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Colour theory – red: passion, power and politics

As part of our series on colour theory, we’re examining the colour red this month. There’s no denying red makes a bold statement, so it’s an excellent choice for marketers who want their brand to stand out from the crowd. This primary colour has many meanings and connotations. It can symbolise danger or warning, love and passion, glamour, power, anger or luxury. Some of the world’s most iconic brands, such as Coca-Cola, Virgin, use it. And who could miss the flash of a red-lacquered sole on an expensive pair of Louboutin heels?


Red is no colour for wallflowers. Those who wear it are confident and mean business. Dita Von Tees, the queen of burlesque, famously said “Heels and red lipstick will put the fear of God into people.” Red is perceived by many as dangerous and intimidating, which is perhaps why it features heavily on so many football kits of the countries competing in Euro 2021, including Switzerland, Belgium, Turkey and Poland, to name a few. It is used on many countries’ flags, and for this reason it is the colour of one of the five Olympic rings.


Red represents power, and is therefore the colour of choice for political parties on both sides of the pond. In the UK Labour is represented by a red rose, while in America the states that consistently vote Republican are known as the red states.


The colour appears in many common phrases too. ‘Seeing red’ means someone is angry, a ‘red letter day’ is a day to remember, and a ‘red flag’ is a warning sign.


Red is such a powerful colour that it is the first one newborn babies see[1] as their eyes grow and develop. It can have a physiological effect too, stimulating the metabolism and increasing appetite, so it’s often seen on brands associated with food and restaurants (Maccy D’s anyone?).


It is the colour of attraction, desire and love, and is almost always used on Valentine’s cards and any other printed materials or products associated with romance. Studies have proven that wearing red on a date can actually make women appear more attractive. Research by Adam Pazda, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of South Carolina, demonstrated ‘the red dress effect’. In India a red dress represents purity, and is traditionally worn by Indian brides.


Red also has financial connotations in different ways, depending on where in the world you live. In China red is the colour of prosperity, while here in Blighty being ‘in the red’ means overdrawn.


Red is versatile, impactful and impossible to ignore. That’s why it’s definitely worth considering in your marketing literature. It can be romantic, dramatic, dangerous or just plain fabulous, depending on how it is used, which shade, where and in what quantity. You’ll need the experts to help you pull that off successfully, so if you need advice on colour use for your next print project, why not speak to our design studio on 01924 284330?


[1] https://www.bausch.com/vision-and-age/infant-eyes/eye-development#:~:text=As%20their%20color%20vision%20begins,reach%20five%20months%20of%20age.

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