Catalyst

New Year’s Blues

Harish Bhat | Updated on January 09, 2020 Published on January 09, 2020

Celebrating the many shades of blue, which is the colour of 2020

I had an unusual but delicious brush with the colour blue, a few weeks ago. Some of my colleagues and I had gone out to lunch at a restaurant called Foo, in the Churchgate area of Mumbai. Foo is an Asian tapas place, and my friends highly recommended their signature dish, Japanese Blue rice. The dish was soon served, and I was intrigued to see that it was deep blue in colour. When I ate the rice, I found it mouth-wateringly buttery, with mild garlic undertones, and the blue colour added a most unique touch. I mean, how often do you eat blue food?

Quite rarely actually, because there are very few truly blue foods. So I was curious to know where this deep colour came from. The restaurant manager promptly informed me that they used natural blue colour, derived from the butterfly pea flower, a plant that is native to India. In fact, in Bengal, this vivid blue flower goes by the beautiful name of Aparajita. It has also been used to prepare blue tea, known to have medicinal properties. And for those who like headier drinks, there is also the blue cocktail, which is butterfly pea flower-infused tequila.

The memory of blue rice was still gently coating my mental taste-buds when I read an announcement from the Pantone Colour Institute that it had just declared classic blue as the colour of 2020. Here’s blue popping up again, I told myself, why have they done this?

It appears that the company’s research discovered that blue was suddenly appearing everywhere over the past several months — in the automotive market, beauty products and technology, not to mention blue rice, which I now generously recommend to all my friends. Pantone’s Director, Leatrice Eiseman, has also highlighted that blue represents calm and dependability, which is the need of the hour today.

Colour of trust

I nodded silently when I heard this, because I agree entirely with that assessment. In today’s troubled world, with deep unrest and social divides in so many places on our planet, a colour that one can depend on certainly merits being the colour of the year. And blue does connote trust. That’s why some of the most trusted brands in our country are coloured in blue. Think of brands such as Tata, State Bank of India, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Samsung, Unilever. Their logos are predominantly or totally blue in colour.

Blue denotes trust and responsibility because it is the colour of the skies and the oceans, which are associated with great depth and stability, and have served us selflessly since the beginning of time. That’s why so many financial institutions use blue in their scheme of things. That’s also perhaps why many modern technology companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, have tried to appropriate blue unto themselves. Whether they will turn out to be as dependable as the skies and oceans is a question that is still out there in the blue.

Clear skies and Olympics

Yet another reason why blue is truly the colour of the New Year has everything to do with skies and oceans. We rarely see their calming blue colour these days, given the pollution and fog that envelops many of our Indian cities.

Blue reminds us of our responsibilities to the environment, whether we are marketers or consumers. If we wish to see the blue skies once again, we need clear days more often, and so we have to press ahead to insist on less pollution, less plastic, less environmental degradation. In fact, blue should be the colour of resisting climate change, because we need to banish the grey fog with its harmful black dust, and bring back the clear, calming blue into our lives.

In the midst of all this economic, social and environmental gloom, one bright spot that promises to dispel our blues this year is the 2020 Olympics, being hosted in Tokyo. Quite remarkably, the official logo of the Tokyo Olympics is also blue in colour.

 

Called the Harmonised chequered emblem, it consists of chequered patterns arranged in a circular design, coloured entirely in indigo blue. This shade of blue is the traditional colour of Japan, that represents elegance and sophistication — once again, these are positive sentiments that will add a lot of value to our lives. So, when the Olympic games begin, and we celebrate our champions with pride, the colour that will speak the loudest is blue. This will be particularly true for all of us in India, where our athletes normally sport the blue colour with pride.

Marketers and their blues

Marketers can approach the colour of the year with some great blue-sky thinking. Blue garments are so easy to wear and carry off — from blue jeans on holiday treks, to blue shirts in office.

Yet, at the same time, there are so many beautifully diverse hues of blue, ranging from navy and indigo, to sky blue and cobalt. Blue can also pair very well with colours as different as white and yellow. So, apparel brands have a wonderful opportunity to promote amazing blue designs, from suits to sarees, that can bring relaxed calm and stability into our wardrobes and lives.

 

Blue coloured motifs on refrigerators or air-conditioners, which bring the calm of the infinite skies into our living rooms and kitchens, are likely to be welcomed by consumers.

Lifestyle brands could consider wrist watches or handbags whose designs are inspired by the timeless blue oceans, or by the blue Olympic logo.

Blue chocolates or biscuits may seem a far cry today, but something tells me they hold good promise in a cluttered world where blue cheese has already notched up good success.

 

Both my favourite beverages enter this year well-prepared. For coffee lovers, there is exquisite Jamaican blue mountain coffee, Blue Tokai specialty arabica coffee, or even Blue Bottle New Orleans style iced coffee. For connoisseurs of scotch, there is nothing better than Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky. On that note, cheers to the New Year!

 

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. His new novel, “An extreme love of coffee”, is now on sale.

Published on January 09, 2020
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