Marketing Watch: Color Backstory

Color inspires. It creates moods; it excites or calms. Color is nothing short of a miracle most of us are lucky enough to experience every day.


In fashion, color is a key component of trends. Color trickles down from couture designers to the mass market (recall Miranda Priestly’s rant to her new assistant Andy Sachs about cerulean blue in The Devil Wears Prada). Often a popular color one season morphs into a new related hue the next, perhaps lighter, muted, shaded or toasted with the addition of brown into the mix, depending upon whether we’re heading into the cold season or the warm. Clothing colors, in turn, are often determinative of the colors of metals that will be employed to trim and adorn the clothing.


Last week I wrote about mimosa, the 2009 color of the year as announced by color authority Pantone, and how the color might be used to market yellow gold jewelry.


Pantone was founded by Lawrence Herbert in 1963. Reportedly recognizing that individuals see and interpret the color spectrum differently, he created a system of standardized color samples in order to solve the issues attendant to producing accurate color matches. His system became the standard language for communicating hues “from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer, across a variety of industries.”  


Pantone issues a biannual trend forecasting tool called the PANTONEVIEW Colour Planner “that offers seasonal color direction and inspiration 24 months in advance for multiple usages, including menswear, women’s wear, activewear, cosmetics and industrial design.” The fall/winter 2010 planner is currently available. While Pantone’s forecasts focus on color, there are also several other respected fashion forecasting systems that predict colors, lines, textures, and even moods anticipated in fashion design in seasons to come.


I was intrigued to find a clever, fresh take on the use of color forecasts by a sneaker company, SeaVees, reported in the March 2009 issue of Details magazine. Rather than looking forward, SeaVees dipped back in time, utilizing the Pantone archives pursuant to an exclusive agreement. Honoring the month and year that Pantone issued its color matching system, SeaVees introduced its 09/63 line of sneakers featuring seven vintage colors from that very time period. The palette, according to the company’s press release “epitomizes the cool, casual style of California in 1963.” 



From a SeaVees press release:


“SeaVees is inspired by the casual style of California in the 1960’s, but adapted appropriately for today’s modern sensibilities. “We are endlessly influenced by the coolest place on the planet, in the coolest of times,” says [cofounder Steven] Tiller. ‘Think of the cool style of Steve McQueen or the creative genius of Brian Wilson. It’s four decades later and, not only have they stood the test of time, their styles are arguably cooler today than when originated.’ . . .

“True to their inspiration, each SeaVees style is named after an important date in California–cool history. The 07/64 oxford gets its name from the arrival of the first Porsche 911 on California soil. Other styles celebrate the Hollywood premiere of McQueen’s Bullitt, and the release of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.”

What do sneakers have to do with jewelry? The SeaVees approach is a great demonstration of creative thinking relative to the marketing of color. If colored gemstones are a key category for your store, how do you or can you creatively market them?


Trend forecasts can be used seasonally to highlight various colored gemstones and metals that coordinate with the current colors in fashion. Knowing what colors designers will be using and where trends are gravitating in the seasons ahead can be useful in planning your inventory and marketing efforts.


Beyond trend reports, consider how SeaVees focuses on Southern California cool. Are there colors that relate to your geographic area or resonate within your community? Think of the sun-drenched pastels of Miami, the desert hues of the Southwest, purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain.


Recall Miranda Priestly lecturing Andy Sachs, “that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean.” In your case, the blue stones you sell are turquoise or lapis, sapphire or aquamarine. Each stone has its own wonderful backstory. 



One of my favorite books is So Big!, written by Edna Ferber in 1924. She writes of a young woman leaving city life for the countryside to teach farm children, and seeing the farm fields for the first time: 


“’But they are!’ she insisted. ‘They are beautiful. Like jade and Burgundy. No, like–uh–like–what’s that in–like chrysoprase and porphyry. All those fields of cabbages and the corn and the beet-tops together look like Persian patches.’”


Are you tapping into all the evocative associations of color?

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