The Power of Color: From Shade to a Phenomenon

What does it take for a color to go from simply another shade to a full-blown phenomenon? Year after year the popularity of color ebbs and flows with the season, giving some the momentary spotlight while others take the backseat. Pantone selecting their Color of the Year catapults one into our conscious for a year. But, what is it that gives it the staying power to last beyond that? For that answer, we have to look at one that has stuck around past its inception onto the list and since invaded our lives, Millennial Pink.

Millennial Pink 

That name alone is sure to be enough to conjure up ideas of the desaturated shade of Barbie pink. What’s interesting is that this particular pink had started to gain popularity slowly in 2013. But, it gained traction in the market naturally, and even at its saturation people are still wanting more.

In 2014 it started appearing in pop culture with the Wes Anderson movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. Shortly after, the ever-Instagrammable Gallery at Sketch London restaurant was updated with pink walls and lush velvet pink chairs. Then pictures from the iconic spot spread over social media like wildfire, further igniting the rose-colored flame.  Next, the “6 God” himself, Drake released his infamous Hotline Bling single whose album cover was Millennial Pink. Lastly, the Sophia Amouroso’s Girl Boss book cover was printed in the namesake color of her favorite target audience and the deal was sealed. It was official, it had reached phenomenon status. By November 2015, Pantone announces Rose Quartz as its Color of the Year which looks strikingly similar to Millennial Pink, giving validation to its influence.

Timing+Meaning = Phenomenon 

So it takes a few great moments on social media and pop culture moments to turn a color into marketing gold? The answer is that it must go further than that. While the aforementioned helped, it was what Millennial pink represented at a time where people were receptive to it. At first glance the shade is appealing due to its calming and “visual softness,” according to Mark Woodman, the former president of The Color Marketing Group. The Cut furthered the sentiment by stating, “it’s ironic pink, pink without the sugary prettiness. It’s a non-color that doesn’t commit, whose semi-ugliness is proof of its sophistication.”

It seems they took what makes pink… pink and stripped it off that essence. And suddenly, it became assessable. And that brings us to the timing portion of the argument. This color was happening at a time in which norms about gender, sex and more was breaking out of the traditional boxes and delving into the realm of fluidity. Debbie Millman, host of Design Matters explained,

Millennial Pink, or Tumblr Pink, as I’ve also heard it called, is a political appropriation of color. Pink has a history of being such a polarizing color, relegated to Barbies and bubble gum, and that’s changing for political reasons as opposed to aesthetic ones. It’s a question of ownership, and I think that’s very exciting. For an ad campaign to use a polarizing color in a mainstream way is a pretty important statement. Pink hasn’t traditionally worked across genders, but it fits right in there with the man-bun and the man-bag, where we’re seeing this fluidity like never before.

A color needs to not only visually appeal to people, but resonate with them as well. It is such a powerful mechanism as it has tremendous impact on the human psyche. When the timing and meaning behind a color coincide in the way that it did for Millennial Pink then the possibilities are endless for design, marketing and branding. Now time will tell if Ultra-Violet can reach the same heights.

Christine Duff

Author: Christine Duff

Storytelling is my passion in life, whether through words across a page, a styled outfit that speaks volumes, or directing a photoshoot that expresses it visually. I live my life driven by my love of people, art, and the pursuit of happiness.