For centuries and across cultures, color has been used to evoke emotion, convey meaning and to express feelings.
Businesses use color psychology everyday to communicate targeted messages to their customers and to inspire emotional appeals.
But how do colors relate to localization?
Blue Across Cultures
Have you ever noticed that most major banks prefer to use blue in their branding?
In most parts of the world, the color blue is associated with trust, protection and responsibility—three traits that most customers find relatively important when looking to store their money.
However, not all colors convey the same universal language.
Yellow Across Cultures
Yellow, for example, is used to express happiness and warmth in most parts of North America.
Latin America, conversely, sees yellows as a sign of death, sorrow and mourning.
Red Across Cultures
Red represents happiness, joy and celebration in most Asian countries.
In China, the use of red is used heavily for logos, packaging and advertisements.
It is no secret that red evokes a very positive connotation within the country.
In Middle Eastern countries, the opposite is true. Red is a symbol of caution, danger and evil. Not exactly the same message.
Green Across Cultures
Green is almost unanimously associated with nature and the environment.
However, there are some distinctions between countries worth mentioning.
In China, for example, green is often associated with infidelity. A green hat is a symbol that a man’s wife is being unfaithful.
In North Africa, green symbolizes corruption, whereas in Japan, green signifies eternal life.
Green is considered to be a symbol of bad news in Israel.
Colors Across Cultures (Infographic)
Below is a chart to help you understand the different color perceptions across different areas of the world.
But is color really THAT important?
Research from the CCICOLOR – Institute for Color Research found that, “customers generally make an initial judgment on a product within 90 seconds of interaction with that product and about 62%-90% of that judgment is based on color.”
Research also suggests that 80% of the sensory information that we absorb is visual.
Examples of Color Cultural Mistakes in Business
Black Scooters in India
A scooter manufacturer in Japan entered the Indian market with a jet black scooter.
In Japan, black is considered to be a sleek, modern color.
Scooter sales in India never gained any traction.
After doing some consumer research, the manufacturer found out that black represents death in India.
Sales increased after the scooters were sold in other colors.
Green Chewing Gum in China
An article in the Futurist (1997) describes a chewing gum company who entered the Chinese market with green branding.
The product’s sales were terrible until the company found out that green is a sacred color in China.
The company then changed their product branding to pink and saw their sales increase.
The article goes on to explain that “a product with the wrong color may not only fail in a particular country, it may even offend entire cultures.” (Futurist, ISSN 0016-3317, Jul/Aug97, Vol. 31, Issue 4)
Knowing how your brand will be perceived is crucial for any company looking to expand globally or looking to do business with companies in other countries.
Although globalization and the internet are starting to blur some of these differences, many color perceptions have been culturally ingrained for centuries.
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