Have you heard of Very Peri? If you think this is a spicy Mexican dish or a fancy new cocktail, think again. This is the official colour of the year for 2022. Each year, the Pantone Colour Institute announces a colour of the year, based on its examination of trends. This year, it has selected Very Peri, which is described as “a vibrant shade of periwinkle blue with energising violet red undertones”.

Pantone’s new blend

But there is something else that makes Very Peri very special. For the first time ever, Pantone has created a brand new colour of the year, rather than using an existing colour — last year it had used yellow and grey. As the company says, the creation of this new shade symbolises the “unprecedented times of change” that we are living in, even as the pandemic enters its third year.

Very Peri is a unique blend of familiar, dependable blue, injected with dynamic violet, which provides it great energy. Because, this year, we need both the safety of dependability and the uplift of energy, as we endeavour to rewrite our lives and create new possibilities, in the midst of the pandemic.

Soon, we will perhaps see Very Peri all around us — on fashion garments, furnishings, lipsticks and nail polishes, packaging, etc. But this unique new colour also sparked a question in my mind — if Pantone can invent a new colour of the year, have brands invented or owned their own unique colours? In other words, can brand new colours also be new brand colours? A unique colour can provide a brand distinctive visual identity, which can facilitate instant recognition by consumers, and also help its products cleave through the clutter.

The answer, it turns out, is yes. Many iconic brands have trademarked their unique colours. Here are a few interesting examples.

Tiffany Blue

Tiffany, one of the best known jewellery brands in the world, owns a unique shade of a light medium robin egg blue colour — which is commonly referred to as Tiffany Blue. Cool, aquatic and with soft hues, this beautiful colour is used on all its packaging boxes, bags and promotional material. Hence, you can recognize this luxury brand from a mile. Owning or being gifted an iconic Tiffany blue jewellery box is now an aspiration in itself. This is a customised shade created by Pantone, called “1837 blue” to mark the year in which Tiffany was founded. Tiffany Blue is trademarked by the company. It traces its origins to a blue colour selected by the founder of the brand, Charles Lewis Tiffany, for the cover of the Blue Book, which is Tiffany’s annual catalogue.

Cadbury Purple

Most of us in India are familiar with the purple packaging of Cadbury’s Diary Milk. This is a brand we have grown up with, and seeing the delicious purple pack in a store often makes our mouths water. Cadbury introduced purple packaging for its chocolate bars in 1914, reportedly as a tribute to Queen Victoria.This imperial shade of purple, called Pantone2685C, has now become intrinsic to Cadbury’s chocolates. In fact, Cadbury uses this colour extensively not just in its packaging, but also in its advertising and promotional collateral. The colour is synonymous with the brand today. I think even a little child will recognise her favourite chocolate by its purple shade, which is testimony to the power of colour in visual branding.

Post-it Yellow

The sticky Post-it notes that we use are mostly of a unique canary yellow colour. This colour was actually chosen by chance, when Post-it notes were first being developed at 3M in 1974.

The laboratory next door only had yellow scrap paper to spare, so this was used, along with a pressure sensitive adhesive to create the first few Post-its. Since then, this specific colour has become so intrinsic to these notes that the company has trademarked it for use in office and stationery products. While Post-it notes have also been developed in other colours over the years, the canary yellow note is clearly the classic, with immediate brand recognition.

Milka Lilac

Milka is one of the world’s most loved chocolate brands, made of 100 per cent alpine milk.

Its unique lilac purple coloured packaging was launched in 1901, and it became so famous that the company trademarked both the logo and this colour.

Perhaps to pair well with this colour, the Milka cow that features on these packs is called Lila, and is white with lilac spots. Interestingly, while the Milka lettering has been modernised some years ago, and even the cow has changed the direction in which it faces, the lilac colour has remained unchanged.

It remains one of the most recognisable features of the brand.

These examples help highlight an important point.

If you are a marketer, how are you using the visual power of colour for your offerings ? And, still better, can you develop a unique colour for your brand, which can set it apart from all competitors forever?Even as we welcome Very Peri as the colour of 2022, this is an interesting question to think about.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons.These are his personal views.