While there are no right or wrong colors, there are some best practices to consider when it comes to international branding.
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When taking a brand global, aspects such as language and terminology tend to get more attention than the steps taken towards visual style guides and color incorporation. But color is actually one of the first features prospects and customers notice and interpret when they interact with your brand. In fact, 90% of first impressions on a brand are based on its colors!
Colors are subconsciously tied to emotions and states of mind, and their meanings vary depending on where your business (and your audience) are in the world. It goes without saying that selecting the right color for your organization can help you position your brand for success.
Discover the different meanings of colors worldwide and which ones best suit your brand and audience.
Yellow is known to be the most visible color from a distance, otherwise recognized as a cautionary color. However, in most cases, yellow transmits the idea of joy and positive energy, as well as mental clarity and intelligence.
In Latin America yellow represents death and mourning, while in Germany it represents jealousy and envy (think ‘green with envy’, only with yellow instead).
In terms of business, yellow usually emits the idea of affordability, youthful energy and can induce warmth to your audience. In addition to endorsing positivity, yellow is known to, like red, stimulate hunger. This color may be a good option for youth-targeted businesses or anything related to the food industry
Green is often associated with nature, freshness and the environment, as well as everything around health and wellbeing. Although it’s a highly visible color, it’s not too ‘out there’, so it also conveys stability and moderation. In the US, green can also portray wealth, as it’s associated with the color of money.
In terms of business, green’s health connotations can be fitting for organizations like hospitals, pharmacies, energy and pharmaceutical companies, or any campaign that’s associated with a healthy lifestyle.
In digital marketing, green is said to convert better because it’s associated with “go”. That’s why call-to-action buttons such a “download” or “buy now” are often green, to instigate those actions from users.
Blue is known to be the most common ‘favorite color’ universally, which probably stems from the fact that it promotes both loyalty and authority. As a conveyer of reliability, communication and trustworthiness, this color is very versatile and can be found as the primary identity of organizations in many different sectors.
In terms of business, blue is used to denote communication (social media, tech companies and electronics), reliability (banking and insurance groups, airlines, auto manufacturers) and wellbeing (pharmaceuticals).
Purple is known as the “royal color”. Back when textile dyes came only from natural products, the natural dye for purple came from sea snails, and was the most intricate to extract. Thus, only royals could afford it. Broadly speaking, purple is considered to emphasize wealth and luxury. There are, of course, exceptions. In Italy and Brazil for example, purple stands for death and mourning.
In terms of business, purple is often used for women and children’s products, but also to portray academic brilliance and wisdom. The color’s visually calming properties are also helpful to convey disruptive tech advances and topics related to healthcare and finance. Amplexor’s own purple builds our brand personality with originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking.
Red has a number of different contextual connotations, and if carefully used in terms of branding, can be highly impactful. The color red has the ability to portray opposing emotions: from danger and anger to love and passion. But red can also signify confidence, power and help you stand out from the crowd. Keep your audience in mind when using this color in Turkey and in most African countries though, where red signifies death and mourning.
In terms of business, red can evoke: loud, playful, youthful and modern. It’s an energizing color that’s eye-catching, and some say that it even stimulates hunger. In marketing, red is a color that’s often used for timed sales offers or last minute campaigns to evoke the sense of urgency and get people to act quickly.
Orange will give you a balance between red’s ferociousness and yellow’s joyfulness. Globally, its typical meaning varies between good health, confidence, happiness and positive energy, but it’s also seen as a warning sign for hazardous situations.
In terms of business, orange tends to suggest creativity, originality and adventure. When used sparingly, orange can exude true confidence. While this may be the right option for companies targeting children and young people, for example, it might not have the desired effect if you’re trying to publicize a more traditional or luxurious brand.
Pink is universally known to be a mentally stimulating and calming, welcoming color. It’s also associated with tenderness and happiness, as the phrase "seeing life through rose-tinted glasses" illustrates. As a light shade of red, it also inherits this color’s connotations of love and caring. In most societies, it’s associated with femininity; however in Belgium, it’s traditionally used for baby boys. In other words, the color pink is highly adaptable.
In terms of business, pink usually denotes the idea of a modern, friendly, youthful and luxurious. In the marketing world, pink is most often used for the endorsement of beauty products and cosmetics, and never fails to make an appearance for Valentine’s Day.
Brown, similarly to green, implies earthiness, good health and also durability, but is less commonly used.
In terms of business, if you want to come across as wholesome, grounding and elegant, it’s an appropriate color to use for branding in retail and environmental organizations. You’ll also find it as the go-to color for brands associated with brown goods such as wood, leather and chocolate, especially in luxury segments.
Black is another color that indicates a range of unalike meanings. From the negative implications such as death, mourning, sin and darkness, to the positive ones: elegance, sophistication, power, wealth and maturity.
In terms of business, black is associated with masculinity, luxury, power and exclusivity. It’s a great color to use for fashion powerhouses and high tech companies. Although black screams luxury and confidence, it can also come off as a conservative and intimidating color. But it’s also generally adaptable and is often used in combination with other colors to make the visuals pop. After all, any other color goes well with black!
White is most commonly recognized for its reference to purity, peace and elegance. However, in some parts of the world like India, China and Japan, it’s associated with death, mourning and misfortune.
In terms of business, white asserts class, sophistication and even cleanliness. Since most branding supports are white, you usually need to combine it with another color to make it stand out. It’s often used as neutral color to incorporate as a filler or secondary accent in technology, automotive and healthcare brand logos.
In design, white is extremely valuable for its effect of ‘white space’ between columns, lines and figures, as it provides clarity and breathing room for the eye.
Now that you know how to use the color spectrum to convey the right message with your marketing visuals, it’s time to put your brand to test. Check our infographic The meaning of colors around the world to find out whether the colors you’re using are helping or hurting your brand’s perceived personality!
About the author
Sharon is Director of Marketing Solutions at Amplexor, based in River Falls, Wisconsin, US. She has more than 18 years’ experience in the language service industry across marketing and operations roles. Her passion is in creating and implementing solutions for different international companies in various multilingual disciplines from multilingual SEO, transcreation, digital marketing and language review services.