Why it doesn’t matter if you don’t like your own brand identity

Branding / 29.09.17
Mark Vaesen

“But I don’t like green. Can we try it in another colour?” This was what a client said to us, a couple of years ago, when we presented our concept for his new brand identity.

It seems like an understandable response and a reasonable request, right?

The client was in financial services, and was setting up a new business venture. He’d come to us because he had nothing – no brand, no printed collateral, no website, not even a name – and he wanted to give his start-up the best chance of being a success by investing what was (for him) quite a bit of money in the development of his brand.

I said “It doesn’t really matter whether you like it though, does it?” Oops…

Introducing colour theory

For those not acquainted with colour theory, green is associated with – amongst other things – money, wealth and stability. It’s no coincidence that several banks use it in their colour palette. Mike hadn’t just picked the colour because he was feeling in a particularly verdant mood; there was logic behind the decision.

There was a pause. Mike and I looked at each other, and then I blurted out “It doesn’t really matter whether you like it though, does it? Does it work for your customers?”

I realise I probably could have phrased this more kindly.

But the client maintained the reasons for his dislike, and clearly wasn’t going to be happy with what we’d suggested.

In the end, after we’d worked through some amendments, he settled on orange as the primary colour (in the sense of the colour scheme – I know orange isn’t a primary colour) and was happy. We rolled out the brand on his printed materials and his new website and we were 95% happy too.

About six months later, I happened to bump into our client at a networking event. We’d both been so busy we hadn’t seen much of each other since the project was finished, and I asked him how things we going.

He said things were going great, business was really good, he was going to easily exceed all the targets he’d set for himself etc., but then he looked at me a bit sheepishly and said,

“I think you were right about the green though.”

It turned out that although his brand identity, his business cards, and his website had all done a great job of getting him the sort of customers he wanted, several people had commented negatively on the brand colour; “not sure about the orange though, why did you go for that?”, and so on.

He realised not everyone thought orange was great, and he’d let his own preferences get in the way of what was best for his business, and was obviously uncomfortable with it.

I felt for him, because I know from personal experience just how hard it can be to not let these things affect your judgement.

Personal experiences can influence likes

Those that know me well know I have a childish, football-team-related dislike of the colour red. You can imagine how much I squirmed in my chair then, when Mike first presented his ideas for the first Tomango brand:

Tomango logo in red
The new Tomango brand identity. The old one used red too.

However, in what turned out to be one of my more grown-up moments, I was able to see beyond my own petty preferences and trusted Mike that red was the right colour to use. He was right, of course. Loads of clients and contacts have commented over the years how much it suits us, and it’s definitely helped us win business.

Picking designs that work for customers

A good design team challenges its client and understands that the most important person is the one identified in the brief.

So, harsh though it might seem, it doesn’t matter about you. If it works for your target customer, your brand is doing its job.