Country colors, flags and nation brands

As anybody involved in the field of branding knows, color is an extremely important part of all kind of brands. The visual look and feel, and specifically a distinctive colour set, has an impact on how we view things, how we think of brands, and how we remember them. Vodafone red, UPS brown, Deutsche Telekom magenta – they are powerful brand/color combinations that help these brands become stronger by owning in the mind of consumers a particular color scheme.

This phenomenon applies to nation brands too, with far greater consequences. The most famous countries seem to own particular color schemes, often derived from their own flags. Countries like Germany, the US, Italy or Japan have a factual ownership of their own distinctive color set, a color set which is extended to services and products of all kinds, from airlines companies to packaged food like pizza or sushi.

So far, so good – it ain’t that strange, what’s the news about that? Follow suit. Additionally, there’s a phenomenon of a weirder nature. There is a small number of countries that are commonly associated with a particular color, even if these colors are not featured on these countries flags. This is the case of orange color and the Netherlands or leaf green and Australia. The immediate consequence has been that these countries have realized that they are far more represented by these colors than by the actual colors of their flag.

This dissonance has become a question for debate in these nations and discussions about the convenience of a flag redesign rise now and then. There is yet another example of this phenomenon, falu red and Sweden, but the Scandinavian country does not suffer this same dissonance because its national flag is an icon by itself and world-famous thanks to brands like Volvo or Ikea.

And there’s yet another group of countries – the luckiest ones. These selected countries not only do not suffer any dissonance between the colors of the flag and the colors that represent them best, but are fortunate enough to have their ‘national color set’ also in the scenery people associate with them. Thus these ‘national colors’ not only are featured in their flags but also appear in a prominent and evident manner in the country’s most typical imaginery, and consequently in the mental photography we come up with when we hear about these countries.

Brazil, Greece and Finland are examples of countries lucky enough to have a perfect match between the colors of the flag and the predominant colors of the country’s typical scenery. Flags are to countries what logos are to companies (which does not mean they are the same), so this match isn’t a minor detail. It generates a coherence in the color-feel of the country that helps making their nation brands more consistent and better streamlined – thus more recognisable and memorable.

Let’s see these color matches in detail. Brazil is famous for the Amazon river, for Rio de Janeiro and its superb golden sand beaches, among other things. Most of these Brazilian visual icons have a predominant blue and green colors, and so does Brazil’s flag.

Brazil nation brand colors

On its side, Greece has a wealth of attractions and has a wonderful natural diversity in a relatively small country, but it is most famous for its white beaches and azure waters, for the marble of its ancient ruins against a pure, blue-intensive sky and for the idyllic landscapes over the Aegean Sea, with hundreds of whitewashed villages capped with blue domes together with blue doors and windows. This scenery is also engraved  in the colors in the Greek flag.

Greece nation brand colors

Like Greece, Finland is associated with the blue and white colors, but for different reasons. One of the Northernmost countries, most of Finland is covered by a white mantle of snow for most of the year. The only exceptions would be its thousand lakes, which sport a cold blue when they are not covered by either the white of snow or the white of ice. Here again we encounter the colors of the typical Finnish landscapes in the Finnish flag.

Finland nation brand colors

Besides these countries, there is yet another one which takes things even further and attains a more perfect match. That country is Ukraine. Not only the colors of the Ukranian flag are commonly replicated at the country’s most typical scenery of blue skies and blue waters above large, golden extensions of wheat, but the shape of the flag too is representative of this scenery by its own form. The flag of the country has two equally sized horizontal bands of blue and yellow colour that resemble the country’s typical scenery of an endless succession of vast fields of golden wheat under a bright blue sky. Thus, the flag of Ukraine is an iconic simplification of the nation’s countryside:

Ukrania nation brand colors

Countries like Brazil, Greece, Finland and Ukraine are fortunate to have a national banner that says something of the country they represent – they are the most accurate forms of a country’s logo. As we all identify countries or places by pictures and impressions, this phenomenon is no minor detail in driving people to have a clear profile about a country in their minds – that is, a nation brand.

Article by Andreas Markessinis