Important! Obsess about the Content not about the Shade of Blue

Should we stick rigidly to brand guidelines?

Should we obsess about them? I used to think so.

My first marketing manager once called me into his office and pointed at two identical blue brochures lying on his desk. I had been responsible for getting them printed by two separate print shops.

“What the hell do you call this?” he snarled.

I put on a great impersonation of looking totally confused. The two brochures looked well produced and exactly the same to me.

“The two shades of blue are different. They should be the same,” he said.

I dared to say I thought they looked identical so he produced a printer’s magnifying glass. These gadgets let you see the millions of dots that make up the colours on a page. When I looked through the glass, even at the microscopic level, the colours looked the same.

Obsess about the Content

“It’s a disgrace get Printer#1 to do the job again and make sure they bloody well get it right.”

I left wondering whether any customer would either notice or care about the imaginary colour difference. But he was the boss and I did what he told me.

Over the years other bosses have waved brand guidelines books at me and insisted on similar correction of non-existent mistakes. Actually some haven’t been able to wave them at me because the “bibles” were too big and heavy and needed fork-lifting around.

The rules are inside. Which colours you can use. What font. How much space in millimetres that you must leave, under pain of death, between the brand logo and anything else that appears on the page or screen.

Then after many years I learned another much more important lesson. I was watching colleagues debating about the colours and the placing of the graphics on a promotional flyer.

Then it hit me. The headline they’d written was a dud. The copy sucked. And yet the guys were more worried about the colours and the graphics.


Because they had probably had their own “printer’s magnifying glass moment”
sometime in their career.

Obsess about the content, the headline, the messages and the call to action.

You won’t find me giving anyone who I work with any such lessons in trying to find a millionth of a difference in the colour of a booklet.

I tell them brand guidelines are important. Of course they are. But they are just guidelines. Guidelines don’t sell products or engage customers.

Obsess about the Content

In the digital world we have to act fast. You might see an opportunity at 9am and need to get an email, or advert, video or pod-cast out by 11am. You can spend that long arguing about colours and positions.

Don’t obsess about the shade of blue, obsess about the headline and the content. That’s what is going to have your customers clicking or watching or replying.

Or buying.

Now it’s your turn:

I know loads of brand marketers will disagree with me on this. The rules are the rules right? All I’m saying is have some flexibility and worry more about your message. If the message is strong your customer won’t worry about the colours. Do you agree? Please leave a comment or share your ow experiences.