Pantone is an authority on color. As a matter of fact, the company pretty much owns every color! At the same time, it’s managed to become a brand of its own.
Pantone Matching System
Pantone is best known for its Pantone Matching System (PMS), which is an exclusive color space used primarily for the printing industry. With the colors being standardized, different manufacturers can refer to the Pantone system without having to directly contact one another. Additionally, Pantone’s color system allows for a wide variety of colors to be made such as metallics and fluorescents.
Pantone colors are described by the number assigned to them such as PMS 120. The colors are almost always used in branding to keep logos and marketing materials consistent, and they have even managed to be used in military and government sectors to describe the colors of flags and seals.
Pantone’s “Color of the Year”
Being experts in color, Pantone chooses a “Color of the Year” each year. Two times during the year, the company hosts meetings that include representatives from various color standards groups. After hours of presentations and debates, a color is chosen. The Color of the Year for 2016 is Serenity and Rose Quartz. In 2015, it was Marsala.
There’s no question that Pantone has created a language of color. The company has successfully positioned itself to be the leading resource for color while also becoming a brand itself. As part of this process, Pantone has trademarked colors that go far beyond the traditional blue, yellow and red.
Trademark vs Ownership
Now, do keep in mind that trademarked colors are not the same as owning a color. Trademarking a color simply allows a brand to use a particular combination of colors or shades of colors in its own industry. This prevents similar products from being confused with one another. For example, Target can’t sue Coca Cola for using a similar red for their marketing because they are not selling the same types of products.
There are also other factors that impact trademarking, such as functional colors. John Deere, for instance, cannot prevent other farm equipment manufacturers from making green equipment because green is a functional color.
Let’s take a look at some colors that are trademarked.
Tiffany & Co: Tiffany Blue
Those little blue boxes mean none other than something from Tiffany & Co. The robin’s egg blue is PMS 1837, and Pantone created it exclusively for the brand. It is a trademarked color and not available for use by any other brand. It remains one of the most well-known brand-color associations in the world.
Minions: Minion Yellow
Ah, yes. Those cute little minions are bright and happy for a reason! Pantone partnered with Universal Pictures to create a character-inspired color for the 2015 Minions movie. The color is meant to instill feelings of joy, hope and optimism.
Minion Yellow can be used for other things, too, as Pantone released it for the “fashion, home and interior” line. We know what you’re thinking. You can have that Minion-colored bathroom.
Abici Italia: Green, Ruby Red, Turquoise and Mimosa
Pantone partnered with Abici Italia, a bicycle manufacturer that handcrafts their bikes in Italy, to create four custom colors of bicycles: Green 627C, Ruby Red 186C, Turquoise 15-5519 and Mimosa 14-0848. Talk about riding in style! In return, the Pantone name was printed on each bicycle’s chain guard.
McDonalds: French-fry Gold
That yellow arch is recognizable no matter where you are – thanks to Pantone of course. Pantone 123 is used in every case of branding and printing for the fast food chain. The same goes for the red color as well – all McDonald’s printed materials use Red PMS 485. Hey, when you’re hungry, it’s great to see the arch up ahead!
Target: Target Red
The vibrant Target Red is trademarked by Target. The color is so incredibly bold and familiar that it’s hard to think of any other brand when we see it. Target has been successful with their branding because not only is the color recognizable but also so is the bullseye symbol.
John Deere: Green and Yellow
John Deere owns the rights to the leaping deer symbol, its name and the green and yellow color scheme. While you might not be wanting to steal their jumping deer symbol, no other machinery can use the green and yellow color scheme separately either. Remember, though, green is a functional color, so John Deere can’t stop other farm equipment manufacturers from using green itself.
Caterpillar: Caterpillar Yellow
The Caterpillar company prohibits anyone from using its very bright and very distinct Caterpillar Yellow. However, since yellow is a functional color for road construction, the company can’t prevent other companies from manufacturing yellow-colored equipment (similar to John Deere and green equipment).
Mattel: Barbie Pink
Mattel trademarked the beautiful and bouncy Barbie Pink. It’s exclusive to their line of toys and only to be used by their brand. At first thought, you might think that Barbie Pink is the color used for all little girls’ toys, but in reality, it’s only used for Mattel and by Mattel.
Once you start looking around at the various colors around you, you’ll see that color is never black and white. Pantone has known this all along. Color is used to describe emotion. Influence our moods. Define brands. Set tones. And to think that the company achieved this with something that is believed to be subjective is truly amazing!