Not Just a Pretty Color: Color Connotations in Branding | ODEA

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Not Just a Pretty Color: Color Connotations in Branding

Color in branding is powerful. So powerful that most of us can look at a color palette and recognize the brand it represents. Think about Tiffany blue, John Deere green, or the instantly recognizable Coca-Cola red. Is anyone feeling thirsty?

And although being aesthetically pleasing to the eye is a concern when choosing a brand color, it’s not the only deciding factor. Color impacts the way we perceive a brand and can have a powerful effect on our emotions as consumers. Have you ever seen an advertisement and instantly felt happy, powerful, calm or even sad? It’s not a coincidence.

Recently, Team ODEA took on a rebrand project with a client that works with businesses across the world. This meant we needed to be mindful of how their brand colors would be perceived not only in the United States but around the globe. And you know how it goes with us, this got our curious minds buzzing with questions about color connotations.

Color Around the World

Because sharing is caring, here are the findings we uncovered about global color meanings:


While red may be an international sign for “Stop,” it differs in association when it comes to Eastern vs. Western Cultures. The color red symbolizes a rise in stock prices in East Asian markets in addition to representing good fortune and prosperity in China. In Western culture, red is seen as a color of power, love, and passion. However, be wary when using red in South Africa, where red is associated with mourning and bloodshed.


Think of the color orange and an image of a life jacket or traffic cone may pop into your brain. Globally, orange is seen as a representation of safety. Western culture views this color as warm and positive. While orange is a color used for mourning in Egypt, it is associated with holy or sacred figures in Southeast Asia.


Fun fact: Did you know that yellow is the first color that is noticeable to the human eye? It’s true. But this doesn’t mean that it’s a favorite around the world. Where yellow is concerned, westerners think of greed and spontaneity. In the United States, the term, “yellow-bellied” refers to one who is cowardly. France and Germany associate the color with jealousy while it represents “divine essence” in Polynesia. And mention yellow in China and you’ll be sure to get an eyebrow raise – “yellow” movie means an adult film!


Green is referred to as a color of nature and good health in North and South America, Europe, and Islamic countries. More specifically, green is a very traditional color of the Islamic culture, as it represents paradise in the Quran. However, green isn’t a favorite worldwide. This color represents infidelity and adultery in China and is a forbidden color in Indonesia as it is seen as a color of death. And as the color of cash in the United States, green is also connected to wealth and even greed.


The color blue has a global significance as it is the color of the United Nations flag. Blue also has several significant religious meanings associated with holiness and virtue. This color tends to be more well-favored by men than women and is the most popular “favorite color” in 10 countries, including the United States, Britain, China, Germany and Australia.


In the United States and Europe, purple has a history of being seen as the color of magic and royalty because of its rich pigment. But beware in places like Brazil and Italy, as purple is associated with death, mourning, and funerals.


Black is another color with strong associations. In Europe and North America, it relates to death and mourning. Similarly, Japanese culture associates black with mystery and death. In China, the color black is linked with a number of things, including water, winter, cold and the direction north. Contrarily, Egypt has a positive association with black, linking it to life.


In Western culture, this color represents purity and neutrality and is typically worn for wedding celebrations. On the contrary, white is a color of death, bad luck, and is associated with ghosts and phantoms in Egypt, Korea, China, and other Asian countries.

Curious About Color

Color can evoke emotions and remind us of experiences that can affect the way we interact with a brand. Powerful, right? The next time you’re flipping through a magazine, browsing the internet, or strolling through town, we challenge you to take a look at the ads you see and think about how they make you feel or what they remind you of. And don’t forget to tell us all about it here!