To companies like IBM, Mattel, and Coca-Cola, color is important. IBM Blue, Barbie Pink, and Coca-Cola Red are distinct and recognizable signs of their brands. To make sure that IBM Blue is always the exact same shade, not IBM Sky Blue or IBM Baby Blue, companies and manufacturers turn to Pantone, the 40-year-old standard-bearing color company.

Through its custom color service, Pantone reprints brand and logo colors onto almost any surface, and these samples are handed out to suppliers, like box or can or label makers, to make sure the color is exact. “Color is critical for corporate identity and consumer recognition,” says Richard Herbert, president of Pantone.

One beer company found out the hard way when its aluminum manufacturer printed can colors lighter than usual. Consumers thought the cans were faded from age and refused to buy them, so the company had to take the product off the shelves and lost millions.

Pantone also works with the National Football League so that colors like Dallas Cowboys Blue and Silver are the same on jerseys, napkins, sneakers, and websites. It even created a brown cookie color for a biscuit maker who wanted to ensure all of its goodies were the same trademark tan. Each corporate color concoction is trademarked and kept secret from other corporate customers, which is ultimately a good thing — would you want to eat a Barbie Pink Fig Newton?