Coats of Many Colors

Color is one way to differentiate a brand or product line from its competitors, both in its look and in the emotions the signature hues call forth. In the last two years, more and more brands are pairing with the Pantone Color Institute to create unique custom shades for use in product collections:

  • Just this month Kate Spade New York celebrated its 30th anniversary with the launch of Kate Spade Green, a bright hue that will set the tone for the brand going forward, according to the partners. The new color was introduced through a capsule collection of ready-to-wear apparel, handbags, home products, accessories, and footwear, along with a limited-edition journal and mug, and will feature prominently in store designs and other brand assets going forward.
  • In January, Avocados From Mexico, the trade association for avocado growers from that country, created a limited-edition Avocado Glow Collection in a new green shade that emulates the look of perfectly ripe avocado flesh. The color was announced and the products released just before the Super Bowl, a peak time for guacamole consumption. The collection includes seven items: a guacamole bowl, serving tray, coasters, oven mitts, apron, throw pillow, and wallpaper. A contest allowed five fans to win the full collection.
  • Australian furniture and home goods designer Sarah Ellison, known for her sofas and sectionals, last fall released the first product in a line of furniture featuring a custom Pantone brown called Piccolo. The 1970s-inspired rich cocoa-bean/espresso tint marks the first time a home goods designer had developed a custom Pantone color. The inaugural product was the four-seat Float Sofa.
  • Valentino paired with Pantone early last year for a custom tint called Pink PP that was introduced in the fall of 2022. The hue was incorporated into product placements, digital presentations, and pop-up shops featuring limited-edition items in the new color, located in the major fashion cities around the world, as well as an augmented reality experience on Instagram. Pink PP was also highlighted in the Maison Valentino Fall/Winter 2022-2023 collection and in an 11-piece limited-edition line of everyday items, including keychains, umbrellas, notebooks, pens, and to-go cups, developed by Copenhagen Design Aps. The latter collection, available in select Valentino boutiques around the world, combines the Maison Valentino logo with design elements inspired by the Pantone color swatch.
  • In December 2021, former NFL superstar Tom Brady paired with Pantone to create Brady Blue 122-12, a bold color for use within the athlete’s Brady brand of athleisure clothing. Sold since January 2022 through retail channels such as Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Nordstrom, as well as on a dedicated e-commerce site, the brand most recently released a limited-edition collection commemorating Brady’s career in and retirement from football.
  • Tiffany’s famous Tiffany Blue, long used as the key element in the retailer’s corporate identity, store design, and marketing materials, was formalized as custom Pantone color 1837 Blue in 2021. It is used on both in-house and licensed products, including recent collaborations with Nike and Fendi, and of course on its well-known blue box.

One of the first high-profile pairings of a licensed property and the Pantone Color Institute came in 2015 when Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment paired with Pantone for the creation of Minion Yellow. Other brands have been associated with custom Pantone colors over the years, as well, from the red used throughout Coca-Cola’s branding and products, to the crimson soles of Christian Louboutin shoes. The use of the technique as a point of differentiation is growing rapidly these days.

As the examples cited here suggest, recent collaborations with Pantone increasingly are focused more, at least initially, on a particular collection or specific products than on the overall branding of the property, but that varies depending on the objectives of the brand owner.

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