the bảohouse is the journal of muses of change strategist bảo.thiên.ngô often thinking about the Vietnamese American community and its place in the grand scheme of things.

Color Connotations in the Vietnamese Culture

Global Color Meanings

  • Red – hot, blood, spicy food, squares/cubes, stop/danger
  • Orange – energy, thirst
  • Yellow – stimulates memory, gold/money, enlightenment, sunshine, caution
  • Green – comfort/quiet, spring, new beginnings, rest, road information, safety
  • Blue – cool, trust, dependable, circles, salt, hospitals
  • Purple – calming, royalty/religion, flowers
  • Pink – sweet things, innocence, temporary calm
  • Brown – stability, food, earth
  • White – pure, innocent, youth, clean, surrender
  • Black – dignity, formal, death, mystery

Basic Vietnamese Color Meanings

  • Red – happiness, love, luck, celebration
  • Yellow – wealth, prosperity, royalty, happiness, change
  • Green – jealousy, lust
  • Blue – calmness, hope, growth
  • Purple – nostalgia, sadness, fragility, tenderness
  • White – purity, death, the end
  • Black – evil

Special Vietnamese Colors

Golden yellow is associated with the background color of the flag of Free Vietnam (a golden yellow flag with three horizontal red stripes). Outside of Vietnam, this color strongly represents the expatriated Vietnamese people and appeals to their sense of freedom and patriotism. It also symbolizes royalty as it was once the color of the emperors.

Red and Yellow are the traditional colors of a Buddhist fortune teller. Fortune telling is still a very big business in Vietnam, with even the poor setting some money aside for an occasional trip to the fortune teller. Superstition and belief are still large parts of daily Vietnamese life.

Red is a symbol of luck and is used in most Vietnamese celebrations. It is used as a lucky color for wrapping gifts, including red envelopes. Red is considered a lucky color because demons and evil spirits of legends were afraid of the color red.

How Businesses Can Use Colors

Clothing can be colored with the traditional grays, indigo, black, and white of the Vietnamese people. Brighter colored clothing is often used for special occasions, like weddings or festivals. Clothing manufactures can find which colors and styles they are better at producing and market according to the occasion and use those colors and styles represent. This is especially true for the áo dài, a traditional Vietnamese garment mostly used in celebrations or as school uniforms for girls. Girls school uniforms tend to be white, so producing them in another color would not be successful in Vietnam. In addition, younger girls tend to wear lighter colors while married women usually dress in darker colors. Religious dresses, even the áo dài, is usually simple and unadorned, but a wedding áo dài is often much fancier and usually red or pink.

Packaging can use colors to help entice customers to purchase items that they relate with. Golden yellow, with its connotation of royalty, could give the impression of high quality. Calming colors on calming products would visually enhance the expected impact of the product. Similarly, a purple package of an item meant for a sad occasion or fragile item could convey the purpose of the product at a glance, making it more likely to be the one purchased. Gifts are often wrapped in red because it is a lucky color, including red envelopes with money given on Tết, the Vietnamese New Year.

Celebrations and traditional ceremonies all have colors associated with them. Gifts and their packaging could be marketed in the different colors associated with those occasions, making them more appealing to the public. Gift wrap sold in Vietnam would be successful if it focused on red and gold colors as those are traditional celebration colors. Red is a symbol of luck and so is often seen as an appropriate color for gifts and gift wrap. Traditional celebrations are very important to the Vietnamese, both in and out of the country, and there are several large scale celebrations and festivals in Vietnam, thus producing a large market for gifts and supplies. The largest celebration is Tết, the Vietnamese New Year.

Superstitions and other beliefs usually have tools or trinkets attached to them. In Vietnam, fake money is often burned in fortune telling ceremonies and funerals. A company that produces and sells such fake money may wish to market it with the traditional red and yellow colors of fortune tellers. Fortune tellers also use trinkets and ornaments to adorn their houses for spiritual connections, like mirrors and lanterns. Companies can focus on this market for their products and will need to package them with appropriate colors to be sure their product is not passed over as “unlucky”.

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