For centuries, colors have been an important part of people’s lives. Modern day researches study color psychology across cultures, because they affect the people’s expressions of feelings and emotions by attaching meanings to different colors.
In the same manner, businesses likewise use color psychology in order to effectively deliver specific messages to target consumers and evoke emotional responses.
Role of Color in People’s Lives
Colors are important in the lives of people. They can remind you about favorite traditions, the time of year or a special place. Colors have an effect on the way you feel. But the way colors associate with other cultures vary in different degrees. Through the years, colors have shaped people’s beliefs, emotions and history.
Colors even define moods, so you hear such English phrases as tickled pink, saw red, green with envy, or having the blues.
The way different cultures classify colors is quite dramatic. While the Inuit is believed to have different descriptions for the color white (based on the various snow conditions), Liberia’s Bassa people have only two words for colors: hui represents purple, blue and green while ziza is for yellow, orange and red.
Color psychology has a effect for the world’s different cultures. Colors evoke various emotions and beliefs, as well as positive and negative connotations. A color may represent happiness and warmth in one culture but is associated with betrayal and jealousy in another. Here’s a list of various colors and their symbolisms, based on the known color psychology across cultures.
Blue is a positive color and considered the world’s safest color of choice. In Europe and North America, blue symbolizes authority, security and trust. This is one of the reasons why banks in the United States use blue as the main color of their company logos. It’s a
peaceful and soothing color. But for some cultures, it represents sadness, loneliness and depression, thus you get ”the blues.”
But in some cultures, the color blue is used to repel evil and considered a symbol of healing. In Albania, Afghanistan, Iran, Greece and Turkey, it is a common belief that using blue amulets shaped like eyes will protect the wearer or user from the evil eye.
Blue is a symbol of spirituality, heaven and immortality in many cultures in the East. Ukraine uses blue as a symbol of good health while the Hindus associate the color blue with their god Krishna, which is a representation of divine joy and love and the destroyer of sin and pain. Followers of Judaism associate blue with divinity and holiness.
In many cultures, blue is a masculine symbol, thus blue things are associated with boys. But in China, it is associated with women. In Latin American countries where the majority of the population is Catholic, blue represents the Virgin Mary. It is also considered as the color associated with wealth, good health and hope.
Yellow, the color of sunshine, makes many people warm and cheerful. However, in some cultures, its meaning is darker. When the Chinese use the term yellow book or yellow picture, they are referring to pornography. In Germany, it’s a symbol of jealousy. While in France, aside from being associated with jealousy, yellow means contradiction, weakness and betrayal. The darker meaning of yellow dates several centuries back for the French. In the 10th century for example, the doors of criminals and traitors in France were painted yellow.
Yellow’s meaning is the reverse in Africa. In the continent, yellow is for high-ranking people. Because yellow closely resembles gold, it is associated with success, quality and money. It’s a representation of gold for the Egyptians, the reason why tombs and mummies are painted yellow. For them, the color denotes mourning, as well. Some Latin American cultures likewise associate yellow with death, mourning and sorrow.
Yellow is also highly regarded in Japan, where it represents refinement, wealth and bravery way back in 1357. It was the time of the War of Dynasties and yellow chrysanthemums were worn by warriors as the symbol of the Japanese emperor and his royal family. Wearing the flower represented a courageous pledge to serve them.
The color is considered lucky in Thailand and people wear yellow every Monday to attract luck for the entire week. Yellow is associated with the late King Bhumibol, who was born on a Monday. It is also the color being used by the current Thai king, King
Maha Vajiralongkorn, the only son of King Bhumibol, who, incidentally, was also a Monday child.
Green is another color with opposite meanings among cultures. In the West, green is associated with jealousy, greed, inexperience (green horn), wealth, environmental awareness, spring, freshness, nature and luck. It is a color associated with the military. The verdant landscapes of Ireland led to it being called The Emerald Isle.
Green is the national color of Mexico, and used as a symbol of independence from Spain. However, the color is banned in Indonesia. Likewise, the color is associated with death in countries teeming with dense forests. In the Middle East, however, green is Islam’s traditional color. It symbolizes wealth, luck and fertility.
In Asian cultures, it represents new life, fertility and youth. In China, however, it is associated with infidelity, and men in China do not wear green hats because it means their wives have become adulterous. Would you believe that in Israel, bad news is symbolized by the color green? While Japan believes that green is a symbol of eternal life, it signifies corruption in North Africa.
In Western cultures, red is associated with danger, love, action, passion, energy and excitement, but it is also the color used in Russia to symbolize revolution and communism.
Red in an auspicious color in Asian cultures. In many Asian countries, red is the color of long life, happiness, celebrations, prosperity, joy and good luck. Therefore, it is common to see Asian brides wearing red wedding dresses. During special events and holidays, Asians give red envelopes with money. Many Asian people wear red during the celebration of the New Year.
Spirituality, sensuality, fertility, power, wealth, fire, fear, beauty, love and purity are the terms associated with the color red in India. A woman in India with red henna on her hands means that she’s already married. She also indicates that she’s married by putting sindoor (a red powder) along the hairline. However, in some African countries, it’s a symbol of death. In Nigeria, red represents vitality and aggression, while in Iran, it is a symbol of courage and good fortune. Egyptians believe that red is a lucky charm.
On the other hand some African countries associate red with death. It represents vitality and aggression in Nigeria. It’s considered a symbol of good fortune and courage in Iran, and in Egypt, a lucky charm.
Thais honor the god Surya (sun) by wearing red on Sundays.
In the West, people associate the color orange with visibility, warmth, harvest and the autumn season. Hindus believe that the color of saffron (soft orange) is sacred and auspicious. In other Eastern cultures, orange is a symbol of good health, happiness, love and humility. Buddhist monks prefer to wear orange robes because it represents many positive virtues. The Dutch royal family uses orange as their personal color.
Orange represents harvest, autumn, warmth, and visibility in Western cultures. People from the West also consider orange as an edgy and fun color that symbolizes creativity, trying out new items and curiosity.
In Egypt, the color they use for mourning is orange. The meaning is opposite to what the Chinese and Japanese cultures attach to orange, where it means good health, love, happiness and courage. It’s a symbol of fire in India and represents bravery and strength in Ukraine. For the country, orange became a symbol of the people’s unity in 2004 (Orange Revolution) when they stood up as one against the fallacious presidential elections.
Nobility, spirituality, faith, piety, wealth and royalty are some of the terms associated with purple. In the olden days, purple dye was very rare and difficult to acquire because it was extracted from a particular species of sea snails, the banded dye-murex. It was expensive to produce purple colored cloth, and it became a symbol of the monarchy.
The Buddhist monks with the highest rank are the only ones allowed to wear purple robes in Japan. It’s the color of penitence among Catholics. For the Thais, Britons, Indians, Italians and Brazilians however, purple is reserved for mourning. Brazilians even consider it unlucky to wear purple if the person is not attending a wake or a funeral service. In other countries, it symbolizes honor. The U.S. military awards the Purple Heart for military personnel who sustained wounds or are killed while on active duty.
It’s a tradition in Western cultures for brides to wear white, because they associate white with cleanliness, purity, peace and elegance. However, in Korea, China and other
countries in Asia, it’s a symbol of bad luck, mourning and death, thus the color is worn only during funerals. But in Peru, the color is a symbol of time, good health and angels.
In studies pertaining to color psychology across cultures, the majority associates black with formality and sophistication. However, black is likewise associated with mystery, bad luck (black cat), illness, fierceness, magic, mourning, evil and death. Black is a symbol of masculinity, maturity and age in Africa. The color represents rebirth and mourning in the Middle East.
Things for a baby girl, tenderness, caring, romance, love and femininity are words Western cultures associate with the color pink. These terms are symbolic of the color pink in several Eastern countries. In Japan, it is more associated with men, although it is not exclusive and in terms of clothes, both men and women can wear pink. In Latin America, it’s a symbol of architecture. In South Korea, pink represents trust.
Many prison cells are painted in pink because pink is believed to stimulate the mind, have a calming effect on people and can lower violent behavior.
Colors in Business
Color research shows that colors have an effect on how products appeal to customers, with many successful sales based on the color of the product. A Japanese scooter manufacturer found it the hard way when it introduced black scooters in India. Because they lacked help in localization, they did not understand that black was associated with death in India, so black scooters, which were considered modern and sleek in Japan, were not popular in India at all. In the article from colorcom.com, various statistics show the effects of color pyschology on global businesses, based on various studies. Briefly, the article states that marketing and color are intertwined, due to the following reasons:
· Brand recognition increased by 80% because of color.
· Colors heighten memory.
· They engage and increase participation of intended audiences when it comes to ads in color versus ads in black and white.
· Colors improve readership, learning and comprehension of ads.
· They can quickly attract consumers and hold their interest longer.
Perceptive ad agencies and clients understand that using the right colors can help their products attract new customers in foreign markets and sustain their interest due to the meanings associated with particular colors.
Catch Your Customers’ Attention with the Right Color Choices
Catering to the cultural needs of your intended customers is one of the main reasons why you need brand localization services when you want to target various cultures in your own country and around the world. There’s no better choice of localization provider than Day Translations, Inc. Our expert and professional translators are native speakers and live in-country, ensuring that they fully understand which colors will work and how other elements in your marketing and advertising programs should be made to fit your target consumers. Let’s discuss your brand localization requirements. We’re open 24/7, each day of the year, so can us anytime at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us.