4 Steps to Protect Your Brand Colour Equity

By Hope Massey


Colour is a complex arena of subtle nuances and inconsistencies; everyone is aware of its importance, but do we ever consider how we can maintain and control consistency of brand colours once they enter the supply chain?

As the clichéd saying goes “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder” and with packaging the visual impact of a product is the difference between success and failure. Research reveals that it only takes 90 seconds to assess and make a subconscious visual judgment, and a massive 62% to 90% of that judgment is based on colour alone.

Colour amplifies and defines a brand and each colour produces a psychological response, making brand color choice critical. Companies spend large amounts of strategic money on creative efforts to produce the perfect brand colour that holds the right connotations for their consumers; this is why companies go to all lengths to obtain legal brand protection.

We have all may know how Post-it Notes came to fruition and that this innovation is legally protected, but what isn’t as well-known is that the Post-it color Canary Yellow is also protected by a trademark—and 3M isn’t the only one that has sought protection through the courts:

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Christian Louboutin won a battle against Yves Saint-Laurent in the use of red soles when paired with a different colour shoe, T-Mobile won the battle of magenta pink against AT&T, Barbie trademarked their famous Barbie pink…the list goes on.

If the development of the perfect brand colour is so important that companies invest hours and millions protecting their assets, what happens when that colour is rolled out across a range of different substrates, production processes, and regions?

Ensuring that your brand colour is repeatable and achievable across all consumer touch points can often prove to be a major obstacle and cause a few unwanted headaches—so who is controlling the value of this asset when it is handed over to the supply chain?

Most brands lack an accurate and achievable colour standard; more often brands rely on an undefined colour chip and entrust their suppliers with the responsibility to achieve the closest match to that chip live on press.

The majority of ink that is used on press is translucent, which means the base material that the colour is printed on can affect the final colour. Additionally, all materials reflect light differently, so a single, undefined colour target for all substrates and processes will only set brands up for failure.

Isn’t the strategic (and costly) brand colour too valuable to leave its survival and integrity in the hands of dissociated individuals working for third party vendors?

With this business model in play, inconsistency is inevitable and is often compounded across different regions due to the subjective interpretations of colour.

This risk is real. More than 25% of Brand Owners indicate that they frequently encounter colour inconsistency or inaccuracy, and rework costs add up as well, with brand owners accruing additional product launch costs totaling anywhere from 40-70%.

So why not just simplify this time-consuming and subjective element and use science and technology to provide pre-agreed, accurate, and achievable colour data for the supply chain to target, ultimately protecting that all-important brand colour?

This is an area where brands are truly missing a beat. Brands should be encouraged to make the upfront investment in the security and integrity of their brand colours, saving on unwanted ‘rescue’ costs downstream through the creation of unique colour standards (accompanied with numeric values) that are produced to reflect the format and medium where they will be reproduced.

Here are four simple steps to help protect your brand colour equity by achieving that desired global colour consistency:

  • Develop and create your brand colour standards using the actual production process and substrate to create a standard that is accurate and achievable when distributed to the supply chain. By eliminating the subjectivity that is so often experienced on press, brands will reduce time and cost as well as increasing their speed to market. Remember, consistent reproduction of your colour across consumer touch points is a science not a ‘black art’—use this method to amplify brand consistency.
  • Integrate the colour data into the brand supply chain both physically and digitally. A physical swatch provides a real and achievable visual guide, but the accompanying metrics will keep the colour consistent time and time again. Integrating the digital data into the supply chain will assist with increasing proof accuracy and overall colour consistency throughout the process and across the product portfolio.
  • Maintain the colour data that has been integrated into the supply chain. Colour deteriorates over time, like anything, and it is key to make sure the supply chain has access to an accurate and up to date colour standard to reduce the risk of dilution of the brand through colour inconsistencies.
  • Control the quality of your brand colour through colour checks against the pre-agreed colour specification to ensure that the supply chain is reproducing your colour within pre-agreed tolerances—because now we know that it is possible!

The beauty of numbers is that it is a shared language across all regions and by applying this colour management solution to your brand strategy, there is no room for vendors to inconsistently reproduce your colour. A great partner with the expertise, tools, and technology will help close the loop on any colour management requirements.


About Hope Massey
Hope graduated Law and is a Prince2 Practitioner, Lean Six Sigma qualified and Change Practitioner. Most recently, Hope has served Bayer, J&J & SCJ to deliver efficiencies within their global graphic supply chains. Hope has also worked on key projects including a major business change initiative incorporating Asia outsourcing, process improvement, financial analysis & modelling, cost reduction & business restructuring.