Modern Marketing Agency

Color of the year? Word of the year? Color me skeptical

By Aaron Kwittken | CEO

December 20, 2021 | 4 min read

Aaron Kwittken of KWT Global sifts through the public relations spin of end-of-year listicles to arrive at the true meaning of it all.

December brings us the holidays, listicles, league tables and renewed Covid restrictions. It also brings us proclamations by self-anointed individuals and institutions trading in cultural influence.

Two somewhat inconsequential examples include Time’s Person of the Year (Elon Musk) and People’s Sexiest Man Alive (Paul Rudd). An inexplicable amount of press coverage and some criticism often follow announcements like these.

Word of the year

The same is true for Pantone’s annual Color of the Year announcement, which aims to predict what color will and should dominate our lives in 2022 by linking color to the cultural trends and values of our time.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Pantone was our client several years ago. Our agency worked on its annual Color of the Year (COY) announcement, which was first launched in 1999 (I had no direct involvement).

Linking color to culture was really quite brilliant. How it actually chose and crowned COY was never questioned or challenged. Why? Because it’s a subjective, PR campaign designed to drive media attention and coverage and position Pantone as the preeminent global color authority. Mission accomplished.

This year’s color – Very Peri – is, according to Pantone, a self-manufactured combination of red and blue (aka purple) that’s supposed to reflect “courageous creativity” for us to get through the year ahead. In December 2019 the company named Classic Blue the 2020 COY, citing how it would “anticipate what would happen next”. Hmmm. Well, we all know what happened next.

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And then there’s the ongoing, more cerebral battle for ’word of the year’ between Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster chose ’vaccine’. Boring and predictable, but also urgent and important. Dictionary.com chose ’allyship’. Empowering, active, critical and inclusive and truly of the moment.

Colors and words matter, right? It’s how we express and self-express applied to design, narrative, art, conversation, persuasion and product.

Color me skeptical, but I prefer to stick to words that reflect reality. But hey, I am sure there are endless color authority opportunities in the new metaverse, likely next year’s word of the year, no? And interestingly, Merriam-Webster’s 2019 word of the year was ’they’. Now they were ahead of their time.

Aaron Kwittken is founder and chairman of KWT Global.

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