How A Movie Co-branding Campaign Spawned A Brand New Color: Minion Yellow

Universal Studios and Pantone combined physics, psychology, and animation to find the iconic yellow color that best promoted the upcoming Minions movie and manufacturing’s leading color system. We have the exclusive details of their unusual collaboration.

How A Movie Co-branding Campaign Spawned A Brand New Color: Minion Yellow
[Photos: courtesy of Universal Pictures]

Universal Pictures’ and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions franchise has teamed with color system Pantone to create its first new hue in three years.


Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome “Minion Yellow.”

The bright custom shade—which joins Pantone’s Fashion, Home + Interiors palette later this year—ties into Universal’s July release, Minions, the prequel to its juggernaut Despicable Me franchise. Tomorrow, the companies will hold a Paris press conference to unveil a line of fashion designs and products inspired by the movie and color that will grace a Selfridges pop-up store for the film’s June U.K. premiere.

Strange Bedfellows

While movies tend to co-brand with other consumer products, a la Gillette razors with Disney/Marvel’s upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Universal-Illumination-Pantone deal co-brands a consumer product with a business tool.

Here, the benefits are more subtle. Universal and Illumination saw an opportunity to push their brand toward industry influencers, such as designers, creators, and manufacturers. Pantone, which had been looking to add more energizing colors to its palette, hoped to gain greater awareness with consumers. The public has become increasingly aware of color’s influence on mood, productivity, and image, thanks to the rise of the DIY movement, and home decorating and fashion design shows.

Jamie Stevens

The partnership began brewing last summer, when Pharrell Williams, who helped create the music for the Despicable Me franchise (remember Happy?), broached the idea of developing a color based on the film’s whimsical, goofy yellow creatures, called Minions, which Universal is reportedly positioning as its “Mickey Mouse.” The popularity of the Despicable Me films (a third is slated for 2017), plus marketing and licensing for toys and games, have turned the Minions character into a billion-dollar franchise.

Universal then took the idea to Pantone. Jamie Stevens, Universal’s executive vice president of global retail development, partnerships, and licensing, brokered the deal.


Since 1963, Pantone has provided a coding system to maintain color standards across printing, manufacturing, and fashion industries. About 15 years ago, it branched into licensing, merchandising, and color trend forecasting through such efforts as color series directed toward graphic design, fashion, and home, and its annual Color of the Year. Since its founding, there have been 32,586 unique Pantone color IDs, including 2100 colors in its Fashion, Home + Interiors system.

Examples of Minions and Pantone licensing and merchandising.

The science of Color

Leatrice Eiseman

Pantone color scientists worked with Illumination animators to find an average of the various yellows used for the Minions. They then enlisted Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, which charts color trends, to help tweak the shade to best evoke the silliness and sweetly subversive tone of the characters. The scientists used spectroscopy (dispersion of visible light) to measure the Minion Yellow wavelength to make sure it didn’t replicate an existing yellow in the catalog.

“We’re not inventing colors outside of the spectrum. But occasionally there are colors that fall between the cracks,” says Eiseman. “People are paying more attention to the science and psychology of color, and want to know more about its effect. We’re hoping this collaboration will help make that information more accessible.”

About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.