Colors used for brand identification, feature reinforcement and differentiation, have their own symbolic value in international markets.
The luckiest color in Asia is red. Blue is a favorite choice of corporations in the US for logos. In China, White, blue or black colors are associated with death; red, pink, and yellow are joyful colors. Yet a message written in red implies severing of relationship. Mourning is associated with colour red in South Africa, blue in Iran, purple in Thailand and Brazil and yellow in Egypt and Burma. A major US airline once painted a mural of white lilies inside its aircraft.
But it put a fear of flying into the minds of the Chinese community, as white flowers symbolize death in the Chinese culture. In Japan, white is associated with death, whereas in the US it stands for purity. In Singapore, green is associated with death.
In China, a green hat means the wife of the man wearing it has committed adultery. In Korea, designs with red circles have a strong Japanese image and may summon up a lot of bad blood. IKEA uses the color blue and yellow internationally, the colors of Swedish flag, but not in Denmark, a country which was occupied by the Swedes in the past. Aesthetics should not be mistaken with fashions, which are temporary, whereas aesthetics preferences are enduring and slow moving to change. One of the British Cigarette manufacturers decided to launch a new brand in Hong Kong on the eve of Chinese New Year with a focus on its black box (as black dresses were in fashion at that time) with gold trim. It was a total flop as color black is associated with bad luck. In Brazil, color of underwear worn at midnight on New Year’s Eve is believed to influence your luck in the coming year.
Wearing red underwear is supposed to bring passion, pink underwear love, white underwear peace and green underwear luck. Diversity in aesthetics is wide. However, the large washing machine manufacturer found that parameters defining good design were different in German and French societies. Germans, the engineering heroes, prefer a design – larger and sturdier in appearance (giving a feeling of sound engineering and durability). On the other hand, French wanted it to be small and lighter machine which did not overly dominate a small kitchen. Symbols are very powerful communicators in every culture.
Seven signifies bad luck in Singapore, but good luck in the US. To Japanese and Chinese ‘four’ conveys death; hence, whatever you gift must be more or less than four. Two of the luckiest numbers in China are 6 and 8. This is why the Bejing Olympics opened at 8’0 clock on 8th day of the eight months of 2008. Nike had to withdraw 68,000 sports shoes from the Middle East because the word ‘air’ written on the shoes in Arabic was thought of by locals as ‘Allah’ (the God, which cannot be written on shoes).’ Similarly, with regard to use of sex in advertising, compared with the US, Australia is more permissive to references to sexual feelings on TV in both programs and commercials. Australians are close to the Europeans in this respect.
Commodore International, a former US based computer manufacturer put a naked man in its advertisement in Germany, the approach just not acceptable in the US. In the same way some advertisements may be highly successful some countries but a total flop in others. For example Guinness advertisement was a big flop in Germany, as Germans do not read the small print in advertising thinking it as a sheer waste of time.