The Secret Colours of Marketing & Communicating Your Message – Part 3
This is the final part in the series on the secret colours of marketing & communicating your message. I hope that this has been valuable thus far and that this final article will complete your understanding of the impact that colours can have on the marketing message you wish to convey and how to use them to your best advantage.
I often speak at events about a variety of topics such as Marketing, Blue Ocean Strategy, Social Networking and Social Media and Business Finance and Securing Investment. The marketing gigs have provided some great questions at the end of the presentation. For example, I am often asked whether there is one thing that I would like clients to do to make it easier for me to support them and contribute to their success that will increase the synergy between us and quality of the output.
In 2009 during a video link presentation to a group of sales and marketing professionals and marketing industry executives at a conference in Dubai, UAE, I was asked this same question in respect of the use of colour, i.e. if we were to engage for a consulting gig to look into the use of colour in their marketing what is the one thing I would want them to do?
The short answer is to have an open mind, which means bring your ideas and creativity to the table but check your prejudices and perceptions at the door. Yes, I ended up workshopping ideas with them. The long answer is as follows.
A vast majority of marketing people seem to think that there is only one colour on the planet that should ever be used in marketing, and that colour is blue! Yes, I would be the first to admit that blue is a great colour for many reasons. Nevertheless, in reality blue in marketing is a safe colour. No matter where you look, you will find blue everywhere; the sky, the ocean, blue ocean strategists, bandaids in hospitals …. blue essentially gives a certain comfort level. This is important when you consider that many people are simply too afraid to take a risk.
Now consider some very successful companies that took the decision to take really big risks with their use of colour. Let’s look at United Parcel Service or UPS as they are better known. Back in the 1960’s nobody was even contemplating the use of brown as part of their corporate identity respectively their logo. UPS did and together with everything else that great company did right, the risk paid off for them big time. For small companies though this level of risk can feel like they are literally putting everything they have on the line.
My advice in these cases … ‘get over it! and get over yourself!’. You can imagine that a great many people don’t appreciate that but those that do are the ones that have the balls to pursue their vision with a passion and take calculated risks.
The commercial reality however is, that smaller businesses have more compelling reasons for the business owner to take risks with colours. Competing against big companies, who are trying to occupy your space, without the budget that they can throw at it means as a small business owner you have to be smarter with your budget and sometimes edgier in your approach. Of course the landscape would be a different if you had a big budget and an entire marketing team pounding the pavement and beating the drums with your message. But if you are like most small to medium businesses you don’t. So your logo, your website, your hardcopy brochures and handouts, your business cards, and even your letterhead have a lot of work to do for you. You need to ensure they help you stand out from the crowd and be noticed.
Colour, font type and font size, the corporate style-sheet, are part of your corporate identity. Don’t treat them like second class citizens or poor relatives. Give them the attention they deserve so that they can help you receive the attention you deserve.
Also, understand that because you are choosing to use different colours, it does not mean that you automatically need to change the fundamentals of any of your other marketing creatives and promotional assets. Quite often the change of colour can cause a significant change in the entire creative landscape itself. Do this simple exercise. Take one of your marketing layouts and alter the tones. For example, if it uses cool and industrial tones, shift these to tones that are in the warmer spectrum. By simply changing the tones you will see that it will have a major impact on the asset without changing layout of the original design.
For More Information About Colours
For more information on colours and how to best use them, the Pantone website is the global industry standard of all things to do with colour. If you have ever printed a business card your graphic designer or printer probably would have mentioned them to you at some stage. The Pantone Institute has really useful resources and helpful articles with regard to colour and the ways in which you can use them to your best advantage. There is also an interesting section on colour forecasting which is useful if you like to be at the bleeding edge and see which colour trends will most likely be in fashion and filling our public spaces in the years to come.
The Colourful Bottom-line
As with most things I often find that the best indication as to whether one colour or another or a combination of colours is right for you and your business is to trust your gut instinct. There are all too many marketing people out there who love spending your money while they test their theories with ideas and approaches that quite frankly should never have seen the light of day in the commercial world. They’re almost worst than lawyers in this regard. So trust your instincts and be open to hearing new ideas.
Colour in marketing especially is a science, but it isn’t and doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s also perfectly legitimate to choose a colour simply because you love it, perhaps it’s your favourite, and it makes you happy. To finish I would like to return to the beginning and say that colour is all about eliciting and evoking hidden emotions out of us and our fellow man. Pay close attention to your emotions when choosing a colour and you will almost certainly get it right more often than not.
Thank you for investing your time to read this series. I trust the information was valuable.