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How to manage brand colours in this digital age

How to manage brand colours in this digital age

By Colin Osborne MBE, colour consultant, Charterhouse

The DNA of a brand is made up from many strands including the font type, tone of voice and logo. Yet, studies have suggested that up to 80% of brand awareness can be attributed to colour.

Colour is fundamental to brand identity, not least because it is instantly recognisable and transcends language barriers. Many world famous brands are associated with a colour, from easyJet orange to Coca-Cola red, and work hard to protect their use of a particular hue.

Controlling consistency has however proved difficult. The proliferation of media channels and customer contact points, from print to social media and smartphones, has made consistency management an immense task. Many marketers have also outsourced the production of their promotional material to multiple suppliers over time, leading to further consistency challenges.

The tiniest discrepancy from one system’s settings to the next could drastically alter the final product, so this rapidly expanding network of silo operations and multiple platforms opens up great risk. This is of particular concern for logos, colour sensitive product catalogues and especially for big-ticket products like luxury cars.

In response to these challenges and driven by advances in technology, methods are being developed to enable brand managers to keep colour under control. The traditional colour swatch for example has been demoted to a simple visual check against digital spectrometry. There are a number of other steps marketers can take to enhance their colour management and keep their branding consistent across channels.

Starting blocks

Before embarking on any design project, marketers must take a moment to consider what the potential outputs will be. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to address any issues further down the line. A large part of the investment will have already been made, and a major disruption like this can result in costly delays and wastage.

Identifying who will be involved in the final production elements and ensuring that they are all working to an agreed standard of colour management is a must. Global brands in particular must consider how they will manage and monitor colour outputs across all territories. Charterhouse uses ISO 12647, the industry standard, and calibrates equipment and suppliers to this to give clients the end-to-end consistency that they demand.

Know your limits

Marketing decisions can have a massive impact on colour, from the type and quality of paper used to the different suppliers employed. However, with so many other considerations on the table, and with marketers under increasing pressure to cut costs in the current economic climate, this is not always given due consideration.

There are particular limitations in digital with regards to the range of colours that certain interfaces can support. Consumers have a smorgasbord of handheld devices to choose from, so it’s vital that brands can appear consistent whatever method of communication and interaction they choose.

While marketers can’t calibrate end users’ devices, they can develop a digital colour spectrum that will, on a calibrated monitor, give the best consistency with print. Marketers need to ensure that the colours they are considering for a new campaign or rebrand for example work across all available channels.

It is essential to build these considerations into key marketing decisions, and to work closely with relevant experts to ensure that what the various agencies are being asked to produce will meet the exact needs of the brand. This will ensure that everyone is working to agreed expectations and that marketers can manage these discussions internally.

Digital diligence

The proliferation of digital channels and screens has been by far the biggest game changer in colour management in recent years. It has added an array of variables to the process, and has elevated the importance of colour management as a marketing discipline.

This is an area that brands must be particularly aware of quizzing the right people about. They must work closely with a production partner to ensure that their colour spectrum and management is fit for today’s multi-screen world.

An overall view

Working with a large network of agencies can help marketers to find the right expertise for their campaigns. Colour management is often viewed as a part of these agency relationships, and consequently wrapped up in these contracts and direct conversations.

Yet, colour management is an expertise in itself and works best when tackled separately. This allows brands to find the best approach to colour management and employ this throughout the whole of the marketing chain, while allowing agencies to focus on their core responsibilities.

Keep on checking

Getting the foundations in place at the start is essential, but keeping a close eye on the process and outputs is also important. Brands need to be aware of the tools available, and the degree of accuracy that they can now strive for, as well as advancements in technology that can support them in this mission to achieve total colour management.

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