Generally speaking, color preferences are highly influenced by previous experiences, gender, culture, religion, natural environment and nationality. This is important information for retail industry because it gives some clues about the way in which different markets and customers should be approached. Each marketing strategy should take into account that product color could affect consumer preference and that the differences between cultures are real, so as to make sure their business will be successful.

The color of the store, merchandise, props, fixtures, and window displays, anything that is built to be sold or to enhance the aesthetics of the merchandise is very important, since statistics suggest that customers generally make an initial judgment on a product within 90 seconds of interaction with that product, and about 62%-90% of that judgment is based on color. When we first see the logo of a brand or company, without prior experience, we begin to associate the brand with certain characteristics based on the primary logo color. This is the reason for which powerful brands choose a simple feature and a single color for their logos.

Generally speaking, all nations tend to make certain associations between colors and moods. For instance, a study that examined this type of associations used participants from Germany, Mexico, Poland, Russia, and United States. The results did show some consistencies: all nations associated red and black with anger. The differences appeared when, from all participants, Poles associated purple also with anger and jealousy and only Germans associated yellow with jealousy.

Another study was aimed at understanding color preference among British and Chinese participants. Each participant had to rate the colors on 10 different emotions. Results showed that Chinese participants proved to like colors that they previously rated as clean, fresh, and modern, whereas British participants didn’t manifest such preferences. When the purchasing intent was evaluated, color preference showed to affect buying behavior, preferred colors being more likely to be bought than disliked ones. This study implies that companies should choose their target consumers first and then decide upon the product colors based on the target’s color preferences.

In order for retailers to understand how certain cultures / countries / areas perceive different colors and why, we gathered here some of the most important aspects regarding colors from different regions around the globe. We focused specifically on things that are relevant for retail because we believe that knowing these facts can be very insightful when preparing marketing strategies connected with visual merchandising, the information being grouped around each color.

  • RED
For American and European cultures, red has positive and negative associations as well: danger, love, excitement, Christmas, communism. It is the color Cupid (Valentine’s Day) and of the Devil, the color of love and hate at the same time.

For Eastern and Asian cultures, red is the color of happiness, joy and celebration, and the color of bride’s dresses and accessories, because it is believed to bring luck, long life and happiness. We see this color associated with China everywhere in the world, from restaurants to little boutiques. In India, red is related to purity and in Japan it is associated with life, but also anger or danger.

In the Middle East, red renders the feeling of danger and caution, some perceiving it as the color of evil.

For North American and European countries, orange is the color of harvest and autumn, of warm and citrus fruits. In the United States, orange is associated with autumn, with Halloween and Thanksgiving Day. In The Netherlands, it is considered the national color, here orange being also associated with royalty. For Christians, orange is associated with gluttony.

In Eastern and Asian cultures, orange hues, especially saffron (a yellowish orange) is considered sacred in Indian cultures. In Japan, orange symbolizes courage and love. In the Middle East, orange is associated with mourning and loss, sometimes even with death.

From a psychological point of view, yellow is seen as the happiest color, and this is the reason why in the USA, for example, 75% of the pencils that are sold are yellow, to ensure a joyful time for kids when they draw. Generally speaking, for its resemblance with gold, yellow is always associated with money, quality and success.

For North America and Europe, yellow means warmth (the sun), summer and hospitality. In the United States, specifically, the color is associated with transportation: taxis, school buses and different types of street signage. In Germany, yellow is associated with envy, while for other countries this is perceived as the color of jealousy.

In Eastern and Asian cultures, the royalty often wear this hue, therefore yellow is considered sacred and imperial.
In Latin America, yellow is associated with death and mourning. In Egypt, yellow is also associated with mourning, while in the Middle East it is connected to happiness and prosperity. In many African countries, only people with a high status in society can wear yellow.

  • BLUE
For North American and European cultures, blue renders trust and authority, and this is the reason why the most popular color for bank logos is blue. Blue is masculine, calming, soothing and peaceful; sometimes, blue can be associated with depression or sadness.

For Eastern and Asian cultures, this color is connected to immortality. In Indian culture, blue is the color of Krishna; many Indian sports teams use blue as a symbol of strength. In China, it is considered a feminine color, while almost everywhere it is seen as masculine.

In Central and South America, blue is often associated with religion as the color of the Virgin Mary’s robe or headscarf. Virgin Mary is also the protector of the sea and fishermen in these regions, from here the religious perceptions towards blue. Blue is seen as the color of trust and serenity in Mexico, and is the color of soap in Colombia.

For North America and Europe, green is the color of the Irish (it is also the national color of Ireland) and represents luck for most of the Western countries. Green is very popular nowadays among the ecologists, associated with nature, the environment and protection of environmental causes. Green is also associated with Christmas, it is seen as a symbol of progress, but can also represent envy and anger. Green is also the color of money and that of the military.

In Eastern and Asian cultures, green is the color of nature, life, fertility and youth. Here as well, it can have equally negative connotations: green is the color of exorcism and infidelity; in China, if someone wears a green hat is rapidly associated with a cheater. In many Latin and South American cultures, green is the color of death. In the Middle East, green is association with Islam. It represents strength, fertility, luck and wealth.

In North America and Europe, purple is the color of royalty and it was often used for the cloaks and robes of kings and queens. From this use, it started to be associated also with wealth and fame. In art, it is perceived as the symbol of modernism and progress. In the United States, it is seen as the color of honor; the military’s highest award is considered to be the Purple Heart.

In Eastern and Asian cultures, purple is also a color of wealth and nobility in the East, but in Thailand, purple represents mourning; here, widows wear this color after the death of their husbands.

In Latin America, purple is also associated with mourning and death. For Buddhists, amethyst is considered sacred, and in Tibet, rosaries are often made from this purple stone.

  • PINK
For Western cultures (North American and Europe), pink is a feminine color, and signifies birth. It also represents sweetness (it is the color used for cakes, candy shops), childhood or fun.

In Eastern and Asian cultures, pink is also considered feminine and is associated with marriage. In Korea, the color is more closely associated with trust, while in China pink is merely a new color, brought by the Western cultures and globalization. In Latin America, pink is largely used as color for buildings; consequently it can have associations with architecture.

In Western cultures, brown can be associated with either health or barrenness. In the United States, it is the color often used for packaging and food containers. For Eastern and Asian cultures, brown is used in association with other mourning colors, such as white in Korea or Japan. In Latin America, the use of brown has the opposite effect that it has in North. Brown is believed to discourage sales in Colombia and is considered disapproving in Nicaragua.

In Middle East, Brown is seen harmoniously, remembering the fertile power of soil. Generally speaking, countries that have mostly barren lands will tend to manifest a more positive attitude towards brown.

In North America or Europe, black is the color of death, formality and mourning. It is also considered powerful and strong, being associated with control, seriousness or force. Black is widely associated with magic or with the unknown.

In Eastern and Asian cultures, black is connected to masculinity and is the color for boys in China, where it also represents wealth and prosperity. In Thailand and Tibet though, black is mostly associated with evil.

In Middle East, black has a contrasting symbolism, meanings both rebirth and mourning. Here, evil and mystery are also associated with black.

In Western cultures (North America and Europe), white is the color of purity and peace, associated with weddings and rebirth. White is the color used to represent hospitals and even holiness. In Italy however, white is used for funerals along with black and traditionally, white Chrysanthemums are placed at grave sites. White is the universal symbol for peace.

In Eastern and Asian cultures, white is also the color of death and is used at funerals as a symbol of sterility, mourning, unhappiness and misfortune. Koreans and Japanese use white at funerals, not also for clothes, but also for other objects used for the ritual. In Middle East, purity and mourning are both associated with white. In Egypt, wearing white clothes might suggest a high status.