What does yellow mean in your country?

by Volker Weber

Getting up this morning I looked at the headlines on Planet Lotus and found this:


Was it? I asked yesterday, whether you know what this is. There were a couple of reasons. First of all, 118 was not immediately recognizable as a date. Second, it plays on the word yellow. In a German context that can mean two things: yellow and gelb, the german translation for yellow.

  1. Yellow is not associated with Lotus here. Fueled by a massive marketing campaign, most Germans would probably think of Yello Strom, a company which has announced a partnership with Microsoft at CeBIT 08.
  2. Gelb is associated most with Deutsche Post. That is also true for the color itself. Deutsche Post once was a German state-owned mail monopoly, which also had the monopoly on telephone land lines and was also running a bank. (Years ago you had to apply for a telephone.) Its public image was so bad that Deutsche Telekom which is the successor of the telephone monopoly changed its color to pink magenta as you can see in this picture:

Photo Moros

The mailbox is still yellow, but the yellow phonebooth has been replaced by a public telephone with a magenta stripe. But they are still ubiquitous:

Yellow, mail and telco

And snail mail is moved in small yellow boxes in large yellow vans:

Yellow, mail and telco

Somebody suggested yesterday to use 110 for first of October instead of 118 for 11th of August for a "yellowday" since the number fits nicely into ye110w. 110 is also known as the german equivalent for 911 here: the number you call if you are under distress. It is slowly being replaced by 112 though, which in Germany has traditionally been used to call the fire department.

Three years ago there was a new beginning. And it was not yellow.


Oh, beautiful! I haven't seen a yellow telephone booth for months now! Remember the days when there were even telephone books in the booths?

Nico Kaiser, 2008-08-12

Yellow in many companies obviously has a link to the business phone book, Yellow Pages in the UK.

I don't see anything unusual in a campaign not being globally acceptable though. One example would have been how the Toyota MR2 had to be renamed the MR-S for the French market due to an unfortunate local pronunciation.

Ben Rose, 2008-08-12

Interesting post Vowe, I think sometimes US-centric vendors do misread the cultures, views and perspectives that are such a key part of markets outside the Americas.

However, on this occasion, I think you are perhaps being a bit harsh on this idea. It was a quickly thought-up theme sparked by a couple of posts in the community, onto which a number of others added further ideas and efforts, and suddenly there was Ye118wDay.

Was it perfect? No. Could it have been done better? Certainly. Will it happen again next year on the same day with the same name? I personally would think it unlikely.

However, I do think it's a great example of a community (whether echo chamber or not) pulling together around a project, genuinely taking others' ideas into hand, and building something that can evolve and grow in the future. I think this should be applauded.

Stuart Mcintyre, 2008-08-12

Was it perfect? No. Could it have been done better? Certainly. Will it happen again next year on the same day with the same name? I personally would think it unlikely.

So we agree. :-)

I am assuming that this is a group of grown ups, and not an only child, who is entitled to constant attention and universal praise. If I read "what a success it was", and I don't really agree, what should I do? I think it was a nice exercise of preaching to the choir. And there were some really funny incidents that I chose not to single out. Because that would have been too harsh.

If everbody feels like being both smart and yellow, I am all for it. :-)

Volker Weber, 2008-08-12

Maybe I'm missing something, but "Ye118w Day" has left me cold. From the word go it did not engage me in any way shape or form. Now, it's not entirely unknown for me to take a little while to really grok something, so I'm happy to sit on the side and wait for an "Ah-ha" moment. I thought I might have got it yesterday, but I'm still waiting. I'm pretty sure I'll still be waiting this time next year.

Kerr Rainey, 2008-08-12

I think people are taking this a little too seriously. It was a bit of community fun - wasn't it? Why should it matter that some countries have yellow phoneboxes or that a shepherd in the Outer Hebrides did not know what it meant? Its sad when people can't have some fun without others being obsessively picky - imo.

Steve Castledine, 2008-08-12

Excuse me for mixing up an 82 million people country with the Outer Hebrides. Should have known better since I have been to Harris and Lewis. :-)

Volker Weber, 2008-08-12

Was there a purpose to Yellow day? I wouldn't even know where to look to find out.

Anyhow. What I wanted to say was.... what is the point of getting the "already fully paid up evangles" to brand their blogs. They are already on board. IBM/Lotus should be thinking about future clients and expanding (what might be - but that's another story) a shrinking user base?

Ian Bradbury, 2008-08-12


Where I come from, yellow is an important part of driving....

RED - means stop
GREEN - means go
YELLOW - means go very very fast!!!

Bob Baehr
The Unofficial Poster Child For Lotus Notes, Domino, and Lotus Foundations

Bob Baehr, 2008-08-12

Whenever people talk about yellow, I either think of cowardice or a certain Frank Zappa song.

Ben Poole, 2008-08-12

Wow, quite a jump here.

A lot of companies use "yellow" as part of their public brand image. Hertz, Deutsche Telecomm, DHL, Hertz, Caterpillar, Germanwings, and others. It's all over the Lotus website, Lotusphere, and our products. In Germany, it may not always be a positive color for brand image, but with so many other companies using it, it's obviously not always a negative, either.

As for yesterday's activities, it's surprising that you would use ten comments on your posting as the measuring stick to determine the failure of the community effort. PlanetLotus.org traffic was up across the board, many bloggers participated, and awareness was outside the "echo chamber" (the customers I met with at lunch, who don't read blogs for whatever reason, knew about it). How can anything greater than zero for a simple, quick community effort be viewed as anything other than a success, and a bit of fun to go along with it?

Perhaps the issue here is how this weblog is viewed in terms of the community. vowe.net is getting more comments on Sonos and 18-year-old blonde babysitters than on Lotus-related postings of late. Maybe 10% of your last fifty postings have been Lotus-related (and I'm not counting the Lotus cars reference!), and they're not getting many clickthroughs from PlanetLotus. So, perhaps possibly, the "Yellow Day" effort was a success for a part of the community that doesn't just attack the community for doing community things.

(Second attempt at posting, the first one, through my blackberry, went to your "hold onto your hats!" spam filter for some reason).

Ed Brill, 2008-08-12

I can't help but read these posts as ASW-like snipes at something that was pretty much a community-based fun and happy effort.

It was something that was brought up on a whim and people ran with it. The people who participated in it had a good time. Sure - some people used it to push their companies or their products, but a lot of us just had fun. Hell - even those people that pushed their products did so with a community effort in mind!

I don't see a problem with that, and I certainly don't see a reason to take shots at members of a community (and the community-at-large) that for some reason still include this blog amongst it's membership.

Speak your mind dude, but just understand that it looks (at least from these seats) like you're simply pissing in a punch bowl that you didn't want to drink out of.

Chris Toohey, 2008-08-12

see this campaign, LOTUS IS YELLOW !

stefan krueger, 2008-08-20

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