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13 April 2024

Colours in various hues spell success

By Reena Amos Dyes

Creating a brand image is key to the success of any business as this is what distinguishes one company from the other in today’s competitive environment.

A few weeks ago Emirates Business had highlighted the importance of choosing brand names keeping the global business environment in mind. Today we look at another aspect of branding: colour.

While research says colour increases brand recognition by up to 80 per cent, experts say firms with global business interests should choose colours carefully as they have different meanings in different cultures, awaken emotions, change attitudes and can create preference towards a product or service.

Landor Associates one of the world’s leading strategic branding and design consultants, which has helped several companies in the UAE create their brand image, says colours are an integral part of a brand strategy. Edwin Schmidheiny, creative director, Landor Associates, UAE, says: “Colour is also one of the very important factors in brand building, as it helps communicate the particular brand’s attributes.

This is because colour is the strongest visual signal. It also helps define categories of businesses and products. Also it can be the most exclusive and differentiating asset owned by a brand. That’s why some companies have registered their colours. For example Kodak has registered its signature yellow and Milka its purple.”

Etisalat, the country’s biggest telecom provider stuck to the colour green even after it went in for a rebranding exercise, as market research showed consumers associate the colour green with it.

Ahmed bin Ali, Vice-President, Corporate Communications, etisalat, says: “The option of changing the brand colours was considered before the re-branding exercise, but after the research results indicated that it was our recognised colour we stuck to it. We just decided to make it a little fresher and cool but essentially it has remained the same.”

Recently, Branding Strategy Insider published some findings from a research that give an useful insight into the importance of colours.

According to the report, colour increases brand recognition by up to 80 per cent. Advertisements in colour are read up to 42 per cent more often than the same advertisements in black and white. Colour can improve readership by 40 per cent and improve comprehension by 73 per cent.

Also, the report says 73 per cent of purchasing decisions are made in-store, therefore, catching the shopper’s eye and conveying information through the effective use of colour is essential to boosting sales apart from brand recognition.

Schmidheiny of Landor says: “Colour is the most distinctive element to distinguish a brand in a competitive environment. It helps differentiate and avoid confusion.

“We created a blue colour world for Pepsi Cola to clearly set them apart from Coca Cola; and the colour world of FujiFilm to set them apart from Kodak.”

However, companies need to be careful about the colour they choose if they want to be international players, as the meanings of colours vary from culture to culture.

For instance, while in the Middle East, Pakistan and Bangladesh green stands for luck, it is a forbidden colour in Indonesia and signifies death in South America and countries with dense jungle areas.

So while companies in the Middle East prefer green they also need to keep this in mind if they propose to take their business across the world.

According to a book on marketing called Foundations of Marketing, written by Jonathan Groucutt: “If you are an international brand, it is essential to consider colour meanings throughout the world before choosing the colour palette to be used in your logo, marketing materials, etc as different colours have different meanings in different cultures across the world.”

“For instance, red stands for good luck and fortune in China and parts of Africa; for danger, warning and alert in Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand; for masculinity in parts of Europe; for mourning in the Ivory Coast and death in Turkey.

“While green stands for high-tech in Japan, luck in the Middle East, it is a forbidden colour in Indonesia and signifies death in South America and countries with dense jungle areas.”

The book also advises its readers that whatever colours they ultimately choose to represent their brand, they must make sure they accurately convey the message and image of the brand everywhere the company does business.

Schmidheiny concurs with this viewpoint. “Colour helps communicate the brand’s attributes.”

Sian Chevasson, marketing manager, Spinneys, says its colours yellow and green support its logo and baseline.

“The Spinneys logo is synonymous with freshness through the use of the colours green and yellow, which are associated with nature, goodness and vitality. The principle of fresh, quality produce is our key market driver, and is the underlying principle for all our marketing activities. It is further reiterated by our baseline – ‘Spinneys, the fresher experience’.”

Colour is also the most subjective element, when the client insists on a personal taste or preference. “Companies tend to choose the colour that they see on the market or which is culturally relevant to them as they feel part of the community. In Europe, they choose blue, in the Middle East they choose green,” according to Schmidheiny.

Etisalat is a very good example of this.

Ahmed bin Ali of etisalat says: “We decided it is not a good option to change our signature green colour especially when we looked at the alternative colours and they didn’t work for us.

“Besides, maintaining the same colour, which incidentally is one of the colours of the national flag of the UAE, gives us an opportunity to own the colour since we have been using it since around 30 years.”

However, companies need to consider what colours they will choose to represent them because colours awaken emotions and can change attitudes and feelings.

“Colours can create preference or change an attitude towards a product or service,” says Schmidheiny.

There are scientific facts behind colours. Red is the first colour that your eye can see (Guess why Coca, Avis and Virgin are red and successful!). It is a colour that provokes emotion and accelerates your heartbeat.

“McDonald used to put red in retail as it influences the customer to stay for less time in the restaurant, thus generating a high-energy environment where the customer flow is fast, thus making for good business sense.

“According to research, orange/brown makes everybody salivate. It is the most appetising colour in the world. Maybe that is why most big restaurants and big hotels prefer this colour,” says Schmidheiny

Like fashion, the taste for colour evolves with time. For instance, 30 years ago it was considered cool to own a red sports car; then 10 years later, a yellow sports car, then a metallic and even a grey car.

However, now it seems to be black or white. Having said that, some colours live for ever and drive quite the same perceptions year after year. Black in fashion is always a winner for example. It says luxury all over the planet.

Whatever their meanings and effect on people, one thing is for certain, colours are a key part of brand building and should be chosen wisely.

What these colours mean in the business world

Blue: Cool blue is considered to be trustworthy, dependable, fiscally responsible, secure and serene. Blue is especially a popular colour with financial institutions as its message of stability inspires trust.

Red: Red is thought to be aggressive, energetic, provocative and attention-grabbing. But red can also represent danger or indebtedness.

Green: In general green connotes health, freshness and serenity. While deeper green shades stand for wealth or prestige, light greens are attributed to more calming effects.

Pink: Pink’s message varies with intensity. For instance hot pink conveys energy, youthfulness, fun and excitement and is recommended for less expensive or trendy products for women or girls.

Yellow: Bright yellows catch the eyes of the consumer first. So yellow is great for point-of-purchase displays.

Orange: Cheerful orange evokes exuberance, fun and vitality. Research indicates lighter shades appeal to an upscale market. Peach tones work well with healthcare, restaurants and beauty salons.

Brown: This earthy colour conveys simplicity, durability and stability. It can also elicit a negative response from consumers who relate to it as dirty. Certain shades of brown such as terracotta, can convey an upscale look. From a functional perspective, brown tends to hide dirt, making it a logical choice for some heavy vehicle companies firms.

Black: Black is serious, bold, powerful and classic. It creates drama and connotes sophistication. Black works well for expensive products. However, the colour can also make a product look heavy.

White: White connotes simplicity, cleanliness and purity. The human eye views white as a brilliant colour, so it immediately catches the eye in signage. White is often used with infant and health-related products.

Cultural meaning


Good luck and fortune: China and parts of Africa.

Danger, warning, alert: Europe, America and Australia, New Zealand

Masculinity: Parts of Europe

Mourning (dark red): Ivory Coast

Death: Turkey


Immortality: Iran


Mourning: Brazil

Luxury and royalty: Asian cultures

Organic foods, environmentally friendly, good health: Western nations


High-tech: Japan

Luck: Middle East

A forbidden colour: Indonesia

Death: South America and countries with dense jungle areas


Feminine: US and many countries

Mourning: Mexico

Strength and reliability: Saudi Arabia


Feminine: US, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka


Mourning as well as style and elegance: Western nations, India, Pakistan.

Trust and high quality: China


Mourning: Japan and Far Eastern nations, India.

Cleanliness and purity: In most Western nations


Disapproval: Nicaragua