Differentiate your business with colors and gradients
The article is not a how-to guide, but more or less our own experience and some personal opinion on the subject. We will tell you how to choose a set of colors for your brand and how they can help your business to differentiate. Yet, in some cases, it can also ruin it.
At Laroche, we tackle each month branding projects. And most of them consist either complementing a current branding of a company or rebranding it from scratch. Colors are important to a brand because they create the style and personality of a business. And if approached in the right manner, it can help your business grow.
We all know that the main goal of a business is of course growth (sales). And in an overcrowded market, all need a differentiating factor. Something that will help a business to stand out and say to the customer that we are unique. It can be a symbol, it can be your product design, it can be your amazing customer service. In our case it can be the color palette you will choose for your brand.
So what color should we choose to represent our company?
Most of the time there are two basic answers. Choose a set or one color that will help you shape your company style & strategy. Or choose colors based on what feelings and emotions you want your customers to have when interacting with your product.
To get more into details, there are a couple of general questions that help to create a better picture and will help you to decide on your next steps.
What is your business strategy for the upcoming years?
Is it increasing sales? Do you want to extend a number of products you offer? Do you want to improve your service? Or you want to differentiate from your competitors? For example, you are a coffee company and you decided to extend your product range. Now you sell 12 types of coffee. And each coffee may have different taste, flavor, and mix of ingredients. So you could use a set of colors that can help send a message for each package. For example, a more intense flavor can be darker colors and softer taste can go with softer nuances.
Who is your audience?
Choosing colors that appeal to your core audience will help you to stand out and sell your product better. But don’t be afraid to break the rules too. Going with an unconventional color palette may help to break the ice between you and what your customers are looking for. For example, if you are a sports brand, and you want to appeal to younger generations, you can go with color combinations that will help you to seem "cool", full of energy or youthful. Other brands may want to look more premium & high class. In this case, you can go with darker tonalities such as black or navy.
Maybe your brands need a refresh and not exactly new colors.
What I mean is that sometimes companies use colors that are associated with retro/old. Some of them still did not update their website and branding since web 1.0. And depending on your business industry, this may be associated with an old fashioned style. For example, if your color palette consists of three well-established colors, you can tweak them into more modern and flat colors. This is a good kickstart for your brand identity in case you don’t have a future business strategy or look to see your customers reaction/feedback.
What’s your emotional tone?
The main strategy behind the colors of a brand is to make the customer/visitors feel in a certain way. Colors may influence our decision making on a subconscious level. And there is a lot of research on the market that proves that.
Because all people are emotional human beings, feelings are what determine our actions. So the color palette you choose may evoke different feelings: security, desire, action, inspire, etc.
You should also take into account that the feeling you create, for example with a blue color, may vary from audience to audience. For some of us, it may mean security, for others, it may mean corporate. In the food industry, black may mean rotten, but if used properly it may mean as something of a better quality and more expensive.
Colors also determine your company voice. It's what helps us to associate and give an emotional tone to your brand. Accompanied by the right copy and messaging (link another article) it creates an image in our head. Which eventually is very hard to change if you will make mistakes as a brand.
What can you try new to differentiate?
In the last two years, a new color trend emerged: gradients. Gradients are everywhere in the design community. They gain popularity fast and are used to many things: user interfaces, graphic design, web design. The first brand who implemented it with a big success on the market and had a blast was Spotify. Gradients not only allowed to shape their style, but it also associates with different moods and feelings you have when listening to certain types of music. You can read more about it here.
If done right, gradients can be used as a big differentiating factor for your company. They can be applied to your branding, logo, website and print. Gradients have in use in printing before 20’s but grew in popularity recently. Some of the factors are better screens and color combinations (more flat & modern). And also due to the fact that the market became overcrowded. This gives an incentive to the designers to search for something new. There are almost no drawbacks of choosing gradients for your company brand identity. It can tell your story, your emotional tone, give your brand an edge and so much more. If the designer can create a well-rounded system around gradients for a brand, it can go anywhere the brand goes. From screens to print, to environments and interactive experiences.
Yet, you have to be careful when implementing them into your brand identity.
It’s a wonderful trend to use and to stand out. But for example, some designers don’t take into account the original symbol of a company when using a gradient. And the gradient becomes the main benchmark and not the shape & business strategy of the logo. So when it comes to printing out documents or using the logo in black and white, it loses shape & style. It loses identity and the logo may be misunderstood or misspelled when used in a plain color or black & white. You have to make sure that it can work without gradients too.
A great example of a good use of gradients in their logo and brand identity is Asana. Their brand identity consists of wonderful gradients that help the brand to stand out. But it also shapes their style. If you look close, their logo works well if there are no colors at all. The symbol is clear and easy to understand.
If I could leave you with one idea after reading this article, it would be this. Choose 2-3 primary colors for your brand that identify with your business strategy & audience. Then, either create gradient combinations out of them or complement them with other gradients that can be scaled across your entire brand identity. In this way, you will hit the sweet spot of differentiating and also keeping it simple and future proof.