How Cultural Color Association Can Impact Branding

July 8, 2013 General, Graphic & Comm. Design 0 Comments

Consumers remember color.

In fact, psychologists have proven that when a customer looks at a product or an advertisement, they primarily remember its coloring (followed by its graphics, numbers and words). Graphic designers must realize how essential color is when they are creating logos, ads and brands.

Creating a brand for a company or organization typically requires forming a color palette that the company can draw on for packaging its products. However, if this company plans on selling its products internationally, they may have a problem: What if a positively-received color in the U.S. is negatively received abroad? How does a company maintain its brand?

A Quick Example

In the U.S., citizens associate the color blue with intelligence. Companies who use blue in their branding hope to evoke a specific feeling in their customer: not only is the company intelligent, but you as a customer are intelligent for investing in a product from this company.

Consider the following companies, who utilize the color blue in their logos:

  • IBM
  • Intel
  • GE
  • Samsung
  • Dell
  • Ford
  • GM

Customers may also identify the logo with other connotations of blue, including freedom, loyalty and rationality. Blue is by far the most utilized color in advertising, according to Michael Rock of Wired.

Cultural Color Association Impact 

However, blue is not the color of intelligence in every culture. According to the infographic above, to convey the same meaning in Japan would require you to use grey. But, if you wanted to appeal to Hindus – who make up a major part of the market in India – you would have to use white. If your product was being sold in Asian markets, you would be better off using black.

Furthermore, if your product makes it to a Native American or South American market – where the color blue has a connotation of trouble – it may not sell. Customers in those markets may feel unsettled by the blue; it may negatively impact customer-relations.

Don’t think Color has that Much Impact?

You may believe that color cannot impact consumers as much as psychology believes it does. But, in Graphic Design, researcher Rose Rider discovered that “Slight variations in color can advance or devastate design effectiveness and have massive economic implications for companies and products. Whether audiences are conscious or unconscious of color’s impact, its hypnotic potential makes it a worthy asset for any visual communicator.” A consumer is attracted to the brand’s color – which holds their attention and aids their memory.

Companies such a Dynamo, an Irish design consultancy, embraces color and works with it. They utilize their audience’s perception of color, incorporating what they know about using color into their design strategy. Dynamo uses a limited color scale for its projects; though, they have also used full-color scales for higher-budget projects.

Dynamo uses a various shades and hues of blue. As Web and graphic designer Cameron Chapman of Smashing Magazine notes, the meaning of blue is dependent on these variations. Because Dynamo works across the blue scale, they are able to enhance certain qualities about their products to different markets, including:

  • Products that are for calming environments (light hues, seen in Globoforce, an incentive management system)
  • Energizing or refreshing products (bright hues, seen in the Tayto brand, a snackfood company)
  • Products from reliable companies (dark hues, seen in the Lucas Bols group, a global distillery)

Realizing that strong color schemes may impact consumer choices is pivotal to Graphic Design. If you are working to create a brand for a company, you need to choose a color palette that sends the right message – no matter where the product is sold. Consider the cultural color association of different shades and hues as you continue to work through your degree program at Harrington College of Design.


What do you think?