Color interpretations depend strongly on culture. While it is traditional for brides to wear white in Western cultures, in Asia it is worn at funerals. To some eyes, white conveys elegance, to others it looks cheap; little green men are good luck in Ireland, bad luck in China.

It is important for any brand “going global” to be aware of such issues, and to adapt as necessary. The color component of any brand needs to be reconsidered in each local culture to be sure that it evokes the desired response. For example, when MinaleTattersfield was designing gas-station forecourts for a client in India, they proposed using green to denote environmental sensitivity. The client disagreed, feeling customers would be more likely to associate green with India’s neighbor and national rival, Pakistan.


Even after an appropriate color scheme is selected, the job is not done. Whole industries are devoted to the science of getting color right. A basic understanding of the technicalities of color perception is vital to dealing with some of the pitfalls of an effective branding program.

There’s a physical difference between colors of light, such as those on a TV or computer screen, and reflected colors, like those on a printed page. These two “color spaces” are not the same, meaning that not every color that exists in one space can be faithfully reproduced in the other. In addition, colors that can be printed on paper using standard four-color process inks often can’t be matched exactly with plastics or films, and vice versa: printed inks cannot match the rich, saturated hues of plastic or glass. The type of light available in different environments will also have an impact on how colors are seen. The life of a brand manager often consists of settling for approximations and compromises.

In the end, the important thing is the overall experience. Keep in mind that, while people have a good memory for colors and can often recall surprisingly subtle differences in shade, color is just one of the factors that make up a whole brand identity. So long as the other elements (type, photography, tone of voice, etc.) are consistent with expectations, customers will tolerate some deviation from a brand’s “standard” shade.