People amaze me. I never get tired of the stories that comprise the life of another human being. They've been places I haven't, done things I haven't, and have skills I don't possess. It's these pieces of humanity that make people interesting.
What bums me out is when others don't see it that way. When they choose to hide who they are, where they've been, and any other sparks of individuality that make their story worth hearing. That story is woven into the brand of your company, whether you like it or not. The way I see it, you can either embrace it and tell it to its fullest or hide behind the mask of what you think others want to hear.
Take off your mask.
Startups dilute their branding potential when they set their eyes on big brands like Apple or Nike. Not saying those brands aren't respectable, they are for many reasons, but they are not startups. They can't afford to be something unique because the reputation at stake is too high. In short, they cannot afford to turn people off.
But you, the scrappy startup, can.
You can nurture your brand to be bold, daring, and different from what is expected and it will give you the edge you are looking for. In fact, it would be a good bet to double-down on the elements of your startup's personality to make sure you are recognized as something different.
Now, I want to be clear, I'm not asking you to go Miley Cyrus and do weird shit for shock value (please don't twerk on Robert Thicke). But you can absolutely veer away from the staid and trite phraseology, colors, and rigid nature you see from your competitors. You can turn on a dime and move fast without getting approval from 30 people. You can do something truly impactful for you and your audience. All the while saying, "you don't have to like what we're doing, because it's probably not for you."
The win of being small is that you can do the things big brands cannot. Small wins.
Often subjective in approach, selecting a color palette is not something to be taken lightly. Color is one of the core ways users are able to identify a company from afar. Starbucks green is instantly recognizable, as is the sunset hues of Patagonia or the gold and red of McDonald's. It's unmistakable.
Here is how you approach color with objectivity:
Define your brand
If you don't know what you want people to feel, your selection will be off-base. Know what you inspire within your customer and the emotional qualities you want them to associate with your company.
Seek and Steal
The world is full of cohesive palettes already. Be it an amazing landscape photo, title sequences to a TV show (I used the colors from the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for a keto-Chinese restaurant once), anything really. If you see something that points you toward the feelings you are trying to evoke, steal it and modify it accordingly. Adobe Color makes this process simple. Plus, it beats the hell out of meandering through a Pantone book.
Compare with Alternatives
Color is a fast track to differentiation. If 80% of the alternative choices to your company use corporate blue as their primary color, don't do it. Be rebellious. Try and be something different. The only way to find out is by researching what is out there. 10 minutes of scouting gives more insight than you'd think.
The color palette for your brand is out there. With a little bit of direction from understanding your brand and guardrails established from what's already in your marketplace, you can make color a strategic advantage is differentiating your brand.