THAILAND is playing a vital role in initiating the Colors of Asean project, which will serve as a reference encyclopaedia that shapes the future of the regional design and product development industry.
Asst Prof Surapong Lertsithichai, director of the Centre for Creative Economy at Mahidol University, said for Colors of Asean to be truly appreciated for adding commercial value to existing products or services, the key factors may lie in the embedded cultural heritage, religious beliefs and social norms or etiquette witnessed in Asean countries.
“A lot of this is also associated with colours and its psychological meaning, so the means of associating these key factors with colours has been historically documented in Asean cultures,” Surapong said.
“For example, colours for good luck and fortune are typically associated with astrology and therefore are a common factor for consumers when making a purchase decision.
“On the other hand, if a product has a colour that is considered taboo or will bring the user back luck and negative feedback, it is only natural that the consumer will avoid those items at all cost.
“In some Islamic countries, green is considered to be a representative colour for their god and therefore the same colour cannot be used for items such as sandals, which devalues the belief of a higher spiritual being.
“If two identical products were to be presented to a consumer with the same technology, function and value, one would usually prefer the choice that is more emotional than rational.
“The value of such a ‘willingness to pay’ decision cannot be easily calculated in currency but statistically it is about 15-20 per cent higher than items that do not add value emotionally.
“The process of adding value can be summarised in three possible ways – adding a story, adding good design and adding innovation.
“Colours of Asean can easily add value in terms of story and design and a two-out-of-three combination is already considered a winner.
MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, former deputy prime minister and former chairman of the Creative Economy Centre at Mahidol University, said the Colours of Asean encyclopaedia project would help add value to products for sustainable growth.
“The creative economy is a significant idea in helping develop the country’s economy as well as substantially moving the country forward,” he said.
“The idea of a creative economy is based on the use of educational knowledge, creativity and intellectual property, which are connected to culture and accumulated knowledge in society.
The Colors of Asean encyclopaedia project would be a significant tool in helping all members of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) to share the same standard and understanding in applying colours to their design works.
The move would raise capabilities in design and add product values. This also reflects the readiness of Thailand to initiate the Colors of Asean campaign to be used in a substantial manner.
Tananitya Ratananenya, marketing manager for Cotto ceramic tiles at Thai Ceramic Co, said the company’s vision for Cotto is to be a trendsetter for ceramic tiles.
“The Colors of Asean project is in line with the company’s strategy to design its ceramics tiles to match consumer requirements regarding their lifestyle trend. It is about the creation of moods and tone in houses to create happiness for the residents,” Tananitya said.
“With the initiative, we will be able to know in detail the meaning of particular colours as well as the beliefs of consumers and limitations in particular markets about colours. This will finally add value to the products.”
Thai Ceramic exports Cotto tiles to 50 markets around the world. Exports now represent about 30 per cent of the company’s sales. Half of exports go to Asean.
“Adding value to the products is the thing we (manufacturers) need to take in consideration, as we are not competing with local rivals, but major players all around the world, especially from Italy and Spain,” Tananitya said.
For ceramic tiles, the domestic market is flat due to the increase in alternative materials and the reduction in the sizes of houses and residential units.
The company needs to find other markets, such as the so-called CLMV countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam - to compensate for the limitations of the Thai market.
The growth of the CLMV economy is about 7 per cent annually on average, and up to 10 per cent for the construction materials market.
Besides value-added, another success factor for regional and global expansion is the distribution network, which will be able to carry products directly to target customers.
“For Cotto, we have relied on SCG Group’s operations and strong distribution networks around the world,” he said.
Rawiwan Worasinairi, co-CEO of VR Vara Co, manufacturer and exporter of handbags and travel products under Vara brand, said the company’s use of colour is a key element in what differentiates the company’s products from those of its competitors in the market.
“Colours play an important role when developing each collection. Colours express emotions and create uniqueness,” Rawiwan said.
“In the fashion business, the colour trend and pantone of each season are normally set by global institutes or influencers. “However, Colors of Asean will be another source for designers to come up with colours that actually have a story behind each one of them. It is not just any colours, it is Asean colours, which I believe will be useful for any designer or brand that has a plan to expand to the AEC.”
The Colors of Asean initiative will support Thai designers in developing the right products for the right targets.
“It is important to keep in mind what are the traditions, cultures, dos and don’ts for each country. It is not just knowledge, it is an advantage. It increases customers’ acceptance of your brand,” Rawiwan saud.
“Colors of Asean can strengthen your brand identity and make your product stand out. When we select a colour, it will not be just that we like it or because it is an on-trend colour for the season anymore.
“More than that, there are stories to communicate with the targets. And the story is one of the most influential marketing tools to make customers want your products more and more.”