Colours, cultures and marketing

Published on 17/10/2023

In the world of marketing, colours play a crucial role. They enable the creation of a visual identity and facilitate communication with consumers. However, they have deep cultural meanings that vary from one society to another. Harmonising colours, cultures and marketing is a challenge for global companies.

In this context, it is essential to understand how colours are perceived and interpreted in different cultures. We'll be looking at the impact of colours in communication strategies, in terms of drawing inspiration from cultural values, exploiting the psychology of colour, adapting visuals for different regions and integrating cultural celebrations into campaigns.

Cultural significance of colours 

Each colour used carries connotations and symbols that can be perceived differently from one culture to another. Understanding these cultural meanings is crucial to creating effective visual messages and avoiding any misunderstandings or offence.

For example, certain colours have universal symbolisms, such as red, which is often associated with love, passion and energy. However, other meanings vary from culture to culture. Here are a few examples:

  • White: in Western culture, white is associated with purity and peace because it is a neutral colour. It can represent mourning or death in some Asian cultures.
  • Green: in the West, the colour green is often associated with nature and sustainability. In some Muslim cultures, it is associated with fertility and prosperity.
  • Yellow: this colour is associated with joy and energy in many cultures. However, in some Asian cultures, the colour yellow can symbolise royalty or divinity.
  • Black: while associated with mourning and sadness in many cultures, it can also symbolise power and authority in certain contexts.
  • Blue: this colour is associated with confidence, serenity and reliability in many cultures, but may be perceived differently in other contexts.

Colour psychology 

Colour psychology in marketing has an emotional and psychological impact on individuals, which can influence their purchasing decisions. Marketing can take advantage of this psychology by choosing specific colours to evoke emotions and desired reactions in consumers. Here are a few examples:

  • Red: energy, passion, urgency and excitement. This colour is best used to create a sense of urgency or to draw attention to special offers.
  • Blue: confidence, reliability, peace of mind and security. The colour blue in marketing is used in the banking, technology and medical sectors to reinforce a credible, professional appearance.
  • Green: nature, growth, balance and hope. This colour is used for ecology, nature and sustainable development.
  • Yellow: joy, optimism and energy. It is used in the leisure and fast food industries to attract attention and create a feeling of happiness.
  • Black: luxury and authority. It is used in the high-end fashion sector or to reinforce the brand image of luxury products.
  • Pink: softness, femininity and tenderness. It is used to target a female audience or for beauty and personal care products.
  • Orange: the meaning of the colour orange in marketing represents enthusiasm, creativity and boldness. It is also used to stimulate public engagement in marketing campaigns. 

Colour-based branding strategies 

Colour plays a powerful role in consumers' perception and recall of brands. Here are some of the strategies used by companies:

  • Colours that reflect the brand's personality: a brand that is focused on innovation and modernity can opt for bright, bold colours. By contrast, a brand focused on luxury and elegance may prefer more sober, refined colours.
  • Creation of a distinctive logo: it should be simple, memorable and easily recognisable, using colour combinations that reinforce the brand image.
  • Associating colours with values and emotions: a brand of children's products can use bright, playful colours to evoke joy and fun.
  • Creation of specific campaigns based on colours: the choice of a particular colour can highlight a product, but also a specific event or promotion.

Cultural adaptation of visuals 

A visual that is considered attractive or appropriate in one culture may be perceived differently in another. That's why it's best to:

Research: cultural differences, norms and values in target markets. This makes it possible to understand the aesthetic preferences, symbols, gestures and visual expressions of each culture. 

Avoid stereotypes: they can be perceived as offensive and damage the brand's reputation. 

Consider the direction of the text: in some countries, text is read from right to left or top to bottom. Using a translation agency can ensure that your translation is culturally appropriate and error-free.

Sensitivity to cultural diversity: Visuals should reflect the cultural diversity of the target market. This includes the representation of people from different ethnic backgrounds, genders and lifestyles.

Test and validate the visuals with the target audience: Before launching a campaign, you need to test the visuals on a representative sample. This will ensure that the visuals are clearly understood and well received by the target audience.

Cultural celebrations and marketing events 

Cultural celebrations and marketing events linked to colours, cultures and marketing can be unique opportunities. Brands and businesses can connect with their target audience, strengthen their brand image and promote diversity and inclusivity. Here are a few examples of such events:

Holi: Hindu festival celebrating the arrival of spring. This celebration is associated with brightly coloured pigments, symbolising joy, love and diversity. Marketing campaigns on social media or websites therefore focus on bright colours.

Carnival: in many countries, this means parades, dances and colourful costumes. Companies create campaigns with vibrant colours and cultural elements specific to each country.

Independence Day: celebrated with fireworks, flags and national colours. Companies create marketing campaigns that reflect the spirit of patriotism. Using the colours of the national flag and the symbols and values associated with the day

In conclusion, taking colours, cultures and celebrations into account in marketing is essential to succeed in a diverse global environment. Colours can evoke different emotions and reactions in consumers, 

while the cultural significance of colours can vary from one market to another. By adapting visuals and messages to reflect cultural values and differences, companies can strengthen their brand identity and establish deeper connections with their target audience.

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