Color is one of the easiest ways design communicates to onlookers. Using seasonal color schemes in marketing materials is a great way to look professional and drive traffic to your website or location.

Why use a seasonal color scheme?

Color is a large part of an organization’s brand identity. Coca-Cola wouldn’t be the same without its red and silver, McDonald’s isn’t McDonald’s without the “golden” arches, and even the United States can be recognized by the red white, and blue. Color is communication, and in business communication is everything.

While a brand palette should always stay the same, and marketing materials should put their brand front and center, it is ill-advised to neglect leveraging color to one’s advantage in other ways. Seasonal color palettes are a shortcut to making advertisements and posts instantly relatable to viewers. As the autumn season begins, many people find themselves reminiscing over the beautiful changes in foliage, imagining going on hikes, or spending a weekend on a farm in the mountains. The orange of pumpkin pie and the warm earthy colors of the outdoors. People are looking for the change of seasons, and their brain is keener on recognizing the colors that hint towards the change.


One of the great modern-day successes in seasonal branding, especially for autumn, is Starbucks. It’s hard to imagine talking about what makes fall fall without mentioning the legendary Pumpkin Spice Latte. But, the Pumpkin Spice Latte would not be what it is without the great marketing behind it. Take the following two Starbucks beverages:

One of these is a Pumpkin Spice Latte, the other, a hot chocolate. Based on these images, it might be possible to differentiate which is which. But even if one correctly identifies the Latte, it hardly invokes the same feelings we have come to expect. However, we can introduce some background colors to help add context.

Now it’s a bit easier to identify the Pumpkin Spice, and which is the hot chocolate, right? Well, that depends. In the two images above, the latte is on the right, while the hot chocolate is on the left. Ads have seconds to communicate with viewers, and the worst thing they can do is to confuse them. Let’s add some labels to see what I mean.

It might not seem like it to us since we’ve been looking at these images for a while, but for the average consumer, this is quite confusing. The hot chocolate looks fine since hot chocolate is often associated with the fall, but the latte looks quite odd on the December color palette. As an experiment, briefly show the two ads, with or without the labels,  to someone and ask which one they’d prefer to buy at that moment. They are far more likely to choose the autumn color scheme over the Christmas colors and will decide much faster if shown the examples without the labels.

Let’s put them on the proper color schemes and bring back the color.

Things feel much better now. Each drink is easy to identify with little room for confusion. This is a great example of how choosing color palettes outside your brand can improve your advertisements and create conversions.

However, the Starbucks example isn’t without fault. They benefit greatly from the fact that they sell seasonal products, making it very easy to decide how they apply different colors. Not every organization sells products, and of those that do, they often aren’t seasonal. What should they do?

Well, the good news is that any organization with a brand identity can always rely on their colors to drive the content they are making. Even better, is that seasonal touches don’t need to be front and center. A great example of this is Google’s 2019 Thanksgiving doodle:

This image was displayed on Google’s homepage for a short duration around thanksgiving. It doesn’t seem important, in fact, many people would believe it’s trivial. The truth is those small things are often what people remember the most.

Great Ways to Use a Seasonal Palette

Newsletters

Email marketing is far and away the most accessible form of marketing for most small businesses. It has never been easier to build an email list and it has also never been more important to have contactless ways of communicating with clients. A well-designed email goes miles further than an average black and white text block. The right combination of images, colors, and information can drive previous customers to look back into your products and services.

Social Media Marketing

Next is social media marketing. This doesn’t mean buying ads on Facebook as much as it means uploading social media posts with lightly themed graphics. Applying a seasonal color palette to your social media posts will help them stand out from the onslaught of average looking pages.

Print Materials

I would be remiss to not mention the gold standard of marketing materials: print. Print can be a bit more tricky depending on what type of organization you run but is almost always well worth it. When advertising events, sales, new products, announcements of any kind, etc. great print materials can go a long way in driving sales. Using a palette that compliments your brand and the time of year makes a professional impression that is hard to forget.

How To Use an Autumn Color Palette

Let’s get to the process of using an autumn color palette in conjunction with your current brand. 

Step 1: Find a palette that complements your brand.

Your brand feel will be the best indicator of what type of palette you want to go with. It’s difficult to give broad advice on how to choose the correct palette, so the best advice is to look at what other companies are doing. As a designer, I would figure out the key aspects of a company’s brand (active, sporty, cozy, luxurious, bubbly; the list goes on.) and create a color scheme to reflect them.

But for those of us without hundreds of hours staring at colors and hex codes, the most effective way of figuring out what color scheme works with your brand is to see what similar brands are doing. There is no shortage of seasonal magazines for various industries and business segments that make a point of bringing out the big guns in designing each issue. If magazines don’t work, then seek out websites of similar organizations to see what they are doing. Most companies won’t change their websites’ core colors for the season, so look for what they are doing in blog posts and social media.

Once you find something you like, snap a picture and use the theme extraction tool at color.adobe.com to get color codes from the image. There you have it, a simple, easy way to extract a color theme from anywhere.

Step 2: Design your media

Great, you have your color palette. Now what? It’s time to design your media! This isn’t something you are going to be able to do in Microsoft Word, Pages, or Google Docs, but luckily there are plenty of free online options for creating great-looking graphics. One that is super easy to use is Adobe Spark (spark.adobe.com). They provide plenty of templates for various social media types and make it easy to choose fonts and add colors. There are plenty of online tutorials on how to get started with Spark, only a Google search away.

It’s important not to go overboard with your seasonal palette. It is often the case that less is more, so I recommend using only three colors from the palette in one graphic. That way you can avoid the design becoming cluttered and unflattering. Keep your brand colors, but try out autumn colors for text, or backgrounds. Just make sure everything is easy to read.

Step 3: Post and repeat

Now that you have your media designed, post it! Make a point of posting regularly to social media. If you aren’t used to it, it might feel weird or seem daunting, but practice makes perfect. Most social media platforms have metrics you can look at to see how well a post or newsletter performed. By trying out different posts and designs, you can use these analytics to find what content works best for your organization.

Conclusion

Working with colors is never easy, but knowing just a bit about how colors help brands can enable you to learn more and improve your business’ design. This tutorial is a very broad overview of what kind of work goes into colors for design and ignores the intricacies of print color vs. digital, color accuracy, Pantone’s, etc. This post is all about showing shortcuts to get the hard decisions out of the way so that you can focus on trying new social media and advertising ideas with confidence. Just as an extra bonus for making it to the end of the article, I’ve included a few sample autumn palettes below for you to use however you see fit.

Are looking to invest in advertising without the headache of making your own design choices? Our marketing and design teams at Orpheus have years of experience making great looking and effective ads and content. Contact us for a free consultation.

Sample Palettes