Pantone’s announcement of Color of the Year — the shade that will define design and style trends, as well as fit the national climate for the upcoming 12 months, according to the color institute and consulting agency — has become the peak annual event for a company whose work is mostly done behind the scenes.
On Thursday, Pantone named “Greenery,” or Pantone 15-0343, the 2017 Color of the Year. The yellow-green hue is associated with spring, rejuvenation, Kermit the Frog and $11 kale juice. The reasoning behind the selection? Even Pantone is feeling the fallout of the 2016 election cycle.
“We know what kind of world we are living in: one that is very stressful and very tense,“ Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, told The New York Times. “This is the color of hopefulness and of our connection to nature. It speaks to what we call the ‘re’ words: regenerate, refresh, revitalize, renew.”
Pantone, founded in 1956, started announcing picks for annual colors in 2000, vocalizing its expertise to the general public by grabbing headline coverage from publications like the Times, Vogue and the Washington Post. It is, effectively, a marketing campaign for Pantone the brand, which has been building out services and partnering with the likes of Airbnb and Sephora to establish its utility as a consumer-facing company.
“[Color of the Year] is so pure and simple, but it’s become a hugely influential campaign that has legs for a full year,” said John Sampogna, co-founder of the agency Wondersauce. “It’s basically an advertising campaign that serves as a platform for all brands to attach to. They’re marketing their aesthetic.”
The Color of the Year comes out of The Pantone Color Institute, one branch of the Carlstadt, New Jersey-based company that is also made up of a consulting agency, a licensing business and a recently added mobile design studio.
“Color is what sells — 65 percent of purchase decisions are driven by color,” said Kathryn Shah, Pantone’s vp of global marketing. “The Color Institute helps brands from all industries make decisions about color.”
When deciding the Color of the Year, Pantone’s so-called color experts spend about nine months traveling the world to trade fairs, fashion shows, red carpets, movie sets, galleries and popular travel destinations to pick up threads of color themes.
“What I think is so important about Color of the Year is that it does two things: It points to the color that is of-the-moment within an influential industry such as fashion, and it also reflects back on what is happening in society.”
Through Pantone’s licensing business, products featuring Greenery will begin to pop up, like the Pantone color-chip mug. Last year, Bentley released two limited-edition cars in 2016’s colors Rose Quartz and Serenity, and this year, Airbnb has announced a partnership with Pantone in the form of a rental space that’s decked out in the green shade. While not directly linked to the Color of the Year, Pantone has also partnered with Sephora to provide the shades for Sephora’s ColorIQ foundation-matching tool.
The brand partnerships, according to Shah, are used as a way to link Pantone’s different services — color consulting and influencing — into a more consumer-friendly product.
“We’re working on brand partnerships which can touch each of our businesses,” she said. “We’re looking for the type of work that can leverage the Pantone look and feel, so we have a business around consumer design.”
Earlier this year, Pantone rolled out a new mobile app geared toward young designers as a way to introduce them to Pantone’s expertise and services before they’re ready to invest in a full consultancy, which can run brands and designers anywhere from $150 to $10,000. The goal is to establish Pantone’s capabilities early on in designers’ careers in order to make them loyal partners down the line.
“This is our biggest push to combine physical and digital services,” said Shah. “We heard from [young designers] that they love Pantone — they’ve heard of it, but they don’t know what Pantone actually does. They don’t know how standards work, and sometimes they can’t afford them.”
The app’s services are much cheaper, at $4.99 per month for a year’s subscription. According to Sampogna, that doesn’t dilute Pantone’s offerings, but rather, it reinforces them.
“To a company like Pantone, utility is everything — it’s the brand,” he said. “Any brand that can provide utility to a customer on a daily basis shouldn’t worry about giving away their value proposition. These people will keep coming back to them.”