Forget 50 shades of grey. Did you know that when it comes to choosing the best color palette for your travel business and brand, there are over 10 million colors available? Holy hell.
I can’t help thinking about my bestie as she battles with her renos. Every wall in her home appears white to me, yet she’ll debate the trend factor of hundreds of shades of white paint chips lying out on her kitchen table for months before she chooses.
Will it be Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Chocolate, Dove White or Chantilly Lace? Or Sherwin Williams’s Ethereal White, Greek Villa or Marshmallow? “Dude,” I say, just pick! They are all white!”
To which she rolls me her Eyeball Whites, almost as if to say…”How are we even friends?”
My point is…if selecting a shade of white can be so debilitating, it’s easy to imagine how difficult it is to choose the best color palette for your travel brand.
Why choosing the best color palette matters
Colors, like music, can invoke strong emotions within us that often we aren’t even aware of. The benefit of choosing our color palette wisely is that subconsciously we can create feelings about our brand without ever having to say a word. Imagine the color blue. Whether you choose a deep shade of midnight or whimsical candy floss, blue denotes trust.
On the flip side, making the wrong color choice could have you on an uphill battle trying to build rapport. Have you ever encountered a brand that just felt “off” to you for no discernible reason?
And of course, once you’ve decided on the best color palette for your travel brand, you’ll want to lock it down and be consistent with it. As travel advisors, our brand may never reach the recognizability of Coca-cola red but being consistent with your brand colors leaves the impression that you will be consistent with your service.
Just how important is having the best color palette for your brand? I couldn’t tell you. But I do know that having the wrong color palette can put you at a disadvantage and who needs unnecessary extra obstacles. Us, travel professionals, already work too hard for that.
So let’s dig in and get started. How do you choose the best color palette for your brand?
Consider the type of travel you sell when choosing the best color palette
A good place to start in choosing the best color palette for your travel brand is to get some inspo from professional travel photographers specializing in the travel locations that you most sell.
If you are a specialist in selling destination weddings, you’ll want to search places like Pinterest and Instagram and start pinning and saving images. Grab some bridal magazines and look for color schemes that emerge. Start building your own library of images and you’ll begin to see common palettes emerging.
What emotions do you want to invoke?
I often recommend advisors come up with three adjectives that best describe their brand. Do you want to be thought of as serious or fun? Maybe you want to build a feeling of trust and security? Do you want to appear exclusive or will you be the travel advisor for the average Jill?
It’s helpful to come up with three core emotions and put them in your line of sight. This will act as a helpful reminder as you craft your emails or draft your social media posts.
The best color palette for your audience
Now that you’ve considered what you’d like your brand personality to be…think about your ideal client and what might be the best color palette to attract them.
Are they a “he” or “she” or somewhere in between? Mature or youthful? Affluent or thrifty? Knowing who your ideal client is and positioning all of your marketing with them in mind is the most important thing.
And once you think you’ve nailed your brand palette, why not get some feedback from your target market and see if you are on the right track before you start printing business cards and t-shirts.
Vs. The best color palette for you
I’m going to offer up a hugely unpopular opinion but given I love to live on the edge…here goes.
Yes, of course, the color preference of your ideal client matters, but if you hate the color combination that some color palette generator spits out at you, I say…use your veto rights.
Nobody will be spending as much time “in” your business as you will. If your brand color palette induces the same feelings as 8-day-old shrimp, pick again. I’m sure you’ll be able to come to an agreement with your ideal client on something.
There, I said it.
Narrowing the best color palette down to 5
How many colors should you choose for your brand color palette? This is my suggestion:
One anchor color
The anchor color is the color that sets the overall mood of your brand and from where you build the rest of your palette. This will most likely be the color for your logo and will form the basis for any branded templates you use.
My anchor color is red and it wasn’t chosen haphazardly. It wanted my brand to promote the concept of life-long learning, continual growth and guidance. I wanted my brand to be warm and inviting. So even though my favourite color is actually green, I chose the saffron red hue of the monks of Mandalay to represent Digital Travel Academy.
I know the hex code off by heart and once I landed on it…I just knew it was the right choice.
One contrasting accent color
Your contrasting color needs to really ‘pop’ against your anchor color. It’s the color you will use for your website “book” buttons, or any eye-catching accent text you’ll want people to focus on.Canva.com offers a free tool called The Color Wheel that will suggest the best option once you add in your anchor color.
One or two secondary colors
Your secondary colors should balance out your anchor color and you have some options depending on the overall feel you are trying to achieve. The safest bet is to stick with analogous colors, aka, those that hang out together on the color wheel. Using triadic or monochromatic schemes can work, but are a bit risky if you get it wrong.
I prefer to go with one very light secondary color – maybe even a very light shade of your anchor color. This might be the perfect color for the backdrop of your website instead of plain white.
One dark text color
You’ll want to select one dark color that really stands out against your palette, preferably not black. Try dark greys or midnight blues or even a deep plum depending on your other picks. This will become your primary text color, so take some time to choose wisely.
One light text color
And finally, one light text color for times when you’ll want to put text over a dark image or shade. This can be the same color as one of your secondary colors if it’s light enough.
Choosing a warm brand tone vs. a cool brand tone
The final consideration before deciding on the best color palette for your travel brand, is the warmth factor. Warm tones (reds, yellow and oranges) can give your brand the feeling of creativity, optimism and excitement vs. cool tones (blue, green and purple) that elicit emotions like serenity, harmony and health.
Remember…regardless of the colors you chose, you can always warm them up or cool them down by adding tints and shades.
Back to the many shades of grey, (or yellow)
Even though throughout this piece, I’ve offered definitions for many of the most popular colors, keep in mind that for every color, there are many, many shades. Take yellow, as an example:
That’s why I’d focus less on these broad sweeping statements that try to pigeonhole each color. Color psychology is a great starting point, but sometimes you just gotta follow your gut about what feels right.
Pro Tip – don’t forget the color blind
Yep, unless you are color blind, you’ve probably never given this a consideration, but it’s probably a good idea to run your color palette through a filter to see how it performs for clients who might be color-challenged. Use Adobe’s color accessibility checker to be on the safe side. Sometimes, just a slight shade change can prevent issues.
Trying to choose the best color palette for your brand can be challenging but also fun at the same time. Just don’t overthink it. If you follow the steps outlined above, I’m sure you will settle on the perfect combination for your travel business.
And if you like this article and want to learn more, save yourself a spot in the next session of the Travelpreneur Mastercourse. We go through all things branding from typography, imagery, language, logos and personal branding.
I’d love to see you there.