February 11, 2021

Why colour choice matters in global packaging

Global brands often have the extra challenge of ensuring that messaging is tailor-made for the different markets they may be competing in. Part of this branding message often revolves around carefully selected colour choices for the secondary packaging as well as the primary product.

As packaging designers, we need to keep in mind the core consumer markets being aimed at as colours are often interpreted differently by various cultures. Colours have the ability to evoke emotions, express feelings and instill certain values in all parts of the world, but the way in which they do this can be complicated and non-standard. What may be perfect for a product’s packaging in one country, may hold negative connotations in another.

Colour psychology and subconscious influence are well-researched subjects when it comes to packaging and marketing but we thought it might be interesting to have a quick review of how different markets may view this issue.


Colour wheel and associated emotions


Attributes of colour in various parts of the world

In general, the following colours are attributed with certain characteristics in different countries:

  • Blue – This is usually a conservative colour across most cultures and can signal calm, intelligence, strength, trust and stability. It is one of the safest colours to use for global brands, which is why it is such a popular choice for multinational companies.
  • Yellow – While yellow is generally perceived as optimistic and cheerful in many regions, some South American countries see yellow as a sign of death, sadness and mourning. Many African countries associate yellow with gold and, therefore, wealth and status.
  • Red – This is usually an attention-grabber across cultures, but not always for the same reasons. Red is often used in Asian countries to represent joy and celebration. In Europe, Africa and America, it can convey excitement, love or danger. In Middle Eastern countries, red is a symbol of caution and evil.
  • Green – This colour is commonly associated with sustainability, life, health and the earth. However, green can be negatively associated with infidelity in China, bad news in Israel and corruption in North Africa.
  • Purple – Purple is a rare colour in nature so it is often associated with prestige and intrigue. Many cultures relate purple to royalty, luxury and wealth. However, in Latin America, it can be associated with death and mourning, like yellow. Purple is considered to be an unlucky colour in Brazil.
  • Orange – In most cultures, orange is used to portray creativity, warmth, vibrance and energy. It generally has positive connotations, but in Egypt, orange is the colour of mourning.
  • Pink – Pink can be heavily associated with femininity, care, romance and love in ‘western’ countries. But, in Japan, it is more commonly used to represent masculinity and Korea sees pink as a colour of trust. This is another safe colour to use for brands as there are hardly any negative connotations to pink.
  • Black – Many luxury brands use black for their logos and packaging. While it is often associated with modernity, sophistication, wealth and style, black can also represent death in certain cultures.
  • White – Many cultures regard white as simple, innocent, peaceful and pure. However, in Korea and China, white is a symbol of bad luck and mourning.
Colours of global brands


Other colours, such as gold and silver, can also affect the perception of a pack or product on the shelf. These metallic colours often symbolise wealth, success and elegance. The shade of each colour can also make a difference to the packaging design. For example, a light blue can be perceived differently from dark blue – sky blue is more playful and youthful whereas navy blue is sophisticated and orderly.

Packaging designers should consult with brand marketers to discuss colour choices. Whilst the sales success of a product is a complex matter, being mindful of colour influences may be helpful. 

Header image: ©Flintzy.com

IPL Packaging is a global luxury packaging supplier with offices in the USA, Europe, Mexico, Asia and Africa. Approved manufacturing is available in several Asian countries, as well as sites in Eastern Europe. We create bespoke, tailored and exclusive packaging for any premium or luxury brand and manage the entire process, from conceptualisation and design to production and delivery.

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