Current trends, opinions, news articles, and musings about branding.

A Fundamental Brand Strategy Mistake: Pantone

About a month ago I searched for a Mac app for our agency that would define PANTONE colors and would help our agency sort out color variations for our clients. I stumbled upon an application designed by x-rite incorporated and sold through called the “PANTONE COLOR MANAGER”. Part of their advertising I found very compelling: “PANTONE COLOR MANAGER Software is a robust desktop application that provides the assurance and confidence to use the latest PANTONE Colors accurately.” That was their brand promise.

The software costs $49.00. So, I made the big leap of purchasing the software and excitedly downloaded it. Once it was downloaded and installed, I then needed to activate the software using their license number they provided to me via email.

This is where the issues began. I added the license number and received this message.


PANTONE Color Manager

I tried several times and still could not get their downloaded software to accept their license number they supplied me. I was getting a little frustrated, so I decided to delete the software and re-install it again. The same exact problem occurred several times over. Note the spinning ball at the bottom of the left screen. I decided that maybe it just needed a little more time to register the software with their servers and left it alone for over an hour at a time, each time I tried to activate the software. After several hours and multiple attempts of trying to get the software to work, I decided it would be smart of me to get in touch with their customer service. I then submitted a ticket through their online support system, a day later I received an email from John Stanzione, Manager of Technical Support at x-rite incorporated. He asked me to send him information about what operating system I was using, which I had already given on my initial online ticket submission. So, I resent him what I had previously sent on my initial submission along with the screen shot shown above.

Several days later I received a response back from John Stanzione. He asked me to activate the trial version and then try to re-add the software license number once again, which I did. See the screen shot below. Note: the trial date and the blank screen to the right. The trial does not work properly.



My frustration is getting a little higher.

So basically I now only have a 30-day trial of their software (that I paid $49.00 for?) that does not work. I reached out to John once again and sent him another screen shot. Several days later he responded and asked that I resend him the email attachment in PDF version because they cannot receive large files. The original file size was a minimal 126k. I saved the file in pdf format and resent it to him as he had requested.

After several emails with John and multiple trial and error questions, John Stanzione from x-rite asked me, “I need to know what operating system your computer is using and also ensure that you are using PANTONE Color Manager version 2.1. This information will help me to take the next step in troubleshooting your issue.” This is the exact same information I had already provided in my initial online ticket submission. So once again, being the patient person that I am, I sent over the basic information – for the third time.

After several more emails (and many more days), John Stanzione asked that I access my console log files to search for PANTONE Color Manager and attach the logs to an email. So I did this. At this point my frustration is getting even worse with this whole convoluted process while at the same time I am being very patient.

But I’m starting to feel like a BETA tester!

Several days later I received a response back again asking that I search any references to PANTONE within my /Library/Application/Support folders and delete several files to see if that made any difference. I did this…  Still no difference and the same exact outcome once again as I noted above. I replied with another email. A week later I received an email message from John Stanzione asking that I delete the application files, empty the trash, and try again. This is exactly what I had already done multiple times before.  But, I decided to try it again and Whallaaa – the same F#$%^%CK’N issue! 

Meanwhile, I had purchased a new Macbook Pro and created a fresh install of all of my software. After installing CS6, Microsoft Office, and 50 other applications without any issues, I tried installing the PANTONE Color Manager application with the hopes that a new computer and a fresh install would make all of the difference. And…


After countless hours, tons of emails, and a huge amount of building frustration, I finally decided to email John Stanzione, thank him for his time, and ask that I get my money back since I was not able to activate or use the software.

This is the response I received, “Unfortunately, we cannot offer a refund for a downloaded software product.”

Why am I writing about my experience? I am a Brand Expert with more than 20 years of experience. I have worked with large and small companies. I have worked along side amazing branding experts and I have consulted with them on building a strong brand and creating a loyal customer base. So I ask, has PANTONE lost it’s mojo? Are they getting desperate by selling inadequate software to the design community and not standing behind the quality, functionality, or just basic quality assurance principals? More importantly, I would like to warn my fellow friends in the Graphic Deisgn field about purchasing PANTONE Color Manager software products. Buyer beware and purchase at your own risk!

Is there a brand lesson here? We think so. Traditional companies that have made their money from traditional products – such as PANTONE with their printed color books – are sometimes plagued with the inability to conform to new technologies and keep up with their clients needs. The core essence of PANTONE’s brand was their ability to set standards for color reproduction. Graphic Designers have trusted PANTONE to provide a sense of consistency. Since print has dramatically declined, it is a smart move for PANTONE to broaden their product line and continue to build upon and understand their primary audience needs in the new digital world. Their core customer base has evolved. I have always considered PANTONE to be a great company. I hope this is not the beginning of the end for PANTONE. With a world of amazing developers and newer technologies, it should not be rocket science to create a well-designed, user-friendly, and thoroughly tested PANTONE Color Manager application that actually installs and works.

Related posts