Working as I do helping companies develop their intellectual capital and IP to underpin new revenues, business models or to draw in new audiences, I always love unpicking how brands already in the marketplace have done this to grow beyond their core offer.
One intriguing example came on my radar today - not new, but I was interested to discover the route the brand took. And used the IPO website to unpick its story.
As I retrieved a book from a shelf, my ageing Pantone colour chip book caught my eye. Much thumbed, much loved. As manufacturers of printing ink, Pantone is a brand everyone in the print, design or creative industries knows. Their intellectual capital lay in a trademark-protected printing ink system - you chose the colour from their book, gave the printer its reference number, and that was the ink colour printed. It is a standard methodology for measuring and describing colours.
The company was found in the 50s but was bought out by colour ink mixer Lawrence Herbert in 1962 who went on to grow the company and bring his family into the business.
Curious to know more, I looked up their UK trademark history on the IPO's system. The name Pantone was originally registered in the UK in 1966 in Class 16 for 'Colour cards & colour books, all for use by artists, printers, painters, decorators and the like: printed advertising matter and showcards’.
(For those unfamiliar with the trademarking system, when you apply for a mark, there are 45 different classes from which you choose the ones you want your trademark to cover.)
In 1970 they added Class 2 - Printed ink pigments. And in 1971 added further elements to Class 16 : Writing instruments, marking implements and artists materials (other than colours or varnishes), paint brushes, stationery, printed matter and adhesive materials (stationery). And further additions to Class 2 in 1972 started building the trademark portfolio. In 1974 they went for Class 9 - Apparatus for measuring, analysing and determining colorant formulate for colours and all the parts and fittings for the apparatus.
In 1994 Class 17 was added - Plastic films and extruded films.
All was pretty simple. Pantone was largely still operating in a stable world of printing, ink and different aspects of that industry, so none of this held any surprises.
In an article for Forbes entitled The Colour of Money in 2003, journalist Alison Fass noted that the company president, Richard Herbert (Lawrence’s son) was pursuing a strategy of 'Pantone Everywhere' aiming to turn the brand into a household name.
Spotting the profound long term influence the emerging digital landscape might have on the print business with its fast changing print needs, Pantone must have seen its future looking very different. Their B2B order book had to keep abreast of the digital workplace, with their target market finding new ink-less ways to communicate. Emerging times require new measures.
In unpicking Pantone's assets, however, what the team had identified was the unexploited asset that lay within the colour/number reference system. Colour has a huge value in fashion, in home furnishing and decoration, in gardening - there is a massive global retail audience who buy 'colour' in some way or other on a daily basis. Even in 2003.
Unpicking these underused, overlooked or hidden assets is what we at Lola do the whole time. It is surprising how often a company is simply unaware of what it has in its past, that can be of immense value if reworked in new ways.
To the B2C consumer on the street who buys clothes and furnish their houses, the Pantone brand would have meant little, despite probably having touched paper products and brochures printed with their inks hundreds and thousands of times.
In looking at the Pantone UK/European trademark history, at this point you can see how suddenly instead of just being registered in the trademark for printing ink and the like, the company seriously went up a gear. Or three.
In 2006 Pantone the Colour of Ideas was registered in Classes 35, 41, 42, 44 and 45. These relate to promotional information, education promoting the study of psychology of colour and societal colour trends, customised standards for various industries, trend information in beauty and fashion. What Pantone must have identified was that the inks specified by contemporary designers and the print industry could potentially be seen as trends. They had spotted how their intel/data could contribute behavioural models which could drive a consultancy business.
In 2007 Pantone was acquired by X-Rite Inc.
Then in 2008 a new name - Pantone Universe started to be registered for a raft of different merchandise… Class 18 - leathergoods, Class 24 - textiles and Class 25 clothing footwear and headgear were added.
Then in 2009 household goods joined the roster (Class 21), and the registration for 24 and 25 were extended. With skin preparations (Class 3) added two years later and candles (4), bags (9) and more in Class 16 (stationery), with household paints (Class 2) in 2012.
Two years later they added Class 23 (fabric & furnishings), Class 26 - trimmings, Class 27 - wall coverings.
Pantone had really ramped up leveraging its assets and trademarks by offering licences to a range of manufacturers such as Sephora and Room Copenhagen.
However up until 2014 it was all largely home furnishing accessories that the new look Pantone was offering beyond their printing ink business, when in 2015 Class 30 and 32 pop up. The former is linked to baked goods and foods, the latter to beverages. What the IPO doesn't tell you is what was going on in the world of Pantone at the time...
In 2014 the Pantone Hotel opened in Brussels, so these new registrations were to protect its offering during the launch. Which finally received trademark protection itself in July 2015 in Class 43 Tea rooms, bar services, hotels, catering, serving food and drinks.
As I have been writing this post, I realise how much I love what we do at Lola. Yes, we may not have clients the size of Pantone but this story absolutely illustrates how companies can use their past and present core offers to do some very new and different things. And you do not have to be big to do this. Even small companies have the capability to harness their IP inventively and improve their commercial resilience. If you would like to talk - please do get in touch http://www.lola-media.co.uk
And by the way - well done Pantone!