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The Varied Language Of Color

July 7, 2015

Eye seeing colorMost people, if asked, will agree that color can be a powerful mood influencer, exciting or calming the emotions, which the marketer can use to maximize the attractiveness of the product or service being offered.  Marketers have long been aware that meanings are attached to colors, almost the same way meanings are attached to words.  Colors have the power to create brand imagery and convey specific moods.  Some colors elicit the same emotional responses cross-culturally: blue skies, happy; grey skies, sad.  But emotional responses to varying colors are not necessarily universal.

If you were to ask a group of Westerners what comes to mind when they are shown the color red, they might describe it using such words as bold or passionate.  But ask a group in China, and the words most frequently associated to that color would be happy or good fortune, red being the color most used on wedding invitations.  In contrast, in the U.S. white, silver and gold are the colors most associated with wedding invitations.  In Western cultures black is the color of mourning, while in China the color considered most appropriate for funerals would be white.

And despite the cross-culturalization of images due to mass media, it is critical for global marketers to determine the correct color that implies the right meaning when going international.   Not only do colors elicit differing emotional responses, they are often tied to political and societal affiliations, as well as being age and gender designators.

Colors of Different BrandsThe intensity of colors used in logos and packaging can often convey status.  In the U.S. Minute Maid juices, Pasta LaBella, Nike and Miller Beers all reveal a level of sophistication by using bold black lettering for their labeling.  Fast food and fine dining restaurants reveal their specialization to target customers by using different spectrums of colors.  Fast Food restaurant marketers will often apply bright, saturated colors to advertising materials—such as yellow, red and orange—to convey the message: cheerful, inexpensive and fast .  Conversely, expensive restaurants will often use a subtler palette of white, shades of tan, as well as more muted natural colors.   The use of the colors black and brown for U.S. restaurants garnered such descriptive words as sad or stale.  However in Taiwan those same colors telegraphed a more formal dining establishment.

Color is one of the most significant factors in global marketing and has the power to affect the success of a particular product.  Choosing the right color, those that reflect the local cultural perceptions, meanings and preferences, is vital to a successful marketing campaign.

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