China, construction and colours – beware

  • Published on: 18 July 2018
  • By: Dale Wardill

From eXceeding’s recent bid engagements, it is interesting to note that Chinese investment is booming to all-time highs in London with the City of London Corporation approving Lai Sun Developments application for a 56-story skyscraper in Leadenhall (Cheese Grater2). The boom in investment is believed to be down to a combination of a weaker pound and a need to diversify from home markets (specifically Hong Kong). Where previously the Chinese would flip investments relatively quickly, recent evidence shows that they are now here for the long term, this includes recent purchases of ‘the original’ Cheese Grater and the Walkie Talkie. Whilst Brexit uncertainty has resulted in less optimism from home investors to build, it seems the Chinese are capitalising on the 12% fall in the GBP.

We are responding to a greater number of bids where Chinese are the investors, as a consequence, there are many intricacies. It may sound simple, but never underestimate the cultural importance of your choice of colour!

  • Red – signifies good fortune, joy and prosperity. Monetary gifts are given in red envelopes and it is seen as the colour of happiness and represents fire and a time of blooming. It is considered bad practise to write someone’s name in red
  • Yellow – the colour of earth and is considered the most beautiful colour signifying good luck. It was used by emperors of several dynasties. If your copy writing refers to a product or service that is connected to yellow, you should be aware that it could be associated to material of an “adult” nature
  • Green - generally meaning clean and free of contaminants. It is associated with harmony, health and spring, a time of growth but does not generally mean ‘environmentally friendly’. Be careful using green though as nowadays it often carries a negative meaning reflecting anger and jealousy. A man ‘wearing a green hat’ is being cheated on by his wife. Needless to say, men in China do not wear green hats!
  • White – traditionally symbolising brightness purity and fulfilment. Interestingly, it is also the colour of mourning and typically used in funerals where a white envelope is used for money to show sympathy to family of the deceased. Think carefully about how you wrap your tender!
  • Black – worn by imperial dignitaries in ancient China it was regarded as the king of colours. In modern China it signifies something shady or never wrap any tender in black! Also, you must not have a black boarder around a photo on a CV as this implies that they are dead and being memorialised.
  • Gold– symbolises wealth and riches. Gold is fine to use however avoid over-use as too much of it can make your message look gaudy and cheap-looking to a Chinese audience.
  • Purple– the colour of love luxury and nobility. Younger consumers are highly attracted to Purple when it is used in brands and for marketing. Get creative and consider using purple to your advantage.
  • Multiple colours or Rainbow colours– in the west, this is symbolic of LGBT and is the front of all our awareness and support campaigns. This is not generally understood in China where a rainbow spectrum is rarely used so any hope for cultural resonance will probably be lost on your audience.