Colour psychology: drawing the line between you and your business

Colour psychology is one of those subjects that seems to absolutely fascinate people. Whether you’ve read my book, listened to a talk or are arriving at a workshop there’s one question guaranteed to be at the tip of your tongue: What season am I?

I’ll often hear ‘I’m a spring’ or ‘Am I winter or summer?’ for example. But are we talking about you or your business? And how much of you should come into your business brand?

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One of the most common questions I’m asked when I’m teaching about colour psychology is t where to draw the line between you and your business. It’s a tricky one isn’t it? And so in this post I’d like to cover off a few of things. First of all, how much of your own personality come into your brand? Secondly, should every element of your brand identity reflect you as a person? And finally is your own seasonal personality the same as your business?

I’m going to try not to get too technical, but if you’re new to the concept of colour psychology, skip on over to my post on the Absolute Essentials of Colour Psychology for some background first. This post also follows on pretty nicely from my musings on picking a set of powerful words for your brand and if you haven’t read that yet, it would be good to have a gander before or after.

Where to draw the line between you and your business

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“How much of my personality should I bring into my brand?” I don’t think I’ve run a seminar or workshop yet where I haven’t been asked this question, and rightly so. If my approach to branding is all about drawing out the personality of your business and creating something utterly irresistible to your ideal clients, then it’s tricky to know where to draw the line when it comes to bringing in you.

I’m afraid there’s no easy answer to this and it very much depends on what you do for a living, the size of your business and your ambitions for it and your own personality too. Let’s explore some more and see where we get to…

First of all, I think it’s important to say upfront that you will only gain real clarity and vision when you focus first of all on what’s right for your business. Your clients are buying a product or service from your business and even if you are the business, they don’t need to know every single nook and cranny of your personality.

Of course, as entrepreneurs we inevitably bring our own personalities to our businesses, and much of that is what’s so appealing about our companies to our clients. The old adage people buy from people has never been truer and you will bring some of your own values and approaches to your business. The question is, how relevant is it to bring that into your brand?

If you’re a consultant, for example, your clients are buying in to you so you might have a good case for thinking your brand values will be very closely aligned with you. And they may well be. It really depends on your personality and what you sell.

Branding your business powerfully is about stripping back, focusing and creating a clear intention. If there’s any stalling, tension or confusion during a branding project, it’s usually down to a conflict between what’s right for your brand and what you like at a personal level. Think about what’s relevant to your clients and strip back, strip back until you get to the core essence of your business.

Even if you’re a one (wo)man band selling your services, your brand is not you. It’s about what you deliver for your clients, what they value about what you do, what they experience, expect and enjoy about working with you. Some of your personality may come into this, some of your personal values are very likely to, but your brand isn’t you.

Should your own seasonal personality be the same as that of your business?

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In a nutshell, no. Personally I’ve been on a bit of a journey with this one and I get that it’s not an easy decision to make. I do think that it’s good to have some link to your own personality. You want to feel that emotional connection to your business and it’s important that there’s authenticity. That when your clients meet you for the first time, the connection between you and your business makes sense. But that doesn’t mean the seasonal personality of your business needs to be the same as your personal one.

Personally, I am an autumn/ spring person, but the autumn side of me really isn’t relevant to what I do in my work, or for my clients.

My clients value my expertise, my exacting creative standards and my ability to create a clear vision. Those of you that read my blog, come on my workshops and buy my book tell me you love my clarity, approachability and simplicity of what I deliver. Can you see how the things I want to be known for, the things people value about me and the work that I want are best reflected in the winter/ spring personalities?

That doesn’t mean that my autumnal way of challenging norms, always having to do everything properly and putting my family first doesn’t come into the way I do business – but it isn’t relevant to my brand like the attributes I’ve described above are. I’m definitely comfortable with the spring thing but the winter element was harder to embrace.

Of all the seasons, I personally relate least of all to winter. And yet it’s right for my business. When I launched my first website two years ago it was very much spring with a small sprinkling of winter in terms of the design style. I didn’t want to use black, I wanted to be approachable and warm and not too bolshy.

As I’ve created my new business I’ve learned a lot about my strengths, what I bring to the table and where I sit in the market. As I was designing How to Style Your Brand the lovely Caz of Making Waves Creative and I had a lot of discussions about what season my business and my book should be. She was right to force persuade me to go down the winter route and over time I’ve grown to embrace that. I still want to rebrand this blog – which is something I’ll do over the next few months, and so you’ll see it take a much crisper and more confident shape. I can’t wait! But the point is, you don’t need to bring all of your personality in. So none of my autumnal cosiness has made it into the brand – it’s just not relevant to what I’m doing or what you value about me. Hopefully I’m still not too bolshy 😉

What to do next?

If you’re struggling to separate you from the business there are a few steps you can take to make things clearer. First of all, if you haven’t already, download my Planning Workbook and work through that. Think hard about what you bring to the table as a business and try and leave aside creative ideas about how you’d like your website to look for now. Be objective and focus on what matters commercially.

Secondly, fill out my brief and thirdly, work through the Colour Psychology Worksheet. If you’re finding that things are looking a little muddy, work through each word and ask yourself whether it’s relevant to what you’re selling. Is it something your clients really value about what you do? Or is it just a given? (Think back to my point on professionalism in my last post…).

Wishing you tons of luck with it!

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8 Comments

Sara

This is helpful! I think this is where I’m getting stuck. While trying to define my seasonal personality, I checked a lot of traits that reflect my own personality as well. Even though it makes sense to insert a lot of my own style into my brand, I think that added confusion to the mix. I think I need to go back and redefine the business goals with keywords and then go re-evaluate the seasonal personality. I’ll be interested to see what you do with your own rebranding project!

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Fiona Humberstone

Thank you Sara. You’re not alone – so many people get stuck on this! Wishing you tons of luck with your rebrand and yes – I will share very soon 😉

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Susanne

Dear Fiona!

This is probably, to me, the best post you ever wrote;-)! Thanks for this clarifying and relevant post, Fiona;-)

Reading it raised two questions I hope you can help me on:

1) What is different / how do you approach this when starting out as a new business not knowing what clients will end up valuing when working with me/my one woman business?

2) What do you do if you end up with one/two seasons that are represented by colours/look that you really don’t like?

I mean, I can see how my personal values and likes are not all that relevant to my business. On the other hand, it feels really difficult (wrong?) to ‘force’ colours/look into my business/website that I don’t really like…

Example: I can relate to your own experience of maybe having to ‘sacrifice’ my (personal) autumn side and instead leave room for the winter side of my business. But I really hate the strong colours dominating the winter season…;-( Also, I might have to emphasise the spring side of my business but when I look at the cases I find they easily get a too youthful/unserious feel to them… What do you do then?

Do you have reference to more examples of brand work and their seasons? While I love(!) your book I found it hard to see which of the showed brand work represents which seasons. Maybe you can refer to some of you client work (or the work of others) to get more clarified on this (and maybe I will help me see that winter and spring don’t have to be that unappealing that I fear…;-)

Kind regards,

Susanne

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Fiona Humberstone

Hi Susanne

Thank you for your comments. Very briefly, when you’re a new business you can only make your best guess based on your experience and knowledge to date. Then listen as hard as you can to what your clients say and reappraise after six months or so. In terms of your second and third points – really these are bigger topics than I can answer fully in a comment, but remember that your business brand is about what’s right for your business. Of course you shouldn’t hate it – you should be proud of it so I would look again at whether you have your seasons correct or not.

In terms of providing more information, I would LOVE to but I’m afraid right now I am totally stacked. Keep your eyes peeled for an online colour psychology course which I think you will really benefit from 😉

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Jasmin Black

Hi Fiona. Umm..I might be fan girling out right now. I love everything that you do and enjoy your teaching methods. I am a creative director and stylist. Well, a budding one at that. I was reading this post and coincidentally enough I just pressed ‘submit’ on my new E-Book about identifying your brand aesthetic. The three points that I spoke on were looking at your own personal style, tapping into your feelings and not compromising. With personal style I talked about how our brands are a reflection of us and how a lot of how we dress and demeanor are displayed within our brand style. But after reading this post I’m starting to second guess myself. I would never want to miseducate someone let a lone all who download my book. Am I overreacting to this post? Or should I go back and clarify or edit something? I agree that some of personality seeps into our brand and other times there are things we want to showcase in our business that have no ties with who we are. I look forward to your reply.

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Fiona Humberstone

Dear Jasmin

Thank you so much for your comment. Your ebook sounds great. It sounds like you have written it based on your experience, passion and with your readers in mind. You’re always going to learn new stuff but that doesn’t mean that what you have written is wrong! Keep it out there and write from the heart, as you are. It’s so much more effective. It sounds like you are doing a brilliant job.

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Josh Roberts

Hi Fiona. I’m a massive fan of How to Style Your Brand and it’s currently helping me massively in my Masters degree in Digital Media Design. I’m doing a project right now for the course, designing a brand identity for a catering company for my mum, something she’s wanted to do since she was very young. I just wanted to say thank you for the book. As I said, it’s helping me a great deal, and I honestly feel like I’m getting to know you in a way through reading it. There’s no jargon and the step-by-step nature of your writing is really relieving. I’m a big fan and I’m hugely looking forward to Brand Brilliance. Brand design is a line of work that I would love to get involved in career-wise and your book is the main factor for this newfound passion of mine, so thank you very much and keep being brilliant!

Josh

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Fiona Humberstone

Thank you so much Josh! That’s really lovely to hear. Good luck with your degree.

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