If you want proof that brands can emerge from a PR misstep in a meaningful way, look no further than Pantone.
Pantone is a widely-used design platform that offers a unique color matching system to help designers identify and match colors to create consistency across branding.
As a leader in this space, Pantone best known for its Color Institute, led by a team of color experts that helps brands make the best decisions around color choices for campaigns or overall branding. But the company is also known widely for its “Color of the Year” — which is what Pantone predicts is the color we’ll be seeing everywhere in the year ahead.
This announcement sparked some public backlash due to the irony of choosing “Living Coral’ at a time when coral is dying at an unprecedented rate due to climate change.
Instead of ignoring the negativity, or even simply issuing a public statement and moving on, Pantone took a different approach.
The company decided to address the issue directly with “Glowing, Glowing, Gone”, an awareness campaign that centers on the “vibrant but alarming” color changes in coral as a result of climate change.
The campaign is a great display of how brands can correct an oversight not through apologies, but through activism — in a manner that still remains on-brand.
Glowing, Glowing, Gone
In order to come back successfully, Pantone partnered with Adobe and The Ocean Agency to ensure this campaign was well-thought-out and properly executed.
The Ocean Agency is a non-profit organization that uses “a combination of creativity, technology and powerful partnerships to raise the awareness and support necessary for ocean conservation and to help fast-track action.’ Its homepage currently has a direct link where visitors can make a donation to help save the coral reefs.
This an important element because it provides a direct pathway to take action from this campaign, rather than simply be an awareness tool.
Additionally, The Ocean Agency was able to provide Pantone with the footage needed to capture the glowing fluorescent color changes coral undergoes as it dies.
You can view the real footage captured by The Ocean Agency in the video below.
To make sure these colors were presented accurately, Pantone partnered with Adobe to utilize its powerful color matching engine to translate these vibrant tones into colors that can be used in design.
“We extracted the specific fluorescing LAB values from The Ocean Agency’s images on Adobe Stock and converted them to RGB. In collaboration with Pantone, we turned these digital values into Pantone Color Standards and selected the custom palette that would ultimately become the colors of climate change.”
The end result are three colors: Glowing Purple, Glowing Yellow, and Glowing Blue.
Beyond spreading awareness, Glowing, Glowing Gone encourage designers to get involved as well.
The campaign challenges designers to utilize this color palate in their own designs so the message is spread even further.
The photo below shows the full scope of the color palate:
As the campaign’s creative brief states:
“Use the glowing colors to create art and designs that make the world stop and take notice of glowing colors and the urgent ocean warning they represent. We’ll use it to inspire action and help win the fight to save coral reefs.”
“The only set requirement is the sole use of coral’s fluorescing colours - all three Glowing colours need to be used, with black and white as an optional secondary. They can be used in gradient form, but no other colours should be used."
Designers can download the colors, along with imagery and inspiration, from this dropbox link here.
Lessons For Marketers
While the Glowing, Glowing, Gone campaign began due to PR concerns, it serves a bigger and more meaningful purpose than simply smoothing out a potential controversy.
Pantone provided a powerful lesson in how to address backlash not just with another brand apology, but by demonstrating a true understanding of the oversight and going the extra mile to educate not only its own staff, but the public as well.
Additionally, this campaign is a great example of how activism can still remain heavily on-brand. By utilizing Pantone’s expertise in color use for brands, Adobe’s creative color tools, and The Ocean Agency’s mission to spread awareness about marine life conservation through creativity, all these brands could use their best assets to achieve their goal.