Packaging Innovation
November 3, 2014

Global packaging design: what’s lost in translation?

Launching a new product worldwide, global brands have to make sure their marketing campaigns are translated adequately for each target market. Global companies want to make sure that the message they’re conveying is the same for each language, in each country. Packaging designers have to take into account the cultural background of the target group. Colors, for instance, have different meanings in different cultures, making it often necessary for global brands to come up with different designs, targeted toward specific countries.

The cultural background of the target group

All cultures have their own unique set of customs and taboos. It is important for marketers to learn about these so that they know what is acceptable and what is not for their marketing programs. Accordingly, packaging designers need to know for which countries their work is intended.

Global packaging design and color specific requirements

As we all know, the psychological power of colors is not to be underestimated. Apart from the shape, color is often what drives consumers toward a purchase. Yet, not all colors can be used in all countries. Green, for instance, is not popular in Japan, France or Belgium, while it can be frequently seen on packages designed for Turkish and Austrian consumers. In Islamic cultures yellow symbolizes death, while in Europe black is the color of mourning. The national color of The Netherlands is orange, while in China it’s red.

Packaging designers need to be aware of these cultural differences and adapt their designs accordingly. General Mills, for instance, uses bright and flashy colors in China, while sticking with more traditional hues in the US. Kleenex, on the other hand, features bright colors and slightly abstract flowers on the packages sold in the US but uses pastel coloring and more realistic flowers in China.

What about label design?

Brands not only have to take into account the effect of colors, label designers also have to adapt their designs. The rules and regulations may differ for each individual country and the typeface may need to be adjusted to fit in the cultural setting of the target market. This holds especially true for China, where foreign brand adopt Chinese brand names and, consequently, Chinese typeface.