Pantone's Color of the Year and Why It Matters

What's up, ya beautiful ad-nerds? It's December, which means it’s officially far enough into 2019, that we should all start living in 2020. It also means it's time to take a hard look at what we're using for our creative and how to set it apart from last year. To help, Pantone rolled out its official Color of the Year for 2020: Classic Blue.

I can hear you asking already: Pan-who? Classic what? What is this, why do THEY get to decide what the color of the year is, and why does it matter to me? Well, let me explain. From their own website, Pantone is “a universal language of color that enables color-critical decisions through every stage of the workflow for brands and manufacturers.” They are THE color standard used in basically every industry that uses color the world over. They produce color matching guides and the mixing recipes and RGB and HEX codes required to match those colors, as well as inks and dyes to make sure your fabrics and prints are on point. Pantone colors are experienced in some way or form by literally everybody.

Around December of every year, Pantone announces their choice for the “official” color for the upcoming year. They comb through various sources of inspiration (new artworks, entertainment, fashion, societal issues, new manufacturing processes, etc.) and based on their finding, decide on the color that best represents the mood of that year. On their website you can see their explanation for the decision, as well as past years’ colors going all the way back to 2000.

The color for 2020 is Classic Blue. In Pantone’s own words it is a “timeless and enduring blue hue...PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue is elegant in its simplicity. Suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build, as we cross the threshold into a new era. Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. Aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue re-centers our thoughts. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience.”

In other words, they discovered that, as a society, we’re all looking for that traditional, familiar base to stand on. Leatrice Eiseman, the Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, puts is best.

“We are living in a time that requires trust and faith. It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on.” Reminiscent of the sky at night, it challenges us to look outward, to expand our thinking and perspective, and open our communicative channels.

So, that’s cool, but why should you care about it? Well, the answer to that depends on how you utilize your creative throughout the year. Do you simply not have any visual creative? No video, digital banners, social images, print ads, nothing of that sort? Do you only exist on the radio? If so, you’re wrong and you need to fix that.

But if you ARE the kind of smart, wonderful person who embraces the varied mediums that exist in order to create a cohesive message across ALL platforms, then this becomes a hand tool to have in your tool box. You’re not going to just keep running the same creative from last year, or worse, the year before, or, worse yet, the year before THAT, are you? No, of course not! You like to keep your message relevant, engaging, and up to date. Right? Right.

To that end, think about splashing some Classic Blue in whatever creative you have coming up. You don’t have to go overboard; keep your existing brand standards in mind, when using it and don’t just slap your logo on top of a Classic Blue background and expect it to work. Be sneaky with it; it doesn’t have to be the star. You’re not trying to knock anyone over the head with it, try to work it in naturally and let people experience how it can enhance things.

I’ve pulled some great examples of how the colors are being used and have already placed them below for inspiration. Give them a peruse, do some research of your own, and talk to your creative team about how you can utilize Pantone’s Color of the Year in your own marketing. Don’t have a creative team? Don’t sweat it, we do. Get a hold of us, and we can help there, too.

Clockwise from top left: Acielle Tanbetova for The New York Times; Justin Sullivan, via Getty Images; Adam Berry, via Getty Images for IMG; Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times; Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times (blueberries)

Utilizing Pantone’s Color of the Year is a great, easy, FREE way to spice up your creative each year. It’s an easy way to change things up year to year, and the best part of it is, they’re doing all the research and decision making for you. They’re the color experts, you can rely on them for this one.

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