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How to Choose the Right Colors For Your Brand

Ten years ago, Heinz  unveiled a new type of ketchup that became an immediate success.  It sold seven million bottles in its first seven months and gained international attention.  It became so popular that when it sold out of some supermarkets, people actually auctioned it off on eBay. So what was so special about this ketchup? Did it taste better? Not at all. Was it made out of better ingredients? Nope.

There was one difference. It was green.

Now, consider the story of Crystal Pepsi, a clear cola that debuted in 1992. Though the soft drink tasted like regular Pepsi, it seemed that most people didn't react well to the idea of drinking a clear cola. After lackluster sales, the product was discontinued after only a year.

The message is clear enough: the choice in color for your product and its marketing materials matter.

Choosing the Best Color for Your Brand: It's not Just an Artistic Decision

Research has shown that color influences our emotions in a variety of ways, but perhaps most importantly, it's the first sensory touch point with a customer or client. "The first point of interaction is shaped by the color, and color is the most memorable sense," says Leslie Harrington, the executive director of The Color Association and a color consultant. "Before anything else, they see color."

Harrington, who wrote a Ph.D. thesis titled Color Strategy: Leveraging Color to add and Extract Values for Products and Brands, urges her clients not to think of color as an artistic choice or preference, but rather a grounded business decision. 

"Color has been one of those things that's been left up to the designer to select something," she says. "The CEOs or management say 'oh I can’t do that, I’m not artistic.' But my argument is that it's not about being artistic – it's not any different than making any other strategic decision for your business."

Case studies have shown that a consumer's decision to purchase products can range from anywhere between 60 and 80 percent based on the product's color.  Color has the unique ability to make or break the success of a product, Harrington notes. "It doesn’t cost you any more to make the right color decision for your product. But if you choose the wrong color, from the onset, you’re not going to communicate what you want to your customer.” In other words, if you get it wrong, it can really impact the overall performance of your company.

Choosing the Best Color for Your Brand: Color Selection

Color is contextual. For example, you might buy a shampoo that's bright orange, but you're probably unlikely to buy a car in that same color. So when thinking about a color for your product or marketing materials, it's important to research the typical choices of color among your competitors, and understand what a particular color is trying to communicate to a customer.

"Go into the store and take a critical look at what colors are there," says Jill Morton, a color consultant and author of a series of e-books about color.  

Morton explains that point-of-purchase sales (e.g. walking down the aisle of a pharmacy), are difficult because your product will sit on the shelf with at least 20 or 30 other products. Sometimes choosing a color that stands out can help. "Garnier Fructis did something quite brilliant with their choice of that green," she says. "You go to a shop, and that stands out."

But choosing an unlikely color can backfire, too. For example, "everything in contact solutions is blue or green, but if you put a product on the shelf that is red, no one is going to buy it," she says.

Most importantly, it's important to distinguish whether the color serves to imply a certain function (e.g. blue is clean, healthy, safe) or if the color implies a certain idea (e.g. neon green is fun, adventurous, different). Once you've determined what it is that your target customer is looking for, you can best decide on the color to help them find it.

Choosing the Best Color for Your Brand: Keeping it Real

Though your company may want your product to reflect a certain idea by a choice in color, it may not be that simple. "Consumers know intuitively if the color and brand connect, and if it's authentic," says Harrington. "If it doesn't connect, it turns them off."  Sometimes, companies think that finding a "popular" color or one that customers "like" will help sales. But this is rarely the case.  "Whether its trendy or not, or whether they like it or not, won't necessarily matter as much as if it’s authentic."

Harrington points out the following example. When Volkswagen came out with the new Beetle, most of the billboards pictured a neon green Beetle, which was a car color few people had seen before. However, that color was authentic to the ideas VW was trying to communicate: rebirth, renewal, and bringing an old icon back to make it new. "It really resonated with the customer," she says. "It allowed VW to communicate in the ad what they were all about – even if it just brought the customer in the store to buy the black or the silver."

This example also illustrates another element of color psychology, something she calls the "pink purse syndrome," namely, you put a pink purse in the window to get customers to come into the store where they buy the black one.

Choosing the Best Color for Your Brand:  When you Need a Change

Sometimes, changing a company color is necessary to indicate the company is still modern and progressive. When freshening up logos or changing a product's color, there are a number of things to consider, says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and international color expert.  "You have to think about whether or not you want to retain some of the past, or completely do away with it," she says.

There are a couple of ways to do this. One is to scrap the color entirely. However, this isn't always the best option. Rather than get rid of all the equity you've built with a certain color, it's sometimes best to hold on to one color, and consider altering the accent color, says Eiseman.  "Most companies want to hold on to the equity and goodwill of their image, and color can certainly do that: maintaining some of the color but adding something new as a secondary color to refresh the image."

A good example of the need to change colors is Kodak, Harrington says, because they needed to move from being a film business in the minds of consumers, to a digital business.  "Since yellow was so iconic with the product, they went to red," she says. "They wanted to signal to the customer that the focus of the company had changed."
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3 Mental Preparations for Opening Your Own Business

The phrase, “It’s a cold, cold world out there,” is an American classic.  The main driver for the phrase’s popularity is that, it actually is a cold, cold world out there.   It’s not a firm rule, though typically business lends itself to the thought that there is an inverse relationship between risk and reward.

Well, the more rewards that you actively pursue, the colder the temperature is going to get.  These are not tangible concepts; rather they should lay an understanding that the aforementioned theories are usually spot-on, and this is what you will be dealing with.  In a nutshell, mentally prepare yourself for the uphill physical and mental battle that will constantly be waged against you via both external and internal forces.

Ask any basic office manager – it’s pretty warm making a $1,200 weekly paycheck.  Also, there is nothing wrong with any bit of labor, regardless of how much it pays.  If it’s honest, in my eyes, it’s respectable.

As the business makes its first headway and you are away from the mother paycheck for about a month, the warmth slowly fades as you get deeper into opening your own entity.  There’s no turning back, however.  Take the jacket off, feel the chill, and simply stop reflecting on that guaranteed paycheck.  That was a different life.  Instead, envision the possibility of a $20,000 weekly profit intake that could not be achieved via a puffy jacket, a scarf and gloves.  Then, begin working your way to that paycheck.

With the opening remarks made, listed below, you will find some common psychological and life changes that encompass opening one’s own business.  These are to inform, not to scare, though to simultaneously be realistic.

You Will Second Guess Yourself – It’s Part of Human Nature

If you are mentally prepared, or at least anticipate and recognize the pending self-doubt that rears its ugly head from time to time, then you are very much ahead of the entrepreneurial pack.  However, before you open your business, take some time to fully embrace and eagerly anticipate the fact that there will be upsides a.k.a. times that you feel like you could conquer the world.

Conversely, there will be downsides when you feel that you couldn’t sell a free sports car to somebody out of gas.  More or less, this psychological factor is “what it is.”  Go with full confidence, and also go in with full confidence that self-doubt arises, you’re going to be able to swiftly recognize and squash the hindered thoughts.  Work hard enough and become good at what you do and the following becomes the God’s Honest Truth: it’s always darkest before….

The Computer Is Going To Be Your New Best Friend

Before you quit your day job, make sure that you have saved enough money for a very nice, functional computer.  Personally, I swear by MACs and they’re easy to use, but prior to purchasing the new machinery, understand that you are buying your new best friend.   The mentality that goes with a brand new computer upon firing up a brand new company is much more positive than starting with old equipment.  No mental excitement.

Think of it as the equivalent of your pet, only a little more advanced.  You must have the mentality that this new piece of machinery is all that matters for 12 hours each day.  If you’re not prepared to sit at a computer that long, find one of the few businesses to start that don’t require heavy, heavy internet work.

Try to save a few hundred dollars and use an old, outdated piece of equipment, and a single virus from a far-off land, can make your new organization go near belly-up.  As an animal lover myself, I prefer to adopt older pets as they need the homes more, but the same rules need not apply for the screen and, subsequent hardware attached to your keyboard.  You’re going to be staring at her all day and night, make sure that your prom date is pretty.

Getting A Mentor Is Great, But In the End…

Finding a good mentor is difficult, but rewarding and many swear by finding one, but it is not all that easy.  Moreover, there is a huge misconception that a mentor can make or, otherwise break your business.  Simply not true; unless you become a slave to every word and action that the mentor says and you become dependent, one of two things will happen:

1. They won’t have the time to provide all this guidance.

2.  You will get, for lack of a better term, annoying and turn the individual off.

I, at a time, was lucky to have a strong mentor by the name of Harvey Cohen, but was unlucky enough to see him die of cancer.  The only difference in my mentor is that he was extended family from my sister-in-law’s side.  Still, I could not always run to him for advice, as he was busy and, I was not the first and foremost thing on his mind.

As a new entrepreneur, you are consistently going to be referred back to the “cold, cold world” reference.  Don’t heavily reply upon a mentor; instead use them when advice is direly needed.  Again, bear in mind to never be overly needy.  Go into the business with the mentality that it is you against the world and think of a great mentor as a gift from the heavens, not something that is owed to you.
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Five Mistakes to Avoid While Doing a Startup

Many of us who have either started our own firms or are in the process of doing so, would agree that trial and error is a good way to learn as we tread the entrepreneurial path. It works best if we are quick to grasp the learning and pledge never to make it again. However, here are few mistakes, which could be avoided early on.

1. Don’t ignore your family and friends: As an entrepreneur, it is normal to get too busy working on your idea — raising funds, meeting prospects, traveling. But that does not mean you start to behave like you are running on a result-oriented treadmill and end up ignoring your loved ones. Support of friends and family is important for your venture and you must value that. It is all right to sometimes take phone calls of your daughter in the middle of business meetings. Nothing wrong in allocating a day in a week for family or showing up at every parent-teacher meeting at your son’s school, or picking up your spouse from work. Did you remember to wish your best friend on her birthday? By making efforts, no matter how small, you would soon realize that you have their full support in doing a successful startup.

2. Don’t ignore your health: Taking your health for granted is a bad idea. In the rush to make things happen with your startup, you could be missing those important health check-ups. You need to keep yourself healthy to deal with that extra pressure of doing a startup. Get yourself a health insurance. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, is a big votary of physical activities that keep entrepreneurs healthy. Take a leaf from his life and launch marketing campaigns that would require you to do go out and get involved.

3. Don’t be under-funded: Sometimes it just seems like a good idea to start without having the necessary seed capital, but this path is ridden with perils. The reason being that a number of expenses line up after you have started, and in the absence of enough money to back up, the initial enthusiasm could fade. So before you take the plunge, be as clear as possible to the possible expenses that your startup would have to incur before you break even. List down the possible sources of funding, friends and family being the first one, and how you would be spending the money. Cash flow problems could arise once in a while but case of chronic cash trouble could take a beating on your self-confidence.

4. Don’t depend hugely on one customer: Spread the risk by ensuring that your customer base is a good mix, spread across geographies, if possible. Repeat business is a good sign but you might soon feel comfortable with your repeat customers to the extent that you would stop taking work from new ones. It is a bad sign. There would be new things to learn from every customer, so don’t miss the opportunity. No more than 15-20 percent of your business share should be from a single customer. Reach out to newer markets in different countries and you would soon realize that the learning experience for you would be tremendous.

5. Don’t lose patience: Hang in there even if things look a hazy. Rather than worrying, spend more time in finding out what the problem is and what solution could be found. Read, learn and ask. Meet with other entrepreneurs in your industry and talk about the business problems you face rather than brood over them. Instead of searching for a psychologist, it is better to seek a mentor.

Feel free share your experiences as an entrepreneur and how you overcame difficulties of work-life balance, funding and customer acquisition.
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