How to be color consistent and why it matters

How to be color consistent and why it matters

Imagine you’re spending your vacation in another country. You’ve already walked for hours, and the only thing you want is to find a Starbucks for a f...

Imagine you’re spending your vacation in another country. You’ve already walked for hours, and the only thing you want is to find a Starbucks for a familiar taste of cappuccino. So you walk up to the cafe’s door, but instead of the white mermaid over a green background — the well-known Starbucks logo, — you see a yellow fish on a purple fond. You start to question this place: is it Starbucks at all, where did the mermaid go, and does their cappuccino taste the same?

This is a vivid example of how customers get used to certain things, and how important it is to be consistent. Whether it’s the message the brand conveys, the tone of voice it uses on various platforms, or the color solution for its marketing materials — all these elements create a brand image. People start to recognize it and, as a result, begin to trust it.

In the article, we’ll focus on color consistency: we’ll find out what role it plays in product identity, share some tips on how to achieve it, and consider brand cases. Enjoy!

What makes up brand identity

Brand identity is a set of elements that help consumers recognize your brand and distinguish it from others. It includes a name, a tagline, a logo, a color scheme for different marketing materials (digital and printed), fonts, and even a writing style, called the brand voice. 

Brand identity vs. brand image

Brand identity is frequently confused with brand image. While the first is defined by the business owner (name, logo, color palette, etc.), the second is all about the perception the brand creates. To match these two, it’s vital to preserve consistency through all marketing materials, whether it’s social media posts, posters, newsletters, flyers, or brand uniforms.

Why color consistency is important

Color consistency isn’t hard to explain: a brand defines its color palette based on goal, target audience, and message, and uses it through all imaginable platforms. The brand’s primary colors are usually its logo colors, so use them as the base for your brand’s color solution. Check out the VistaCreate Colors project to learn the meaning behind different colors and choose the best color palette for your brands.

Color consistency helps with being recognizable, whether the brand posts Instagram Stories or sends Christmas greeting cards to clients. Once you see the yellow letter “M”, you know there’s a McDonald’s somewhere out there. Once you bump into a unique two-tail mermaid, you’re thinking of a cup of coffee. Colors play an essential role in creating these associations.

It all becomes more transparent with good examples. So, let’s try to figure out the importance of color consistency based on two rebranding cases.

Gap rebranding failure

In 2010, the clothing retailer decided to update its 20-year logo — the word “GAP” inside a navy square. A new version was black text over a white background, with a little blue square near the letter “p.” Not only did it add a new color to the original logo, thus changing the color scheme, but it also created a whole new perception of the brand.

Source: The Branding Journal

The results were crushing: 2,000 negative Facebook comments, a protesting Twitter account with 5,000 subscribers, and the viral “Make your own Gap logo” website. However, the company realized that the rebranding campaign didn’t go as expected, so they switched to the original logo in less than a week. Isn’t this a perfect example of why visual identity is crucial?

Mastercard logo update

While Gap suffered a complete failure with their renewed logo, Mastercard showed the opposite results. In 2019, the financial services corporation removed the word “Mastercard” from its logo. The company spokesman commented on Mastercard’s decision:

With more than 80 percent of people spontaneously recognizing the Mastercard Symbol without the word “Mastercard,” we felt ready to take this next step in our brand evolution. We are proud of our rich brand heritage and are excited to see the iconic circles standing on their own.

Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communication officer at Mastercard

We all recognize two crossing circles, red and yellow, whether it’s with or without the name. And the only explanation for that is the brand’s consistent color scheme. It creates such a strong link to the brand and works perfectly on its own.

How business can ensure color consistency

As we already know, color consistency is vital for business identity; the next step is to figure out how to achieve it. There are several tips and tools to manage design consistency for your brand.

  1. Create design guidelines

To ensure branding design consistency throughout all platforms, you need a brand kit or design guidelines with specific information about your brand. It can be executed as a simple PDF file or a full-fledged website. A brand kit usually includes:

  • Positioning and the brand voice;
  • Logo variants for different materials;
  • Color palettes with CMYK/RGB/HEX codes;
  • Fonts;
  • Visual stylistic recommendations.

Even if you have a small business and manage all of its marketing activities on your own, it might get bigger with time. Hence, you’ll work with advertising agencies, design bureaus, and other contractors, so you’ll need a brand kit to preserve your brand identity.

Many well-known brands, like Starbucks and Spotify, have their brand kits in the public domain so that all of their contractors can use them. You can rely on these examples when creating your own design guidelines. You can also use brand identity templates to save some time.

  1. Use professional tools

If full-pledged design guidelines sound like a far future for you, you can always consider simplified products. For example, the Brand Kit feature from VistaCreate allows you to gather all essential visual attributes in one place, and use them whenever you need them. 

You can add your brand logo, colors, and fonts to the Brand Kit, and create social media designs, ads, podcast covers, flyers, invoices, and other marketing materials. Besides, you can also select a logo from VistaCreate’s templates collection and customize it to match your brand identity.

Moreover, with VistaCreate, you can easily resize your designs for various platforms. It takes just a few clicks to select a format you need.

  1. Use different color modes for different materials

CMYK and RGB/HEX are color modes most often used by designers. But there is a significant difference between them. 

While RGB (red, green, blue) or HEX codes are used for digital images, like a digital banner or a Facebook post, CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) works best for printed materials, like flyers and posters. 

You can always find matching colors in both, so don’t avoid any of these color modes. It’s a rule of thumb that the color on a digital carrier always looks more vivid than when printed. 

Takeaway

Design consistency brings recognition, and recognition leads to trust. That is essential for building a brand that is strong and cohesive.

The McDonald’s “M” sign is the same in any country on any continent. And this is the reason we trust this company and know what to expect from it. This is why we sometimes chose to have lunch there instead of in an unfamiliar local fast food cafe.

Chasing color trends will get you nowhere. By the same token, color variety won’t make your brand more lively. Instead, it’ll make it unrecognizable and faceless (unless you’re Google). So if you want consumers to recognize your brand immediately, work on your brand identity and use your color palette throughout all platforms. Stay consistent!

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Lera Babko
Copywriter at VistaCreate. Loves music, movies, art, and traveling. Dreams of a house in Iceland, where she could write.

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