Color by Design: Red

I am sure you have seen plenty of red this month!

Red hearts. Red roses. Red kisses.

For Valentine’s Day, it only seems fitting to talk about the color red. Red is associated with love and life. Valentine’s Day. Red, red, red. That covers the love part. What about the life part? Think about it. Blood gives you life. It also brings us back to a red heart.

What about the use of red in branding? Seems to be pretty popular. Target, Coca-Cola, Virgin, CNN, Colgate, and Canon are some of the big-name brands that use the color red as their main color. After blue, red is the most widely used color in branding. As we are going to see, there is good reason for it.

Red is attention-grabbing and energetic. There are plenty of businesses that want their brands associated with those two things, right? Did you know that seeing the color red can accelerate your heart rate? Red is associated with movement, passion and excitement. It is where your eye goes first.

Ever wonder why stop signs are red? They stick out like a sore thumb! I have heard that red cars get ticketed for speeding more often. (This has nothing to do with the fact that I had a red sports car in high school!) So red can be both racy and passionate as well as stand for caution and halt. A bit contradictory, isn’t it?

Brands that want to call your attention and be noticed over the competition could benefit from using red. If you are in the food and drink industry, red can be a great color to use depending on the product. Think of all the soda cans on the shelf at the supermarket, which one stands out the most? A potential benefit of using the color red in the food industry is that it can induce your appetite. Think of all the fast food restaurants that use some red in the branding. Makes you want to super size, doesn’t it?

Automotive brands take advantage of the color red because of its association with energy and movement. Toyota, Kia, Saturn, Dodge and Mitsubishi are a few.

But no color is perfect. In some situations, using red can also send the wrong message. Since the color red can make you excited and energetic you wouldn’t want to use it in businesses where you want people to relax like a spa or a beauty salon. You definitely wouldn’t want to paint all the walls bright red in a day care center.

Red can be a symbol of danger or warning. It would not be a good choice for brands that want to inspire trust such as banks or investment firms.

Like any other color, if your brand is or will be international, always research what your color represents in other cultures. For example, red in China represents life and good luck. (Chinese brides wear red. If a bride in the U.S. wore red it would have a completely different meaning!) In Russia, red is associated with revolution. In the Middle East, red represents evil. In South Africa, red is the color of mourning.

As we have seen, red is a very exciting color with many benefits when it comes to branding. But like the stop sign tells us, we have to stop and think carefully about the message we are putting forth before using any color as our main brand color.

Check out our last blog post about the color blue. Stay tuned for more posts in our Color by Design series where we are exploring the logic behind the use of different colors when it comes to branding.

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