4 branding lessons to learn from Pantone

Once just a colour chart for graphic designers and interior decorators, Pantone has developed a cult following, splashed across mugs, iPhone cases and watches.

The Pantone Universe extends to a pop-up cafe in Monaco with colour coded eclairs and a Pantone hotel in Brussels with coloured feature walls and furniture. So how did such a niche product become a global brand and what are the lessons you can apply to your own business?

Be useful

Pantone’s key success lies in its ability to solve a problem. All colours are created by a combination of the four CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) process colours. Pantone is a recipe book for colour, ensuring that when you want Scuba Blue, you always get Scuba Blue by specifying the exact CMYK combination. This consistency is essential for branding and production. Starbucks green is consistently the exact same shade by following the recipe for its patented, custom Pantone colour 3425C. While there are other colour charts out there that also provide standardised colour formulas, Pantone has established itself as the premier expert in colour.

When thinking about your business, ask yourself, ‘What unique problem do I solve and how do I make my customers’ lives easier?’

Be shareable

Pantone’s key audience –  designers, decorators and artists, are a highly active digital community. By connecting with these influencers and taste makers, Pantone has inspired entire Instagram feeds dedicated to matching doughnuts, flowers and shoes to Pantone colour chips. The images are fun and quirky and are rapidly liked and shared, spreading a niche tool for a small community into the mainstream.

Ask yourself, ‘What can I do to inspire others to talk about my business?’

Be emotional

Colour is evocative. Pantone uses this to create an emotional connection with its customers. Each year Pantone announces its Color of the Year reflecting the trends, habits and current state of the world as it sees it. 2016’s colour is Rose Quartz and Serenity.

Dual colours were picked this year to coincide with “societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumer’s increased comfort with using color as a form of expression, a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to color usage.” Gimmick or not, the Color of the Year immediately impacts fashion and design, appearing quickly across clothing, makeup and furniture.

Ask yourself, ‘How do I want my customers to feel so they become loyal and advocate for my business?’

Be relevant

Pantone rides trends and taps into popular culture. In 2015 Pantone launched a new colour, Minion Yellow, based on the incredibly popular animated movies. A concept devised by Pharrell while creating music for the movie, Minion Yellow can now be bought for your living room walls, throw cushions or textbooks. Pantone’s ability to trend spot and to collaborate with influential designers, artists and musicians brings the brand to a mainstream audience. By also establishing itself as a trend forecaster with its institute of experts, Pantone is trusted as the leader in colour.

Ask yourself, ‘How do I react to the trends and movements in my industry and represent this in my business?’

Good branding is all about putting the customer first. By asking yourself these four questions you can create a brand that sets yourself apart.

Photo: From left, Minion Stuart , Minion Kevin, and Minion Bob. The characters are from the Universal Studios 2015 animated movie called Minions.

Dale Rolfe is AAT's Content Manager.

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