Why you need to be colour co-ordinated

Strike the bright note! Simon Marett and Michael Sullivan show how to use colour in your design, branding and marketing.

In our first two articles, we covered the dos and don’ts of logo and website design. As you will have hopefully learnt from the articles, successful branding is more than just a logo. 

It is about the whole package of logo, imagery, typography and also colour. This month, we look at how to use colour effectively in your branding, design and marketing.

Colour is an area of marketing that is often overlooked, but, like imagery, it is an area that requires close attention, because it can help you connect with your audiences on a deeper, emotional level and draw a potential customer or patient towards a particular brand or practice.

When it comes to the world of healthcare, the use of blues and white are ubiquitous because of their association with medicine, health, cleanliness and doctors. 

The challenge for any healthcare practice using a similar set of colours in its branding is how you can differentiate yourself and stand out from the competition. 

Here are some key points for you to consider:

1. Use brand guidelines to achieve consistency 

Consistency in branding is important if you want your healthcare practice to grow and be successful. This means that your execution across your marketing will all need to look and feel the same. 

Where this creates problems is when you are working with multiple suppliers, printers and partners or you have different members of your team responsible for marketing tasks such as email marketing, your website or social media. 

Brand guidelines are one of the first things we recommend to our client. Set down in a short document, they will act as a rule-book for you, your partners and employees to follow when it comes to working with your brand and covers everything from typefaces in emails to the colours to use in your printed material. 

Not only will it save you valuable time by making you more efficient, but it will also save you money by helping you avoid branding errors and expensive marketing mistakes. 

If you do not have them in place already, ask your designer to create a short set of brand guidelines immediately. 

As a bare minimum, they should cover use of your logo, typefaces to use for headlines, body copy and the colours to use with your marketing and brand. 

2. Beware text on dark backgrounds 

The good and bad use of colour: these two different versions of a brochure (top and above) demonstrate how it is much easier to read text on a lighter background

We covered this briefly in our website article in March’s issue, but striking a good balance between space, imagery and text can really make the difference whether you are building a website or creating a new brochure for your clinic.  

One of the most common mistakes we come across is where large amounts of text are placed on a dark background. 

Using a dark background colour can help a website or brochure look sleek and sophisticated, but if you then place a lot of copy on top, it can make it difficult to read and can be a major turn-off for readers. 

TOP TIP: If you are insisting upon using a dark colour in your design and brand, use copy sparingly or speak to a professional designer about creating templates that enable you to work with the colour.

3. Less is more 

We speak to many healthcare practitioners who want a new website and have a strong idea about the colours they want to use because they have already designed the logo. 

Bright red and orange might look great on your logo and business card, but that does not necessarily mean that everything on your website needs to be in those colours. 

The majority of our clients are private practices who are providing a premium service to their patients and customers. Be mindful that overusing strong colours may devalue your premium brand because the design may end up looking cheap, amateur and overpowering.

TOP TIP: If strong colours are what you want, go ahead, but discuss with your designer how these colours can be used subtly and sparingly to achieve that premium look and feel you are after. 

Also, ask your designer to create a primary and secondary colour palette in your brand guidelines to help break up these strong colours.

4. Think twice when using orange and purple 

When I started my career in marketing over 20 years ago, once of my first lessons I learned from the printer I worked with was to try and avoid using orange and purple in printed material. 

This is because these two colours are considered to be the hardest to match in print. This is because they have specified contrasts that if they are slightly off, can be very noticeable. 

Successful branding is all about consistency and repeating the same logo, messaging, typography and imagery repeatedly so that it is recognised.  

The same rule applies with colour and this is why printing with orange and purple can be difficult.  The orange can turn lighter or darker or more red, yellow and green, so several printed items may look noticeably different to the eye. 

TOP TIP: If you are planning to use a lot of printed material in your practice for signage, brochures and reading material, consider avoiding the heavy use of purple or orange and select a different colour instead. 

To conclude…. 

As you will see, there is more to using colour and successful branding than first meets the eye. 

We always recommend taking the time to consider the colours you want to use across your brand and marketing, because they may be linked to your healthcare practice for a long period of time.  

A starting point for any healthcare practice – whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been established for years – is brand guidelines. 

Any good designer or marketing professional will have worked with brand guidelines in the past and will be able to demonstrate how they can work for your individual practice’s needs. These are a quick and inexpensive way of creating brand consistency and will help you avoid costly branding mistakes in the future.

Simon Marett (left) and Michael Sullivan (right) are managing director and creative director of Ellerton Marketing Ltd, a specialist strategic marketing consultancy for independent healthcare practitioners