Hue Are You?

With obvious and intended pun and nod to Pete Townshend’s title track on The Who‘s 1978 release, Who Are You, I would like you to consider the definition of the term hue: the quality of a color as determined by its dominant wavelength.

So, what’s the quality of the colors you use in your business and how do they relate to your organization’s dominant message or brand. Color is a powerful branding tool and one that’s not used as widely or effectively as possible.

The meaning, symbolism and psychology of color used in business is something that’s widely covered on sites like color consultant Kate Smith’s Sensational Color and commonly drawn upon when a graphic designer chooses colors for a corporate identity of logo. (Or that’s the theory anyway)

Green sends a different message than blue and blue different than red. Colors are often carefully chosen in the initial elements of branding, but then not used to the full extent beyond this.

To get the total impact of color as a branding element you must go much deeper. Your organization’s color should be considered in every strategy, tactic and innovation.

While brands that choose to employ identify firms as part of their overall marketing team generally accomplish a comprehensive use of color, most small businesses don’t. The following ideas can help drive color as a major visual element of your brand.

The basic decision

The first step is to pick your colors much like a sports team. It’s not enough to use maroon on the logo and call it a day. You’ve got to state in your marketing plans, training, and communications that you are the blue and gold and move on to reinforcing it as a major element. (Note the use of two colors. Teams have two colors instead of one because colors used in combination send a stronger blended message and they can compliment each other when used.)

Baking it in

Once you have your team colors you need to consider them at every turn. When you do the web site redesign, marketing materials, Twitter background, email template and product packaging, your colors must appear in consistent and prominent fashion to help reinforce the attachment. You’re goal is have your colors so associated with your brand that the very appearance of them in certain ways signals that this is a marketing communication from your organization. This takes patience and consistency.

Guiding color

If you’ve got more than one employee that works on marketing materials in your organization there’s a pretty good bet that each has their own definition of what blue means. After you’ve chosen your colors take the time (or hire a professional) to create a standards manual that outlines the ways, among other things, your team colors can and should be used. This includes clearly stating every possible RGB, CMYK and Pantone variety of the color so that blue means your very specific blue no matter the medium or platform.

This guide should be a simple and helpful overview that covers many elements of your brand identity standards in addition to color, such as logo and type use, and should be distributed to every employee and outside vendor. (You’ll be very happy you’ve done this.)

Blending it deeply

Another very effective way to drive home the use of your team colors is to use them at the office as well.

If your primary color is orange you can reinforce color as a strategy element with your staff by:

  • – Creating stuff they might actually wear in orange
  • – Painting the walls of certain rooms (play room) orange
  • – Creating or buying art that reinforces your color choices
  • – Having the staff tell an orange color story in staff meetings
  • – Sending oranges and orange flowers as a staff thank you
  • – Adorning workspaces with orange chairs, waste baskets and paper clips

Color is a marketing tool, but like any tool, it won’t do you much good unless you pick it up and get good at using it.

Image credit: Digiart2001

Author: John Jantsch
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, award winning social media publisher, and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.