Every year since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute has nominated a Color of the Year, forecasting which specific hue designers and consumers will all supposedly be using, wearing, and buying for the following 12 months. Earlier this month, Pantone announced that the 2015 Color of the Year is Marsala. You might wonder, how can a single color, a specifically unique shade of one of the six that compose the visible light spectrum, reflect 365 days? The short answer: great marketing. Regardless of where you fall on the love/hate spectrum of Marsala, the self-proclaimed international authority on color still wins. The company’s annual marketing gimmick has critics throwing some serious shade, but it’s rise in popularity only strengthens Pantone’s brand.

Every year, executives from Pantone and an invited panel of six European color consultants and industry representatives meet in London to discuss sales performance and trends in their respective businesses. Before finalizing its choice, Pantone takes a look back at all previous selections by laying them out visually, considering how they appear together and revisiting the color messaging of each shade.

The very first COTY in 2000 was Cerulean blue. According to the press release, “Surrounding yourself with Cerulean blue could bring on a certain peace because it reminds you of time spent outdoors, on a beach, near the water—associations with restful, peaceful, relaxing times. In addition, it makes the unknown a little less frightening because the sky, which is a presence in our lives every day, is a constant and is always there,”.


In 2007, Chili Pepper red was chosen. “Chili Pepper is a reflection of exotic tastes both on the tongue and to the eye. Nothing reflects the spirit of adventure more than the color red. At the same time, Chili Pepper speaks to a certain level of confidence and taste. Incorporating this color into your wardrobe and living space adds drama and excitement, as it stimulates the senses.”


Last year’s Radiant Orchid was well received by the design community. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute described it as “An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm.”


Press materials for Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year explained that “much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness. This hearty, yet stylish tone is universally appealing and translates easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors.”


In stark contrast to its marketing campaign’s gourmet associations, The Atlantic described Marsala as “rust, the grimy, gag-inducing type that lines corners or frat boy dormitory-style bathrooms. Or blood, the freaky dried kind whose iron content has been exposed to the air long enough to evoke a dull brick.” Experience design firm Sub Rosa was tasked with creating the print and social campaign visuals. The agency told Adweek, “In each vignette, Sub Rosa meticulously planned details to create multiple layers that speak to the broad design audience. As this party moves from appetizers on the deck to dessert by the fireplace, Sub Rosa played into varying elemental associations and feelings that Marsala evokes by appropriately adjusting the character and contents of each ‘room.’ ”




So, what are your thoughts on Marsala?