The language of colour – what the colours you choose say about your business

Colour is something that is hardwired into our psych.

Some of it relates to natural world but some is cultural.

Then there are colour trends and fashions (looking back at the browns and oranges of the 70’s)

So as a business how do you decide on your brand colours?

There are general ‘rules’

Red = dynamic

Yellow = optimistic

Orange = exciting

Green = calming

Blue = Trustworthy

But this is too simplistic. After all there are so many shades of colours.

The zing of a lime green gives such a different message than the classicism of a British Racing Green. The corporate feel of dark blue versus the contemporary feel of turquoise.

So different shades of a colour can make a huge difference.

How can colour help you achieve your marketing objectives?

So before thinking about colour, consider what you are trying to achieve

Do you want to appear to fit into a sector?

Maybe you are a new entrant amongst well established brands and you want to be seen as their equal. Then you would take your cues from what is expected from that sector – blue for financial services for example.

Do you wPicture1newant to shake up a sector or market?

Colour is an immediate way of shouting that you are different.

When Co-op launched smile bank in the 1990’s it was something that looked to break the mould and its use of bright cerise pink and black certainly contributed to this in a world of corporate bland banking logos.

Do you want to gain visual brand recognition?  

For some companies colour is their primary branding tool and they go to great lengths to protect it. Tiffany & Co’s instantly recognisable turquoise blue has now become a registered trademark (Pantone 1837) which is not available for anyone else to use. Christian Louboutin has secured the trademark for the distinctive red used on the soles of the shoes he designs; Harrods has a trademark for the shade of green that is synonymous with its brand. Last year (2012) Cadbury won a length legal battle to trademark its shade of purple.

Do you want to create impact?Victorias Secret Store 01

Heavy use of strong colours can work brilliantly at creating impact, which in environments such as retail is always a struggle.

Victoria’s Secret uses pink which is an obvious colour for a feminine brand but they really go for it and everything is pink from their signage, store interiors, bags and packaging.

Colour the glue in brand consistency

Many designers strive to have a consistency of design. They love being able to spread out a body of work for a brand on the table and marvel at how the design is consistent across everything. That’s great in some areas and disastrous in others.

Generally you don’t want your advertisements or direct marketing to all look the same because it just becomes visual wallpaper and people no longer see the message BUT if it doesn’t look like it comes from your brand people may also miss the point. So you are looking for brand consistencies that still give flexibility and colour is a great way of doing this. It is the subliminal recognition whilst still allowing for new and fresh campaigns.

Understand the implications of production

One thing that small businesses often fail to consider is the impact on the production methods will have on how the colour reproduces, but also the cost of getting it produced.

The printing process, for example uses both CYMK and Pantone colours. CYMK is like the inkjet cartridge in your home printer. Every colour is made up of a mix of cyan (C), yellow (Y), magenta (M) or black (K) inks. Pantone is a premixed ink to specific colours. Most printing uses CYMK which can’t produce some of the more vibrant colours such as orange or lime green well. There are ways you can use a pantone colour in the printing process but this does carry and extra cost.

Colours such as gold or silver can be printed using special colours, but if printed using normal processes come out a dull beige and uninspired grey.

The web has an even more limited palette of web colours so you may have to compromise there.

Newspaper print on low quality paper and colour reproduction is poor so subtle colours can be lost easily.

Your designer should advise you on the pitfalls and implications of specific colour choices

So what does your logo or branding colours say about your business and could it be time for a change?

If you would like to discuss your logo or branding, please contact Alison Clynes on 01472 269 016