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All Hat, No Cattle: Fulfilling the brand promise

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It’s never good when a brand builds up your anticipation and then disappoints. I had an experience this week that drove that home. Grab a cup of coffee; it’s a long story.

In design, we use the Pantone Matching System (PMS) to help provide color consistency across various media and from vendor to vendor. Your logo needs to look the same everywhere it appears so that it creates a consistent impression upon your prospects and customers. Pantone knows this. Its brand promise and entire raison dí être are based upon this. So how did they end up with such an epic fail?

Here’s the story: I was working on an identity program for a client. We selected colors from the Pantone Color Manager software (for which I pay extra to make sure the palettes in my design software suite are up-to-date). As it turned out two of the colors were newer than my printed color fanbooks (PMS accessories which are very expensive, frequently obsolete, and of which one needs several versions to display the color reproduction on various media, using various printing systems).

So I committed to the investment and visited my local supply store. Because of the frequency of the updates and the inconvenience of managing the ever-changing inventory, my local supplier no longer carries what I needed in stock. So, I ordered it online from the Mother Ship and waited a week for delivery.

Meanwhile, I’ve sent the files to my printer for preliminary pricing and file prep. We discovered that they, too, needed to upgrade to the newest formula book (again, pricey) to match the ink formula accurately. They could not find the book locally, so they, too, had to order one and wait.

Tada! The formula guide arrived at my printer. They ordered the inks from the licensed manufacturer, only to find that the manufacturer had never heard of the component ink needed to build the color.

So, my printer contacted the regional Pantone Rep. Here’s where it gets crazy: They knew nothing about the new colors! The rep contacted the Mother Ship. Somehow the solution is for the licensed ink manufacturer to build the colors to match so we can get it done.

So here’s the breakdown of the disaster:

The result: Pantone has damaged its brand with unfulfilled expectations and broken promises. The trust has eroded. The door has been opened for a competitive system that can deliver. They are all hat, no cattle: They tell a good story but the reality doesn’t hold up to the promise. Don’t let this happen to your brand.

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