Starbucks green. Barclays blue. Kellogg’s red.

Brands are often synonymous with certain colours. Colour is a predominate element of identification and association with a brand. But is it ok to play around with them? And if so, when?

The answer? It is ok to play around with your brand colours, but it should be done with intention and for a specific reason. After all, consistency is crucial in branding. Colour is one of the most important points of recognition, so frequent changes will cause confusion.

Let’s explore some of the reasons when messing with your brand colours is ok, along with some real-life examples of brands that have done it.

Showing support for a cause

Companies may choose to use a specific colour or add it to their colour palette for a limited time if they are supporting a specific cause or charity.

Many brands choose to add a pink ribbon to their packaging in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Some have even turned their entire packaging pink. For example, Estée Lauder released a pink ribbon version of its Advanced Night Repair serum, with a donation being made to select charities with each purchase of the product. In this case it is ok to change the colour because it’s only for a limited time (for the month of October) and consumers are aware that the colour change is in support of a specific cause.

Skittles is well-known for the colourful identity alongside their ‘taste the rainbow’ slogan. However, the company temporarily swapped the colours of their packaging in support of the LGBTQ+ community and to raise awareness of Pride. They left the rainbow behind to go colourless in both their packaging and product for the whole of June. The idea was for the parades and LGBTQ+ causes to take centre stage. In previous years, the packets were all-grey to ‘represent the brand’s cemented efforts of support’, however more recently they have started to add more colour with work from LGBTQ+ artists.

For a special occasion

There are lots of special events and holidays throughout the year. Many companies choose to not only create marketing campaigns around these events, but also change their colours too.

At Christmas time, Starbucks add the colour red to their packaging and products alongside their classic green. Starbucks has released limited-edition holiday cups. The cups are red and green and contain Christmas-related drawings and graphics. These colours also start to trend on their social media feed in the holiday season as the red cups feature in their marketing too. As people are aware of the festive season and the colours associated with it, there isn’t any confusion and in the case of Starbucks it’s actually something everyone looks forward to. Who doesn’t enjoy Christmas themed drinks when we go out to do our Christmas shopping?

Coca Cola released limited-edition bottles for the London Olympics. In addition to the classic Coca Cola red, they featured blue, orange, green, and black along with different Olympic-themed graphics, such as the Olympic rings and torch.

Reaching a milestone

If your company has reached a landmark anniversary or another important milestone, you may want to commemorate this with a celebratory limited-edition packaging.

Quaker launched a limited-edition packaging to commemorate their 145-year anniversary. The packaging has a black background and gold writing, which gives a premium look fitting for such a monumental anniversary. It makes a strong change from the brand’s usual colours of red, blue, and beige.

Another example is Campbell’s Condensed Soup, well known for their familiar red cans. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s iconic work of art ’32 Campbell’s Soup Cans’ (1962), the company that inspired the piece released four limited-edition brightly coloured versions of their condensed tomato soup. The limited-edition can is a rare alteration to the classic label that has remained largely unchanged since 1898.

In conclusion, consistency is crucial in branding. And colour is no exception. However, there are occasions where you may add or adapt your colours to fit a specific occasion. It’s crucial that changes are timely, temporary, and well explained to the customer. You need to understand the reason driving this change – why do you want to change your brand colours?

If you feel your brand colours no longer reflect your brand or attract your audience, you probably need a brand revamp. It’s likely not just the colours that are not working but other elements of your brand including your fonts, imagery, and messaging. If you change your brand colours without explanation or good reason, people will be left feeling confused.

If you’re not confident whether your brand colours reflect your brand, take my free quiz, and discover the perfect colours that match your brand’s personality.

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