The Romans named that red dot in the night sky “Mars.” Why? Because red reminded them of spilled blood, and thus war. Mars was their god of war. (Mars, by the way, isn’t the only planet named for its color. Neptune, discovered 1846, has a bluish hue and was named for the Roman sea god.)
In Western culture, people also associate red with passion, lust, sex and romance. On Valentine’s Day we give red roses. “Ladies of the evening” offer their services in the “red light” district. And fancy boudoirs are decorated in red. Many women wear red lipstick to enhance their appeal, redden their cheeks with rouge (the French word for red) and, to go out partying, don a sexy red dress.
Because bright red draws attention, it’s used for stop lights, stop signs, flashing emergency lights, your car’s brake lights, and fire engines. Editors use red pencils to mark up papers so the eye will be drawn to their edits. In war, a “red alert” means the highest level of threat and immediate action.
Red is also exciting. A hot red sportscar can set your pulse racing. Red can signify fever, anger and aggression. (“I got so mad, I was seeing red.”) In eras past, people associated red with fearlessness. Remember reading The Red Badge of Courage? Also remember Manfred von Richthofen, World War I’s most fearsome flying ace. As the Red Baron, he downed 80 planes before he himself died aloft in a hail of machine-gun fire.
Stroll supermarket aisles and you’ll notice a lot of bright red packaging, because it draws the eye as brands vie for attention on the shelf. You’ll also see lots of red candy. Need an energy boost while shopping? Pop a Red Bull!
Brands ranging from Coca-Cola to the Metropolitan Museum of Art use bright red as their dominant logo color. What about your brand? Consider the various emotional associations with red. See if there’s one that might lead you to consider red for your logo.
The next post in our color series will visit yellow. In future posts we’ll look at other colors and, from a branding standpoint, see what might work best for you.