at your agency.

New Collar Colors: Understanding Your Buyer Personas

Gold Collar Workers

Gold collar workers have traditionally been classified as white collar. These individuals are highly-skilled and in high-demand. Surgeons, engineers, anesthesiologists, lawyers, and airline pilots are all examples of gold collar workers. Gold collar jobs involve positions that have recently become essential enough to business operations that they warranted their own new classification.

White Collar Workers

White-collar workers are employees whose jobs entail (either largely or entirely) mental or clerical work. Office jobs are an excellent example of this. The term “white collar work” used to characterize non-manual jobs. Now, it’s utilized to refer to employees or professionals whose work is knowledge-intensive, non-routine, and unstructured.

Green Collar Workers

Green collar workers are employed by the environmental sectors of the economy. These environmental green collar workers (who hold “green jobs”) help to satisfy the ever-growing need and demand for green development. They tend to focus on implementing environmentally-conscious designs, policies, and technologies designed to help improve environmental conservation and sustainability.

Red Collar Workers

Red collar workers are perhaps the easiest collar group to define: they’re government workers of all types. The “red collar” moniker actually derives from previous government labor compensation methods. Government workers used to receive their pay from what was known as the red ink budget—and the nickname stuck.

Blue or Pink Collar Workers

Blue and pink collar workers’ jobs involve manual labor. The pink collar designation is separate and, in my opinion, stereotypical and already outdated. Pink collar workers’ labor is directly related to customer interaction, entertainment, sales, or other service-oriented work. This differentiation between blue and pink collar workers is generally unnecessary, but should be taken into account nonetheless.

Black Collar Workers

The term “black collar” is used here because it used to refer to those whose collars become black by the nature of their jobs. While it has now taken on a new meaning, it was once used to label those with jobs as coal miners, oil workers, and other similar positions.

Now, black collar workers are the creative types of professionals like artists, graphic designers, and video producers. The moniker has transferred over to them due to their unofficial uniforms, which are generally comprised of black attire.

Gray Collar Workers

Gray collar workers, perhaps not ironically, are those who fall into a sort of “gray area” where their employment is concerned. This term refers to the balance of employed people who cannot be classified as white or blue collar. In some cases, gray collar is also utilized to describe elderly individuals who are working beyond the age of retirement; in others, it may refer to occupations that incorporate elements of both blue- and white-collar work.

New Collar Workers

Lastly—a non-color but arguably one of the most important to the economy—new-collar workers develop the technical and soft skills needed to work in technology jobs through nontraditional education paths. These workers do not have a four-year degree from college. Instead, new-collar workers are trained through community colleges, vocational schools, software boot camps, technical certification programs, high school technical education and on-the job apprentices and internships.
Creating buyer personas is essential to understanding how to most effectively communicate a company’s unique value proposition. Without knowing your audience, you have no way to determine the most optimal verbiage for sharing relevant information. Buyer personas afford you the capability to tailor your brand message to a specific person or group of people—and savvy marketers know that personalized and targeted advertising is one of the keys to business success.

Your agency may have a tough time pulling together those essential buyer personas if your team doesn’t have a solid understanding of collar colors. Taking the time to explore what’s important to potential customers and how they see the world is a critical element in understanding what they want and how they want it provided.

Interested in learning more about how buyer personas impact your organization’s bottom line? Check out the top 5 buyer persona generators or, better yet, let’s talk! I’ll work closely with you to ensure that you never miss an opportunity to leverage foundational business development tools like these.

Together, we’ll create a culture that pushes your staff to learn everything they can about your prospects’ roles within your organization and industry. Opening conversations and closing contracts will become a cinch as your team grows more comfortable speaking your prospective clients’ languages.

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Kelly L. Campbell

Kelly (they/she) is a Trauma-Informed Conscious Leadership Coach to self-aware visionaries, a keynote speaker and a sponsored podcast host. They are the founder of Consciousness Leaders, the world’s most diverse speaker’s agency. Her debut book on trauma and leadership, entitled Heal to Lead, will be available Spring 2024 (Wiley). Sign up for pre-launch notifications here.


  1. Julie Fitzpatrick

    Hello. We are a statewide nonprofit working on improving our DEI activities and resources for our local community development partners. Do you have suggestions to alternate terms rather than white and blue collar, etc. that are more sensitive to racial and socio-economic conditions?

    • Kelly Campbell

      Hi Julie, This post was from several years ago and is now, as you’ve pointed out, clearly outdated. I have recently heard of the term, “Industrial Artisan” (or “Industrial Work”) to refer to what used to be considered blue collar jobs. Instead of white collar, you might use terms like “Executive or Administrative.” In either case — and in the case of any collar color — I think what’s most important is that IF you use these terms today, they should generally only be used to distinguish a category of work, and not to indicate that a person is more or less educated or makes more or less money.


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