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Tell me: What does the color yellow mean to you?Color choice and your global marketing designs.

Depending on whom you ask, you would probably get one unique answer for each crayon in a coloring box. Especially when you talk to people across different countries.

To those of us in the West, yellow can indicate cowardice. But for people in Japan, yellow signifies courage. Purple stands for royalty, mysticism and mourning in different cultures.

Clearly, as a global marketer, color is one of the most important, most rhetorically impactful elements to consider and localize for when sharing your company’s global brand and messaging in foreign markets.

According to Color Marketing Group:

  • Color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent.
  • Ads in full color are read up to 42 percent more than similar ads in black and white.
  • Color can be up to 85 percent of the reason people decide to buy.

So how can you ensure that your marketing message resonates across cultures? Start by being cognizant of your global brand’s color scheme guidelines, your strategic marketing message—and cultural connotations associated with your chosen colors.

Why does color choice matter?

Quite simply, colors often connote different emotions from country to country. When you select colors that convey your intended message while resonating with your audience, you can experience better global brand recognition and improved customer engagement.

Choose unwisely, and your marketing campaign’s message could sail past your audience like a transitory cloud of mist—or else become the equivalent of a hailstorm on your brand’s image.

Some colors, such as red, carry particularly strong associations—which makes them potentially risky to use. In the West, it can signify heat, rage or passion. In China, red is a highly auspicious color that evokes happiness and prosperity. In fact, red dominates in the logos of exactly half of China’s top ten brands.

Always select colors with your target audience in mind, with an eye toward cultural expectations. If you want an at-a-glance snapshot of how various countries link color, emotion and meaning, consult this handy infographic.

Can you localize your company’s brand colors?

Some companies maintain a very strict branding color palette when it comes to their logos and marketing content. Others may allow for more “coloring outside the lines,” if you will.

What guidelines do you have to abide by in your global marketing campaigns? Knowing this will help you plan your strategic marketing campaigns in different countries.

Some global brands stay true to their central color scheme, while others mix it up. Coca-Cola’s iconic red logo, for example, is strongly linked to the world-recognized brand; therefore, you find red repeated on their localized websites for Egypt, Australia and other countries. An advantage to sticking with your brand’s original colors is that it fosters brand continuity across cultures.

Alternatively, if it’s important to stick with one color or color scheme—and your target market doesn’t have a favorable view of it—you can still introduce other, more culturally acceptable colors into your global marketing materials. As always, the goal is to select colors that will help your message resonate in every market.

What message do you want to convey?

On that note, what is the idea, feeling or call to action that you want your marketing campaign to engender within your chosen audience?

An international company that designs and sells wedding apparel probably wants to communicate a feeling of celebration and union. While a white color theme may evoke those feelings in the West—the same company would do well to consider that in other parts of the world, like Asia, white is associated with death.

It’s also possible to play it too safe. While blue is generally considered the most acceptable color across different cultures, using too much of it can lead to design fatigue. This is true with any color’s overuse.

At the end of the day, knowing how color connotations differ in various countries shouldn’t restrict your global marketing campaign creativity. But it should definitely inform your choices along with everything else. When used strategically, color can propel your global brand and core message to the heights of global recognition and intercultural success.

If you need professional assistance, check us out. We work with global marketing specialists who are also natives of the target country, and we can help you create powerful, resonant marketing campaigns that make full use of color. So you can make a kaleidoscopic, full-spectrum, Technicolor impact in every target market.

How has color choice impacted your global branding and marketing decisions? What would you add to the canvas of advice we’ve painted? Let us know.