Choosing your Brand Colours
3 common mistakes or pitfalls of brand colour selection to avoid:
- Choosing colours because YOU love them – you need to think beyond yourself here!
- Choosing colours that are too similar to your competitors – you won’t standout.
- Not putting your colours into ‘real life’ scenarios before deciding on them.
What are brand colours?
Your brand colours are a palette of around five or six colours that are used to represent your brand. Your brand colours will help consumers remember and recognise your brand, e.g awareness and recognisability.
Where do you use your brand colours?
You will use your brand colours (with consistency) for your logo, your website colour scheme, on your social media channels, for your marketing collateral such as business cards, quotes, letterhead etc. and in your marketing media – digital ads etc. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, the brand colors can also apply to the design of the store, staff uniforms, product packaging and more.
The importance of brand colour consistency.
It is imperative that you use your brand colours consistently and across all platforms to create a unified look-and-feel, making them memorable and recognisable. Colour increases brand recognition by 80% so having a consistent, recognisable colour for your brand is really important.
Establish your Brand Identity
What is your brand about? What is your purpose? What is your vision for your brand, your brand personality and tone of voice? All of this should feed into the process of choosing your brand colours.
Is your brand feminine or masculine, is it friendly or formal, luxurious or affordable, modern or classic, youthful or mature, loud or subdue, rugged or refined?
We are not getting into brand identity in detail here, but it is recommended that you take some time on this before progressing. To get you started you can compose a list of adjectives that describe your company’s character, as if you were talking about a person. Ask yourself how you’d like the brand to be perceived, and what sets it apart from the competition.
Explore Different Colour Meanings
Choose a colour that evokes the emotions and feeling that you want for your brand.
You should aim to have somewhere between 3 and 10 colours for your brand, the less the better as it will keep you more consistent. The 3 primary colours you want to choose are your Base colour, your accent colour and your neutral colour.
Start with your Base Colour – what is this colour that evokes the feeling and emotions you want for your brand that will appeal to your target audience. You’ll choose the remaining colors based on how well they match with this one.
Add your accent colour – this is the secondary colour that you use on top of your base, it is important to pick a color that works well with your base and that you wont get tired of, that alignes to your brand personality and appeal to your audience – no pressure accent colour!
What if you have already created your logo or other business assets but you are not in love with them, you don’t think they speak to your target audience, you wish they had a more professional look and feel. It’s ok to rebrand for sure, it’s not ok to do it repeatedly, so I would encourage anyone that is in this position to consider professional help. Really ask yourself what it is about your current colours that’s not working for you. And go through these steps methodically, the most important being the first and last – set up your brand foundations strong and finish with clear brand guidelines in place to keep you on track.
What about your competitors and your category?
Taking all of the above work into consideration, you want to be sure that you haven’t ended up with a brand colour palette the same or similar to one of your competitors. It makes it more difficult for people to tell your apart.
I would always have done this when selling physical products in a store, I would bring my newly designed mock-ups into a retailer and sit them up on the shelf against the competitors and photograph them! This lets you see if you are recessive or you stand out on shelf.
Whilst we may not all sell ourselves from a shelf, there are category norms and competitors to be mindful of when creating your own brand. Category norms are the colours that give a customer a quick mental trigger as to what you are, for example sunscreen is usually yellow. If you are launching sunscreen, yellow is an option, but sometimes going against the category norm can give you the standout you need. Or I recently came across an accountant who uses bold leopard print on her website … only for shes not in Ireland I would have hired her in two seconds because you know what, shes different and that appealed to me, I wasn’t looking for someone like my ‘Dads Accountant’ to work with.
So be mindful of your competitors and the category norms but don’t be afraid to push past them.
Luckily, we are in the digital age and you can get feedback from your audience for free! I have had to sit through hours and hours of research groups in my time trying to draw out from people why they liked / disliked certain colours over others. But now, you can literally pop a few options up on your insta stories, give it a little context as to what you are trying to achieve and who your target audience is and get some valuable feedback.
Be mindful, unless your partner, mother and sister are your target audience, whilst their opinion is lovely to have, you really need it from the people who are going to pay you for your services.
Create Brand Guidelines
This is the critical part of the process. There is no point in going through the process of choosing your brand palette and paying a designer or putting in hours of work yourself to then veer off track a few weeks down the road. You need a set of brand guidelines. A home for everything about your brand. Think of it as the pilots checklist before he takes off. Before you send out communications from your brand you want them to be consistent over time, so having a set of guidelines to refer back to will help you instill that level of confidence, professionalism and consistency in your brand that is needed.
To recap, remember to:
- Having your brand foundations in place to feed into the process is critical, your purpose, mission and values.
- Put your customer at the core of what you are doing.
- Embrace color theory to understand what colors mean.
- Get inspired and take time with the process – don’t rush it.
- Consider your competitors so you don’t look the same.
- Be mindful of category norms.
- Create and test a color palette across all brand touch points.
- Get feedback.
- Create brand guidelines so your brand always looks the same.