What Is It Exactly Cultural Studies Essay

Under the guidance of

Dr. Garima Gupta

Submitted by

Aditya Joseph James

FT-006, MBA (Full Time)

Batch of 2011 - 2013



Colours have a capability to attract a consumer’s attention and also the capability to garner an emotional response from them (Sable, Akcay, 2011). This aspect of colour has made it an important factor to consider when marketers, advertisers and graphic designers create and design products. Colours can effect an individual’s perception, it can also form attitudes towards the product or brand. Colour has been found to be influential at almost every level in the marketplace; it ranges from the identity of the brand in the form of the brand logo, image, signage, display, packaging and last but not the least the product itself. Colours have a certain influence on individuals based on the physiological instincts and associations. Although colours are perceived to have a universal meaning studies have shown that varied culture has contrasting associations and meanings. From studies in the past it has been observed that there consumers from various cultures differ in their perceptions, preferences and associations of colours. Hence there is a need for global marketers to recognize how colours are perceived across world markets.

Literature Review

Colour: What is it exactly? How does an individual perceive it?

According to a study done by Wanger, 1985 it is said that the physical world has no colour. The world is said to consist of lights of different wavelengths. It is the human eye that has the capability as a receptor to distinguish one colour from the other. It is hence left to one’s eyes to distinguish the colours that are present.

The human eye consists of the retina which has a light-sensitive layer of tissue which lines the inner surface of the eye. The retina has several layers of neurons interconnected by synapses. The neurons that are directly sensitive to light are the photoreceptor cells. These consists of two types: rods and cones. The rods function mainly in dim light and provide black and white vision. The cones mainly support daytime vision and the perception of colour. These cells respond to the light and send signals to the visual centre of the brain where it is converted to images that we actually see. The cones in the retina are sensitive to three different types of colours: blue, green and red. A complex combination of these three gives us the range of colours of the spectrum that we finally see. The human eye can distinguish over 7 million colours. Not all the signals reach the brain’s visual centre; about 20% stop at the pituitary gland. The gland is responsible sending out signals to other glands in the body. This triggers our response to colour (Wagner, 1985).

Colour Theory

The human eye can distinguish between approximately 7 million colours. The fundamental colours are made up of primary colours. The primary colours are those of red, blue and yellow. These colours when combined in their various degrees result in the various colours that we see. When all the three colours are mixed in equal amounts it would result in black.

When two fundamental colours are combined they result in what is called as the secondary colours. The secondary colours consist of violet, orange and green. Violet is the result of the combination of red and blue, orange is obtained by the combination of red and yellow and green is got from the combination of yellow and blue.

Further colours can be obtained by the combination of one primary colour and one secondary colour. These colours are called tertiary colours. The combination of red and orange gives saffron, yellow and green gives lime, blue and violet gives lavender, red and violet gives purple, yellow and orange gives amber and blue and green gives turquoise.

On adding white or black to the primary, secondary or tertiary colours we obtain tints and shades. The depth of a colour is given by tones. Neutrals are the subtle shades from the palest range of colours (eg. Beige, cream) and are used for balancing vibrant or rich colours. Cold colours have a high proportion of blue in their make-up, such as violet, blue and some greens, and these have a calming effect. Warm colours have a greater amount of red, yellow in their make-up. They are energising.

In a study conducted by psychologist E.R Jaensch it was found that consumers who live in climates where there is a lot of sunlight prefer warmer colours. At the same time it was found that consumers who live in climates with a lot less sunlight prefer cooler colours. This goes to show that the kind of environment determines the way in which colours are classified, according to the relevance that they have in the everyday life. An example of the same is that Eskimos use 17 words for white in order to describe the different snow conditions.

Properties of colour

Hue: It is colour in its pure form. Primary colours, secondary or tertiary colours that are unmixed with white or black are known as hue. It is one of the main properties of a colour.

Reflective value: It is the degree of lightness or darkness of a tint, shade or tone. The colour white as a result has the highest reflective value while back has the lowest reflective value.

Tint: Tint is the pure colour (hue) with white added to it. The addition of white colour to the pure colour results in a higher reflective value than the original colour.

Shade: Shade is described as a pure colour with black colour added to it. As can be inferred from above this new colour would have a lower reflective value than the original colour.

Tone: Tone is described as a pure colour with grey added to it. This new colour is softer than the original colour.

Intensity: It is the brightness or dullness property in colours. Cooler colours which have a higher proportion of blue in them have a calmer effect. Warm colours which have a higher proportion of red in them are often used as highlight and contrast.


A logo is an important component that goes into creating a brand identity. It creates for the brand an instant recall in the mind of the consumers. It also is an identity that is global and hence transcends international boundaries. (Kohli et al., 2002). A logo represents meaning because it draws influence from centuries of signs and symbols in human literacy and visual language. An image of an apple for instance creates an association with nature, food, Garden of Eden (forbidden fruit), Snow white, Apple computers etc.

Apple for example chose to use the symbol of an apple from which a bite has been taken out. Now whenever an individual observes an apple he/she is immediately reminded of the company. The significance of the bite taken from the apple is that a bite of forbidden knowledge and lust as is given in the Bible as both Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness once they took a bite from the apple.

Hence a logo is an image which creates an identity for a particular brand. But these associations have existed for centuries. These exist in the form of signs. The signs can take different forms; those of words, images, flavours or even odours. There have no intrinsic meaning associated with it until a brand invests in creating a perception in the minds of the customer. A logo consists of several elements which are taken into account while designing (Hynes, 2009). These include a variety of images, sizes, colours, fonts (Pittard et al, 2007).

Associative learning theory