The effect of colours can be mesmerising. Whether we are aware of it or not. Expressive and effi cacious, it is impossible to imagine communication without them. Throughout the world, traffic lights and stop signs send clear signals. In many cases though, the context is important for the message of the colour: a gathering of people dressed in black may just as easily be mistaken for a group of mourners, a graduation ceremony, an exhibition opening or a punk rock concert. How long has a pink bow symbolised the birth of a girl and blue that of a boy? Why is custard not blue? How did the change from red to green to the background of the yellow M of McDonalds come about?
The perception of colours is a cultural thing. The preference for certain colours is determined by the meaning that is given to them in a particular culture. In order to use colours successfully, so that the messages are correctly understood, it is vital to scrutinise the cultures of the target markets in this area. At the same time, neither fashions nor trends should be disregarded.
In China, red and black symbolise joy and personal happiness. They are the preferred colours for wedding cards. In the USA and Europe, it is quite different: here, traditionally, you marry in white.
However, in many Asian countries, white is the colour of mourning and it is not the tradition to appear in white at weddings. In India, people would even be afraid that wearing pure white to this occasion would result in untimely widowhood and misfortune.
In English, Italian, French and German, someone can be said to be “green” with envy. Not a nice feeling. This colour only has a positive meaning in the Middle East and in all Muslim countries. Green is sacred here. Then again, for Hindus, orange (saffron) is the holy colour, the Dutch express their reverence for their royal family in it and in contrast to both of them, in the USA, it is associated with “cheap”. In each of these countries, an orange logo would obviously have a completely different association.
In addition to the traditional connotations of colours, there are also those levels of meaning, which international marketing and brand communications bring with them. Green is the colour of the environmental parties and their political activities worldwide. Coca- Cola is red, Puma likewise – both brands go hand in hand with energy and dynamism. Apple presents itself in white and black: purist, ingenious, perfect.
In many countries, it is the custom to announce the birth of a baby with bow on the front door of the house. Today’s rule: pink for a girl, blue for a boy. In the past centuries, and even up to the 1940s, it was the exact opposite.
Blue, as the colour of the Virgin Mary, was seen as particularly delicate and graceful. It was reserved for little girls. Pink on the other hand was, at least in Western society, the colour for little boys. In the Rococo period, pink was even considered the latest thing in men’s fashion for a while. An equally very masculine use of colour: when Juventus Turin was founded in 1897, its first football strips were pink. The extent to which colour perception has changed since then could be read in the vilifying newspaper headlines when the club commemorated this with its away kit for the 2015 season.
Nowadays, it is seen almost as natural that everything that is pink should send little girls into a state of ecstasy. Whether with the market launch of Barbie in 1959 and since then, the consistent branding in typical pink have contributed to this, or the phenomenon just skilfully used it for its own purposes, one thing is certain: Barbie, with her pink accessories, is the world-famous role model for every pink fairy and princess.
That the colour pink literally makes hearts beat faster, is called into question by medical research. It attests, rather, to its relaxing effect. This was made use of by some prisons. In a study of inmates in cells painted pink, a long-term calming influence on anger, rage and hostile behaviour could be observed.
A large-scale international study at the turn of the millennium provided insights into cross-cultural similarities, as well as differences, in colour perception. There was a special focus on the question of which specific meaning consumers associated with individual colours and, above all, colour combinations.
Only when this is known, can companies select the colours which transpose their strategy onto a crosscultural market in the most appropriate way. If there are different colour perceptions between the cultures, then an obvious step would be to adjust the branding, packaging and products accordingly. A good example of just such a strategy is McDonald’s: the company adjusts both its websites and colour selection to suit different countries.
Once the colours have been decided upon, for a coherent brand identity, it is imperative that these are consistently repeated in line with the standards of the corporate design: regardless of what it is printed on, the colour systems or the fi nishing processes, and, above all, irrespective of where in the world it is printed.
With its Print Colour Management, Janoschka defi nes all the parameters relevant to this process. Its experts simulate the specifi cations and take into consideration up to 70 variables and the way these interact: for example, printing inks (manufacturer, solvent, pigment, suitability for further processing), printing tool (raster screen, angle, linearisation, process, cutting etc.), printing press (fi nal proof reading, speed etc.) or substrate (topography, ink trapping properties, further processing etc.). Only then can colour-guaranteed proofs be produced. A reliable process for print colour management is fingerprinting.