How Consumers Perceive Color - The Color Psychology of Red

Published: 10-Jul-2021
Last Updated: 24-Jul-2021
How Consumers Perceive Color - The Color Psychology of Red

Red is a color that has been used for thousands of years in different cultures and subcultures to convey a bevy of things. From bold, sexy shades of lipstick to symbolic red flags raised by protestors, it's clear that this color has a lot of meaning behind it.

But how does red play a role in building a relationship with our customers? Colors are crucially important in branding, entry points to web content, and communicating with your customers as a whole.

All of us rely on our subconscious responses to colors as a way of processing information quickly. The color red says "alert!" or "danger!" The red traffic light means Stop. The same is true when we see Coca-Cola’s iconic branding: The red instantly tells us what it stands for and who it represents, bringing with it all the feelings we associate with that first sip (or even our favorite holiday).

How can you utilize red in your branding? Let’s take a look.

What is the Meaning of Red?

The first thing we need to know about red is that when a color "means" something, it doesn't always mean the same thing in every culture or subculture. The meanings of colors vary from culture to culture and can change over time.

The use of red throughout history has been seen as a symbol of power and strength. Samurai warriors used the red flag (known as a Hinomaru) to express their spirit in battle, while American athletes today often wear uniforms decorated with this bold color in much the same way.

Psychology of Color: Red has conveyed several meanings throughout time:

  • In some cultures, red represents power and strength as the dominant color in flags, uniforms, or royal robes throughout history (i.e., The British Flag).
  • Red can mean "Stop!" Consider the bright red traffic light, stop sign, or biohazard symbol. The same association can be seen in graphic design. Red is a dramatic attention-getter due to its high contrast and ability to "punch through" the visual environment. The most obvious example of this is in theatre, where actors wear red to stand out from their surroundings.
  • Red is the color of love. In Western cultures, red is readily associated with romantic love. The Chinese believe that wearing red will help them find love, while married women would often wear red accessories in China as a sign of respect for their husbands. The Japanese have also used the color to express thanks or apologies and even when buying gifts.
  • Red has been associated with romance since early times, but it's safe to say that no industry has done more with this color than the cosmetics industry—it underlines the message "beauty" and encourages consumers to feel confident about themselves.  Red lipstick is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of this sentiment.
  • Red also invokes excitement with a bit of danger, as it is often used to mark something as forbidden or off-limits.

The meaning of red is similarly related to its symbolic power and confidence. The color can create a sense of urgency or caution depending on what context you are using it in and how much contrast (or similarity) there is between other colors or background elements surrounding it. This effect will depend highly on the emotions you wish to create with it and how you pair red to create a desired emotion in your branding.

Psychology Effects of the Color Red in Branding

The color red is used for so many different kinds of products that it can be challenging to determine a single agreed-upon way to use the hue.

The most common uses are for energy drinks, soda, and sports teams, all of which indicate excitement or aggression (or both!)

There are some meanings associated with red that you should take into account when creating your brand identity — 

  • Red Bull energy drinks are an example of this: the red color is associated with the brand's reason for being, and the overall shape suggests a burst of energy.
  • The Coca-Cola Company has long used red as one of its signature colors. The logo was originally white text over a red background, but now it takes on dozens of forms in all sorts of sizes and shapes. The branding strategy behind using such an iconic color means that instantly everyone recognizes it.
  • The Chicago Bulls are perhaps the best example of a sports team using red in their branding, with their simple and iconic red, black and white bull creating a distinctive and instantly recognizable silhouette.
  • The Irish airline Aer Lingus is another example—the company's name features blue text on a white background, but with the word "Ireland" printed in bright red — there's no mistaking who they are.

Branding and Design Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

At Carbon Digital, we specialize in developing effective branding. As part of our work, we've analyzed the ways people respond to colors in branding. With this knowledge, we help businesses like yours to utilize these responses to influence consumers and build a brand that converts.

Incorporating the psychology of color in your branding and website design is essential. Carbon Digital specializes in partnering with organizations to meet their branding and design needs. Our goal is to increase customer loyalty and conversions for your business, and brand and color play a significant role in this strategic plan. 


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