What the HEX? Why you need to maintain colour consistency in your branding

RGB, CMYK… what the HEX is it all about? A lot of businesses tune out when their designers start talking about colour, but it plays a vital role in keeping your brand looking consistent i.e., professional. If you’re confused by all the different colour models, and why they’re important, then we’re here to help.

In this blog we’re going on a joyous technicolour journey to talk about the difference between RGB, CMYK and HEX colour models, and the whys and hows of maintaining colour consistency in your branding.

RGB, CMYK and HEX colour models

Let’s start at the beginning with the three most common colour models used in digital and print design: RGB, CMYK AND HEX. Here’s a brief overview of each of them:

RGB

RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue, and it’s used for digital design. Different intensities of red, green, and blue combine to create a range of colours. Every colour on a computer screen, tablet and phone is made up of different combinations of RGB values.

CMYK

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). Yeah, we know it’s weird that it’s not just B for Black! This is the colour model used in print design and combines different levels of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink to create a range of colours.

HEX

HEX is short for hexadecimal, and it’s a six-digit code that represents colours in RGB values. It is commonly used for web design – these are the ones that start with a # (before that had a whole other meaning).

So now we know a bit about the different colour models, let’s talk about why it’s so important to keep a tight rein on the colours in your branding.

 

Why maintain colour consistency in branding?

Colour consistency is crucial in branding for several reasons:

Brand recognition

Let’s shoot for brand recognition, because, who doesn’t want to be remembered? Consistent colour use is the golden ticket to brand recall. Picture this, Tiffany puts out an ad and their iconic blue box suddenly looks purple… Blimey, that’s a branding nightmare! You need that colour consistency splashed across every platform, be it online or offline – website, social media pages, business cards, flyers, the works.

Professionalism

If you want your business to scream “pros at work” rather than “a motley crew’s first rodeo”, you’ve got to get your colour game spot on! Making sure the colours are consistent across all your branding pulls your look together and sets you apart from any Tom, Dick or Harry playing around on Canva.

Efficiency

Running a business is hectic enough without fretting about whether your website logo is playing colour match-up with your Twitter page logo. Kick-off with best practices when it comes to your branding, and you’ll save yourself loads of time and dodging those double-checking duties down the line.

Now that we’ve established why colour consistency is essential in branding, let’s talk about how we make that happen!

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HOW do you maintain colour consistency in your branding?

Maintaining colour consistency can be challenging, especially if you have several designers and marketers working on different projects! Here’s a few tips to help you stay in control:

Use brand guidelines

Think of brand guidelines as your brand’s rulebook, laying down the law on your visual identity. It’s not just about the logo, fonts, and colours – it could also stretch to include how photography should be used, the framework for the style of photography,  and even layouts for snazzy presentations or social media posts. Typically, they’re packed up neatly into a PDF, ready to guide your marketing materials down the path of consistency. It’s like a cheat sheet for your employees and collaborators, helping everyone stay on brand and looking sharp.

Use the correct colour models

Here’s the 101 on colour models: RGB is your go-to for digital design, CMYK’s got your back on print, and HEX is your web design superstar. So, say you need to get that logo up on Twitter – make sure you’re armed with the RGB version. That’s because the CMYK one will lose its punch on screen, looking less vibrant than your 3 am cup of coffee. Any logo designer worth their beans will have you kitted out with all the versions you need. Seriously, they’re the salt of the Earth.

Test colours before finalising

Remember that game, “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”? Think of your colours as that tail. You want to test them  out before sticking them for good on your marketing materials, both in the digital realm and the physical one. Different print finishes can mess with your colour results. For instance, colours can throw a tantrum on glossy or matt paper, and lamination might put a slight damper on their spirit. Don’t go printing a thousand brochures without asking for a print sample first! And remember, just like snowflakes, no two computer monitors or mobile phones show colour in exactly the same way. Keep that in mind, and you’ll save yourself a whole load of headaches.

Use colour management software

There are some tools that can help you in your fight to keep colour consistent. Consider colour management software your new BFF in the battle for consistency across all your marketing materials. This tech wizardry can help you tune up your monitors and printers, ensuring that your colours play nicely across all mediums. You should also become besties with your printing company; they can be the Gandalf to your Frodo in getting the colour right for every job. If they’re local, even better – you can pop in and give a thumbs up in person.

Well, that was a whistle stop tour of colour wasn’t it! Now that we’ve looked at why colour consistency in your branding is essential, you can ensure that your business looks the business. And with an understanding of the difference between RGB, HEX, and CMYK colour models, you can make sure that your brand is looking on-brand across all platforms.

Get going today and start implementing these tips to maintain colour consistency in your branding. Your customers will appreciate the attention to detail and professionalism, and your brand recognition will improve as a result. Need support? Send us a message and we can help.

Why Treating Branding as a Cost Is Commercial Suicide

We’re seeing far too many businesses not putting enough effort into their branding.

It’s a crying shame, because the rush to get a business up and running quickly by ‘knocking up’ a logo, strap line, and bunch of social media header graphics will result in more work further down the line. We know this because we see it such a lot.

Worse still, it’ll fail to attract the right kind of customer.

It’s commercial suicide – and that isn’t hyperbole.

 

Let’s throw out those branding guidelines, shall we?

Firstly, let’s get one thing straight – you need brand guidelines. The guidelines we’re referring to above are those which you may have been given as ‘advice’ when starting your business.

Why you need brand guidelines

According to your so-called-expert, they’ll form a super-simple, three-step process:

  • Step 1: Hold a half day strategy session internally to decide on your branding.
  • Step 2: List what you’ll need to create for that branding.
  • Step 3: Start with the logo and use it to quickly create all your other assets.

Easy, right?

Well, yes. But if building Rome was viewed as easy, they’d have literally done it within a day – and none of us would bother visiting it today.

Branding needs significant investment if it’s to be successful. While many smart business owners and start-up entrepreneurs understand this, far too many don’t. Or they think they can’t afford it when they’re just setting out.

But the truth is that if you invest now, you’ll avoid creating something which is crap, and, as we all know, ‘crap’ alwaysneeds to be reworked further down the line. Often sooner than you think!

 

Brand strategy cost: getting away from the ‘c’ word

Branding shouldn’t be viewed as a ‘cost’ by your business.

Think back to the last piece of equipment, software, or furniture you bought for your business. You did so because you needed it, right? It answered a need, filled a gap, or solved a challenge. It may even have enabled you to work faster and therefore make more money.

Branding is the same. It’s not a cost which is a pain to bear; it’s an essential part of your business which will attract the right customers without you having to lift a finger.

However, it will become a cost if you don’t invest properly from the outset. It’ll rear its head again when you discover that the logo isn’t professional enough, or realise your website is attracting the wrong audience.

Then, it’ll be something you have to spend money on – again. Whereas, if you invest correctly from the start, it’ll work handsomely for you – right from the off.

 

Why is branding so expensive?

It isn’t! This is a misconception, and again points to far too many people viewing it as a cost rather than an investment.

If you spend £10,000 on a piece of equipment which you know will increase your output by 20% and the quality of your product by 50%, it’s a sound investment; you won’t view it as ‘expensive’.

The same goes for your branding. It’s only expensive if you get it wrong or don’t spend enough on it to begin with.

Bring in the right agency (ahem), reserve a tonne of time for the task, and branding is about as cost-effective as it gets in terms of the results.

Why should I invest in branding early on?

Branding goes far beyond fancy logos and typography. It’s the essence of your business. This is why you need to spend more on it, right from the outset.

When done correctly, branding creates a personality for your company which is immediately obvious, and attractive for the right audience. Therefore, if someone has told you to “go easy” on branding to begin with, they’re not doing you any favours.

If your business is clear from the outset, it’ll naturally begin to attract the right type of customer. By comparison, if the branding is rushed and cheap, you’ll be starting immediately with an Achilles heel.

No business owner wants to sit around for months waiting for that first chunk of business to come in; we all want it from the start, and branding plays a huge role in that.

Have we whetted your appetite for a proper investment in branding? Good – you won’t regret it.

Just get in touch with the awesome Be Smart team to find out how we can ensure you invest wisely in this vital element of your business.

Brand Guidelines are a Living and Breathing Document

We’re all guilty of creating documents for our businesses that are left to gather dust.

Hidden away in long-forgotten folders on our laptops, or even at the bottom of that old filing cabinet, they were created with great intentions; we had big plans for them. Alas, they’re now useless.

That’s one hell of a waste of time, right? And if there’s one element of business in which this is most prevalent, it’s arguably marketing.

Take the humble brand guidelines document, for instance. Many businesses will embark on creating a new logo and brand identity, website, and all of the paraphernalia that comes with it (colours, typography – that kinda thing) and minutely document everything “for future use”.

But when was the last time you revisited your brand guidelines? If you’re scratching your head, you’re not alone, but it’s time to put this right, because brand guidelines should be living, breathing documents.

Embedding within the team

The key to creating brand guidelines that evolve with your company lies with your team. They need to feel connected to them and understand the reasons they exist.

Can you say, hand on heart, that you’ve embedded your brand guidelines within your team?

Marketing directors and company owners will often refer to their brand guidelines as ‘the bible’, but a bible that isn’t read, digested, and understood isn’t going to attract much of a following.

When you create or update your brand guidelines, make sure you share them with the team. Give them ownership of the elements within and explain the reasons the guidelines exist so you get buy-in.

Things change (as 2020 has demonstrated)

We’re not going to apologise for using the ‘C’ word here (again), because it illustrates how dramatically things can change without notice.

If you want an example of how markets, customers, and the economy as a whole can swivel on a sixpence, look no further than the Coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has forced many companies to completely change the way they market themselves. Consumers have become even more price conscious, and marketing tactics have had to adapt to a far more nervous and volatile marketplace.

This will impact your brand guidelines in one way or another. It might simply be that you need to adjust the tone you use on your blog, or there may even be elements of your branding that are at odds with the world right now. You may even have pivoted completely and added new services which will also affect your brand guidelines.

It’s why you need to keep close tabs on the document and make changes whenever your hand is forced.

 

Hey – you’re growing!

If you add more services and products to your portfolio, that means two things:

  • you’re probably growing as a business; and
  • you need to update your brand guidelines!

As your business grows and you start to offer more value to clients, your branding will evolve. For instance, that new product you’ve just launched may need to be represented within your company’s colour palette, or you may need to create a new tone of voice that’s linked to a new service.

The same goes if you acquire new businesses, partners, or integrations. How will these additions impact your branding?

Lastly, what if you merge with another company? That’s a form of growth and, potentially, a pretty significant impact on your original branding.

If you simply leave your brand guidelines as they were from the outset during times of growth and evolution, they’ll quickly become irrelevant, and that will have a seriously negative impact on your marketing (that’s less exciting, right?). As a result, your messaging will become confused, the tone will be off-brand, and you’ll begin to lag behind the competition.

 

New marketing channels

There are a huge number of marketing channels to explore these days, which means you’ll probably want to experiment with new ways to reach customers.

If you think your existing branding can simply hop along for the ride when you try out a new marketing channel – think again.

For instance, the way you present your brand on Twitter is probably going to be very different from the way you do so on traditional print advertising (yes, that’s still a thing!). Consistency is important, of course, but it’s the smaller details that might need to change.

The way your logo is presented, or the tone of voice are classic examples of branding elements that need to evolve as you try out new marketing channels. This is particularly the case if you decide to head into the world of social media for the first time.

Another example: what if you move from selling via Instagram to a dedicated eCommerce platform? Are your original brand guidelines set up for that kind of switch? Do you have all the assets and collateral you need to make a success of the new platform?

 

Crossing borders

One of the most exciting things you can do as a business is to expand into foreign markets. It’s a strategy that can help you grow significantly, but it’s also littered with opportunities to inadvertently damage your brand.

For instance, certain colours and words used in your branding may be completely innocuous in your native land, but they could land you in very hot water elsewhere.

Take Pepsi, for example. When the drinks giant launched their products in China, they used the slogan “Pepsi brings you back to life”. Sounds OK, right? Only, in China, it translated as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.

Ouch.

If you’re about to head into new territories, make sure you conduct a thorough brand guideline review first! And check your translations are carried out by someone who understands cultural nuances.

 

Is it time to revisit your brand guidelines?

If you’re now feeling a bit sorry for your brand guidelines document, we’ve done our job. It probably has been neglected.

But rather than dwelling on that for too long, retrieve it and conduct a thorough review.

It’s not an easy task, and it can actually leave you with a number of unanswered questions.

If that’s the case, before you make any significant changes, be smart and get in touch with us – we’ll help you make the right branding decisions, now and in future!

Why do you need brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines are a set of rules for the use of your logo and other brand elements to create a unified identity when connecting colours, your logo or your typography. Sometimes they can extend to include your brand style or in other words the look and feel of all your marketing materials. The guidelines define how the elements that make up your brand are used and in essence defines how your business communicates with your audience.

It’s an important document because it can be used by employees and external creative suppliers to ensure that your materials are always ‘on brand’.

So what’s the business case for having a set of brand guidelines?

1. Consistency

When you have a predetermined set of rules, you will get a consistent look and feel to all of your marketing so when your ideal client visits your website, sees your advert or receives your sales brochure, they perceive your company in a certain way and the guidelines help you control that perception.

Consistency is important because it makes your brand recognisable and therefore reliable.

2. New employees benefit

You may well know your brand’s identity inside out, but a new employee probably won’t. It’s also particularly useful for giving to design agencies or publishing houses so that they may create new marketing materials that are ‘on brand’.

Your brand guidelines are composed of rules on how to use your brand’s visual elements. These rules will include when to use a logo versus a wordmark, whether you have a stacked or a long version of your logo, the exclusion zone around your logo, where it appears consistently on the page and the hierarchy of colour and typography.

Brand guidelines are a valuable tool for your employees to keep your brand cohesive. In larger organisations departments other than marketing or comms produce materials too, for example HR or the leader of a large project, so it’s important they all have the brand guidelines and more importantly are familiar with them.

3. Recognisable

By keeping your brand consistent, it allows it to be more immediately recognisable within your industry and with your target audience. Building a recognisable brand can take time but your brand can quickly start to stand out by adhering to your brand guidelines.

4. Staying focused

When introducing new products or services, a brand can get stretched too thin. By implementing brand guidelines, you have the tools to quickly and effectively maintain consistency. Brand guidelines help you align your business’s interests with your intended audience.

5. Value

With a cohesive brand identity you increase the brand’s perceived value. Consistency allows your brand to appear more professional and reliable. By implementing brand guidelines, you make it easier to maintain the quality and integrity of your brand’s image. This is particularly useful in a more price driven market, as consistently communicating your brand in a cohesive way means people will see the value in choosing you rather than your cheaper competition.

What’s included in brand guidelines?

Colour palette

These are the colours that make up your brand. Normally you’ll have a primary colour palette that will include the colours of your logo and the secondary colour palette will include complementary colours that can be used on marketing materials. It’s not wise to use too many colour options or you’ll start to lose your identity. Brand guidelines should include RGB and CMYK colour codes, so your colours stay consistent between web and print formats.

Typography

Brand guidelines will include typefaces and families, font sizes, and the hierarchy of the fonts your brand uses. It could include the typeface you use for headlines and the typeface you use for body copy as well as the preferred system typeface for documents you produce internally.

Logo design

How your logo should be displayed in different formats is a very important part of your guidelines. This could include size restrictions, exclusion zones, which colours to use, and how your logo should be displayed on different backgrounds. It’s also wise to show what not to do with your logo in terms of stretching or distorting it.

Additional elements that may be included:

Imagery

Imagery could include the style of photographs, illustrations or icons your company uses on your website or other marketing materials.

Tone of voice

Tone of voice is the personality of your brand that is expressed through words. It governs what you say in writing and how you say it. As we know, when we communicate via text or email, things can be taken out of context so it’s important to establish your personality in words across all medium in order to maintain control of your target audience’s perception.

It’s pretty much impossible to keep your brand identity consistent without brand guidelines. If you feel you need to create new guidelines then it’s important to engage with a creative, reliable and expert strategic design team like Be Smart Design. Not only can we create them for you but we can work with you on the strategic stuff that are the foundations of your guidelines document.

Contact us and we’ll create your brand’s visual elements in order to build guidelines that help you main a cohesive, impactful and strong brand.