If it was the summer of 2016, you were preparing to launch a new product in the summer of 2018, and you wanted your marketing campaign to be extremely trendy, how would you know which colors to use?
Parallel to every escalation and plummet in the value of stocks are the emotional highs and lows of investors. Even with a good financial forecast, a businessperson or economist can still be flummoxed by anomalies that seem to appear out of nowhere. Things like surprise election results, the presence of maverick leaders on the world stage, or a once-in-100-year natural disaster could all render that forecast as useful as a snow shovel in San Diego. But when it comes to color forecasting, there is much less stress and far fewer consequences. Nonetheless, the ability of color forecasters to predict future trends can give certain brands a competitive advantage over others.
Like meteorologists strongly suggesting you carry an umbrella to work, color forecasters can predict trends in the design industry two years before they even happen. These scenarios are similar in that they are both highly subjective, yet both of them are deemed worth the expense by some companies. Whether you’re a textile manufacturer, the head of a big car company, an architect, or an entrepreneur on a mission to create the latest consumer electronics, knowing colors and trends ahead of time can be advantageous. Having the right color at the right time can mean the difference between launching a product that becomes instantly popular and seeing a product bomb because it has been perceived as unappealing.
As companies decide how they will use certain colors in their product development and marketing efforts, they tend to design their products to match the current consumer trends and desires. Color forecasters’ predictions help them achieve those designs. Although the accuracy of predicting global color trends has been called into question before, the fact that forecasters at companies like Pantone and PPG Brands are ever able to predict stylish colors is an astonishing feat — especially when you consider how subjective color is.
We all perceive color differently based on things like hue, brightness, and saturation. While two people will typically see the same hue, the brightness levels and saturation perceived by each may differ. Perception is dependent on age, mental health, personal circumstances, and other distinctive factors. Then there’s the environment where the color is being perceived (i.e. interior or exterior, illuminated by artificial or natural light, visibility). In truth, the human perception of color is somewhat of anomaly in and of itself.
The safe strategy would be to study existing trends in the marketplace and forecast from that. The problem with that is that every company would probably think to do it. Understanding color in depth and using it effectively can be intimidating, even for creative professionals like architects and fashion designers. Just imagine how challenging it must be for entrepreneurs and businesspeople who don’t have backgrounds in design. Considering the breadth of information available on color and the idiosyncratic way that color is perceived, it’s no wonder companies seek the guidance of forecasters. Color forecasting is not the rough sea of worry that financial analysts have to deal with, but its rewards can be just as profitable if they’re accurate.
And according to Pantone, the best color for a product coming out in the summer of 2018 is Ultra Violet.