Colors and Cultures – What Has Psychology and Marketing Done to Us?

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In a follow up to a previous article “The vibe that we give off with the colors we wear” there came a realization that culture plays a very important role in how we perceive the world. Within that culture are the marketing geniuses that want to make us associate their own colors with certain feelings. Coca-Cola for example wants us to associate their red and white colors and their trademarked logo with happiness. Hence their brand image and slogan “open happiness.” Each color in each culture means something completely different, so how does culture affect what we wear? How about also thinking about where we were brought up in terms of communities and affiliations. Certain colors are group colors and have symbolic meanings themselves which are ever so noticeable by specific accessories.



Let’s take the color red as an example. In the U.S. or Western culture it is a sign for love, passion and danger. While in some Eastern cultures that same red color symbolized happiness, prosperity and is used as the color of a bride’s main dress. White has a very different effect in cultures throughout the world. Here in Western culture it symbolizes purity and cleanliness. However, on the opposite side of the globe it is a symbol of death, mourning and sadness. While in most countries and cultures it’s still a symbol for purity, that isn’t the case everywhere so by you wearing it, can have a negative effect on a complete stranger.

Marketing does play an extremely significant role in how we associate colors in society. Multi-national corporations specifically study this science when choosing their logo colors, and their slogans to ensure that they always have an advantage and effect on the consumer. McDonald’s is a prime example. They specifically use red and yellow in their logo designs. Among other multi-national fast food chains like Burger-King who use red and yellow as well. The reason for that is for the majority and also where they were first founded before going global red and yellow represent two specific attributes. Red stimulates the appetite while yellow stimulates cheerfulness and enthusiasm. They go hand in hand, one makes you hungry while the other makes you happy, all in one place. That’s our society, marketing at its finest.

Culture does play a huge part in how we perceive colors and life in general, however apparently the multi-billion dollar marketing industry paired with psychological tactics can train us in ways we don’t even realize until it’s too late. Did you ever use a Kleenex after sneezing, or how about grabbing a Bounty to clean up the mess? Yeah, we substitute company names for the proper grammatical terms, a psychologically conditioned marketing and branding strategy. The only way out is to disassociate yourself from the current culture – move to a tropical or deserted island. What colors come to mind then? Well those are also mental associations that you developed over time.


Photo via Linghao

“The clothes do make the man.” How you’re dressed is the first thing someone notices and you only get one first impression, so why not make it great always? My interests are men’s fashion and lifestyle.

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