Integrating a strong color and trend voice at the leadership level and throughout the product process is incredibly important to the success of a brand. Brands that do this deliver focused, stunning lines that sell. They garner the highest levels of respect and enjoy consistent, loyal engagement. They wow. A strategic color and trend voice benefits a brands’ messaging, their impact, their reach, and the strength of their relationships with their end-use consumers, as well as their retailers and partners. It brings a crucial balance to a company’s entire vision and operations. It enhances profits, efficiency, and confidence.
What I have learned in over 21 years of consulting, is that when brands allocate resources to creating compelling color and trend strategies and share that knowledge across teams, they become powerhouses. They have more solidarity, more understanding, more purpose.
These are three key reasons why:
Advocate for the Future
A color and trend strategist is focused on understanding how and why consumers’ lifestyles and priorities will evolve and change over the next several years. They guide brands to this eventual horizon in an authentic, coherent way - a way that makes sure a brand remains relatable and exciting to their consumers as well as respected and prominent in their wider market and community. They lead in a way that delivers stories, colors, and aesthetics that engage and delight.
A color and trend strategist advocates for a brand’s future. They ensure that a brand does not get trapped in present or past stale mindsets, but is expansive and elastic in their thinking. They bring balance and a forward-facing perspective to a table of other important voices. A color and trend strategist makes sure that a brand stays connected to their current consumer as they move together into the future. They are relationship and relevancy nurturers.
Aware of shifting influences and future drivers, a color and trend strategist ensures that a brand does not make mistakes in messaging, merchandising or implementation that will appear tone-deaf, blasé, or repetitive by the time it reaches the market. They have the expertise and eye to fight for and speak to what will resonate and matter in the future. I have advocated for many colors that at the line finalization stage raised concerns of being weird or risky that have gone on to crush it 1-2 years later when they hit the market.
Steward of the Vision
Typically, at a seasonal kick-off, a brand designs a vision based on inspiration, forecasting, and goals. Creativity blossoms, ideation thrives, new concepts are investigated. Mood boards are populated, inspo samples are gathered, design research is heartily ingested. A palette gets set, a theme is defined, the color and trend box is checked off the list. Done.
Not so fast.
It’s imperative to have a strategic voice that safeguards and shapes that initial vision, protecting its integrity throughout the entire design and go-to-market processes. Inevitably, design changes, manufacturing limitations, budget constraints, sales projections, retailer feedback, and the like will impact the ideal vision, requiring it to adapt. But how it adapts is critical. And, that it adapts and doesn’t dissolve – even more critical. The vision needs to maintain the same level of oomph and potency as intended, now with just less or different ingredients.
Integrating a strong color and trend voice throughout the process means the impact won’t be diluted, whenever and wherever modification is necessary. A skilled color and trend strategist is a master puzzle solver. Key colors stay highlighted. Meaningful design and merchandising threads aren’t lost. Collections are tailored to their end-users. The overall story holds and entices. The energy and appeal of the line achieves the desired goals.
An example – I started working with a client a couple of years ago, beginning with their 2024 line. Around for 20 years, they are well-established and highly respected. But color has always been a clunky process for them. Historically, after presenting the final line, their biggest retailer dictates multiple color and merchandising changes before making purchasing commitments, ultimately shaping a vision more aligned with their ethos instead of my client’s. It’s a costly process in time, energy, and money. It also taxes the relationship. When they presented the 2024 line we worked on together – where we built and maintained a creative vision from start to finish – the retailer said “Looks great!”, made no changes, and got to ordering. Smooth. Pleased. The result of making sure that (1) there was a strong vision, and (2) that vision was carried through to the end.
Understanding builds confidence and trust. Confidence and trust, in a brand, build loyalty, engagement, and sales. When a brand incorporates the voice of color and trend at the leadership level and for the long-term, it creates the opportunity for all involved to understand the why behind the chosen aesthetics. Informative for all departments, this clarity is especially vital to design, marketing, and sales.
It makes sense that design and color/trend functions would work in tandem, but I note it here, because it is not always the case. It should be. Communication between these two leads to innovation and incredible cross-pollination of ideas and strategy.
Marketing teams that collaborate with a color and trend strategist understand the influences and key drivers shaping consumers. They tell better stories and create better experiences – ones that are centered on what is most meaningful, timely, and true for their community.
When sales teams have verbiage to explain the meaning behind color, merchandising, and collection decisions, they speak with surety, which makes selling easier and more lucrative. Retailers come to rely on that brand for a wider-lens view and advice.
The why shares all of the considerations that contribute to a particular color and trend strategy. For sure, it includes the shifts in consumers lifestyles, values, and interests. It defines how each of these tangibly shaped the line. The why also explains the logistical factors that influenced aesthetic choices. If a brand is introducing a new blue for the season, it is not only the trend drivers that determine what that blue is; it is the need to differentiate from past seasons’ blues, to balance tones with other palette colors, and to choose a blue that translates across materials and product categories. It is the job of a skilled color and trend strategist to articulate these points clearly, so they can be understood. And, so that confidence can get built.
The takeaway: When a brand integrates a strong color and trend strategist into its process and at a high-level, it translates to increased profitability, efficiency, and trust. It builds understanding, both internally and externally. It builds deeper meaning, and more connection with consumers. It builds success.