Feeling in the pink? Not for Germans

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New research by Pitney Bowes shows that Germany remains conservative when it comes to colour, whilst France and the UK are more adventurous.

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It seems that the supposedly clichéd view of our European neighbours has some basis in truth, according to new and innovative research, conducted by Pitney Bowes, designed to discover how we react to different colours in our mail.

Germans are often unfairly labelled as conservative, but now there’s evidence that in the area of gender they are indeed thoroughly traditional, with over half of the German population believing that only girls should wear pink. The French however take a more “laissez-faire” attitude, with two thirds believing that either gender can wear it happily. We Brits are, unsurprisingly, pretty laid back too, with more than half of us disagreeing that only girls should be pretty in pink.

The research, commissioned by global communications leaders Pitney Bowes and analysed by renowned colour psychology expert Karen Haller, also produced results that seemed to reflect the current economic status of each country. Whilst the majority of French and Brits believe an envelope with a red message on it can mean only one thing - they’ve gone overdrawn - the Germans have either no reaction at all, or think it means the letter must contain something exciting.

Comprehensive research was conducted amongst consumers in the UK, France and Germany, in order that Pitney Bowes could better understand its customers’ attitudes and reactions to colour.

Colin Forrest, Head of Marketing for UK and ROI at Pitney Bowes, said of the research: “Our new research programme reveals that it is the French who are the most open to, and influenced by colour. They are also the least influenced by gender stereotypes when it comes to colour. At the other end of the scale are the Germans, who are the most conservative, with the UK falling somewhere in between the two.

“We have a strong European business so we were keen to look at our European counterparts and explore how colour perception is influenced by culture. Perhaps the French really are more liberal about such matters and we Brits are more like the Germans – at heart, traditionalists.”

Karen Haller added: “In the distant, primitive past, colour was our signalling system and this innate reaction to colours remains strong, even though we are now only 20% conscious of colour. When businesses are communicating with customers, they need to be aware of the message their colour combinations are giving, this is because we never see colour in isolation. Colours create a strong emotional response when combined with other colours. Businesses can attract or repel their ideal customers just by the colours they adopt.

“We can link evolution and the form of warning colouration in nature, to our reaction to colour combinations in the present day. For example, yellow and black in nature signifies a warning, whether because the animal with these colours is a predator, such as a leopard, or toxic, such as the Panamanian Golden Frog, which is poisonous to the touch. Today, we use yellow and black to signal a warning, such as that found on containers of toxic chemicals or even a 'watch out – wet floor' sign in a supermarket. So businesses should be aware of the potential response to this colour combination on their correspondence or logo.

“Any colour combination can be potentially problematic, such as red and black which is also a warning sign in nature. There were only three colours that the UK, France and Germany agreed on when it came to associating a particular value with a colour. All three countries associated orange with creativity, blue with royalty and red with danger. Black was strongly associated with the legal system,” said Karen, “possibly, because of the traditional black robes of the judiciary.”

Colin Forrest from Pitney Bowes concluded: “Consumers don’t tend to consider the subconscious impact of colour and in particular how companies may use this to influence the perception of their brand. It would certainly seem that colour has a more profound impact than most people are aware of; indeed it’s not just companies that can use colour wisely, individuals can too. How we dress will largely define how we are perceived on a superficial level. Whether it be power dressing in black or perhaps warm and welcoming in purple, this understanding of colour should be applied in the personal context, as well as the wider business environment.”


For more information, interviews or an image, please contact Jessica Hilton, James Harris or Gill Alexander at Lucre Public Relations on 0208 741 5900 or pitneybowes(at)lucre(dot)co(dot)uk.

About Pitney Bowes
Pitney Bowes provides technology solutions for small, mid-size and large firms that help them connect with customers to build loyalty and grow revenue. The company’s solutions are delivered on open platforms to best organize, analyze and apply both public and proprietary data to two-way customer communications. Pitney Bowes is the only firm that includes direct mail, transactional mail, call centers and in-store technologies in its solution mix along with digital channels such as the Web, email, live chat and mobile applications. Pitney Bowes has approximately USD$5 billion in annual revenues and 27,000 employees worldwide. Pitney Bowes: Every connection is a new opportunity™. http://www.pb.com.

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James Harris
Pitney Bowes Limited
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