The color process - from seasonal kick-off to line finalization - can be very emotional and turbulent. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are four common mistakes and details on how to avoid them. 

1. No clear plan.
Before you even start designing a seasonal color palette, much less translating that palette to a product line, you need to have a plan. Your plan defines what color needs to accomplish for the season.
At the strategic level, set the vision and the goals for the season. How can color help achieve these goals? How can it visually, immediately communicate your brand’s message?
At the tactical level, determine where your color opportunities are. What products are getting new colorways? Are you introducing new products? Are you expanding into new categories, distribution channels, or consumer types? Identify what remains the same. What colorways carry over? What core or brand colors will not change? What products will not get touched this season?
Work within these guardrails. Make a plan.

2. Stuck in a data-driven color narrative.
“Greens don’t work for us.” 
“We need more blues. They are always our biggest sellers.” 
Be mindful of relying too much on data and getting stuck in one color narrative. Always consider the history of your brand as you shape future seasons. Adamantly stick to your values, but do not allow past successes or failures to create rigid rules. Times change, preferences evolve, influences and lifestyles shift, and color families contain numerous variations. Make thoughtful, strategic color decisions that continue to elevate and awe. Don’t become stagnant.
Sales data tells one part of the color story. It is important, but not complete. Just because a color is not a huge sales driver for your brand, does not mean it is not a crucial part of your success. Color drives excitement, engagement, interest. It builds recognition, communicates a story, captures the values and essence of a brand. Certainly, you could minimize a palette to just the big, sales driving colors, but it’s kind of like removing all the adjectives and adverbs from a novel. Still readable, but probably nowhere near as appealing or memorable.

image: Jason Leung

3. Mistaking the value of various input.
Having confidence in your color POV and the team steering that direction is critical so that you don’t get tripped up on this. Many brands do not accurately filter and weigh input from different sources, which leads to a disjointed color strategy, frustration, and a stale line (and sales) once the products hit the market. Several things to consider here: 
First, define roles in the color process, especially color meetings. Who is simply offering feedback? Who owns the actual color decisions? Leaving this ambiguous invites chaos.
Second, retailers should never be in a position where they are dictating the color strategy for your brand. Their feedback is based on the current market and products, not your vision or future objectives; use it as such. Retailers (and sales reps) have a valuable perspective as they have regular, direct contact with your consumers. They have a window into the broader industry, what’s happening and successful at other brands, and the peculiarities of geographic areas or particular customers. Use the hits and misses they are sharing with you now to help inform your future, holistic strategy, but not to make specific color choices.
Third, be cautious of personal opinions getting in the way of sound decisions. Color is a tool. It has a job to do, customers to appeal to, stories to convey. Ensure this remains your guiding principal.
And one last point here, stop wasting time and resources on customer color surveys. I have yet to see one provide helpful or unexpected insight. Rather, connect more purposefully with your customers. Get to know them well so you can confidently understand and forecast their future needs.

4. Losing sight of the original goal.
At every key decision point in the color process, it’s important to reaffirm that you haven’t lost sight of your original goal. With each progressive step, make sure that the seasonal application and implementation is still in line with both your tactical, and more critically, strategic, visions. 
Is your color story still achieving both the necessary and ideal objectives? A good test is to spend time after each color review precisely articulating this - how exactly is color meeting each specific, targeted goal?
Is your balance of color right? Be careful that some colors don’t get so diluted they become irrelevant. Or, conversely, so heavily used that the line lacks depth and sophistication. Is color being used in the correct places given materials, consumer, product longevity, and end-use? 
Certainly, new information may impact the original plan, but that should equate to fine-tuning not a course reset.

What other roadblocks do you encounter during the color process? 
How can you evolve your process and thinking to avoid repeating these mistakes in the future?
What changes have you implemented that have made things run smoother?
Share, I’d love to hear.
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