Make colour work harder for your brand

Alex Haddon | May 2017

Are you nervous to branch out with new colours, shades or tones in case things start to look a bit crazy? Here are some tips to grow your confidence and how to strengthen your brand through colour.

Colour is easy to understand and, when used well, it can become one of the most powerful brand assets. Successful brands use a single or combination of colours to create distinction and draw attention to themselves. You can't think of Coca Cola without thinking of red (rather than the brown of the product!).

Colour is a basic instinct

We all remember, as children, receiving a brand new set of colour pens or pencils – the sheer joy of using them all and testing the colour combinations that you could achieve. This basic instinct and appreciation of colour is what influences thousands of purchasing decisions as we go through life.

Evolving perception

Historically, brands have always tried to create a positioning – from luxury to basic – by relying on known 'code' and existing colour prejudices and associations to quickly inform the audience what kind of brand they are.

This is what is really changing and evolving. Today's agile brands need a flexible approach in a diverse and noisy digital landscape. They also need to stand out in a very crowded space and playing with colour is a relatively easy way to stay relevant and interesting.

The traditional perceptions of colour included blue as corporate; red means danger; green is for environmental brands; yellow is tacky and pink is for crazy (or very young) people. Brands have truly turned these old fashioned ideas on the head. A great example of this is Selfridges who took bright yellow to a new level. Never has Pantone 109C looked so stylish!

In late 2016 Addison Lee launched a new brand alongside a big campaign to take on all their competitors. They also elevated their brand positioning significantly, also using yellow. Perhaps they have Selfridges to thank for the new and improved status of bright yellow?

Tips for making colour work harder

To really make the most of colour in your brand toolkit you need to know which are your most well-known colours? Perhaps ask a couple of friendly clients or customers to associate a single colour with your brand. This will tell you where you have colour equity.

Then take a look at your nearest competition, what are they using? Is it very different or very similar? Is this a good or a bad thing? Many aspects will influence what the right colour strategy is but you need to work out where you sit in your brand landscape and maximise the colour usage within that. Positive outcomes should be that your brand is noticed and memorable.

One easy trick is using 'nearly' colours

Instead of just plumping for grey, dark blue or black, perhaps think about very dark coloured tones that feel reliable but add something new. At the very least they can be the start of your colour journey as you move to a more individual and confident positioning.

It is worth noting that very bright colour usually need tempering – either with a very clean design where the colour is carefully controlled in quantity or used with very few other colours.

Have fun!

And, don't forget to have fun – channel the inner child and those coloured pencils – mediocrity is, after all, the biggest risk to your new business initiatives.

Please feel free to email me if you would like to discuss your brand's colour scheme and make sure you harness all that this element has to offer.