Color is one of the foundational elements of graphic design and visual marketing both in print or online. Pondering color choice in the brands that surround us and the possible reasons behind those choices can be enlightening – so over the next few blog posts we will take a quick look at the local Asheville area and check out who feels blue and who wants you to see red. Speaking of red…
Why choose red? Major corporations spend millions branding themselves, and you can bet the color of their logo is no random choice. Target, Coca-Cola, Adobe, Nike, Xerox and a host of other international enterprises look to the color red to identify and represent their essence in our minds. What is the message of red?
The current consensus on what red “means” traces back to the common experience we all share from nature of the color: fire and blood. Emotions associated with those two elemental red sightings center around, at least in western cultures, love, passion, intensity, aggressiveness, emotion, excitement, urgency and power. At the same time, marketers have to consider that every positive reflects its opposite or negative interpretation. For red, that includes danger, warning, injury and, from our experience in traffic, the need to STOP!
Subtle changes in the color can build new meanings: a shift toward burgundy can symbolize more warmth, experience, tradition or calmness; a lean toward light red and the emphasis shifts toward the attributes of pink, which include femininity, playfulness, affection or joy. Combinations with other colors increase and fragment the experience in increasingly creative ways.
All this can begin to sound like a lot of psychological hoo-ha (a technical term, no doubt) except for the fact that as humans we react emotionally to color, and we recall a set of connoted meanings attached to that visual experience. Smart marketing uses that to advantage through consistent branding, establishing a positive connection and memory through color.
So how does a brand call upon one perception of a color and not others, bearing in mind each consumer has individual tastes and preferences? The challenge for marketers is to choose appropriate colors to work within the context of the larger message they hope to create and the product or service that represents. It is never as simple as “red = power.” Red doesn’t sell more widgets than blue. But red, when used in the appropriate context, can help successfully attach specific feelings and energy to the experience of a brand.
So who chose red in the Asheville area to represent their business or organization? A lot of successful folks let red stand up for them with all its passion, intensity and aggression:
Different shades of red, but all making a strong statement: cyclist advocacy group Asheville on Bikes, Chef Anthony Cerratos’ Strada Italiano restaurant, Architect Robert M Todd’s Red House Architecture, Lexington Avenue eatery Mela Indian Restaurant, the world’s largest self-pour bar Pour Taproom, the Citizen-Times’ Asheville Scene website and publication, and the downtown institution Tops for Shoes. Aggressiveness, intensity, love, passion, excitement… all in line with the natural properties of how we experience red.
Red shares an equal spotlight with black in these well-known local brands: Asheville’s own 12 Bones Smokehouse, ABYSA – the Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association, the Asheville Grown Business Alliance of independent businesses, and Loving Food Resources, the food pantry for persons living with HIV/AIDS or in hospice care.
Combining red with yellow or orange is an analogous color combination that further uses the palette of colors from fire. This combo calls to mind warmth, the sun, the hearth. It is a popular combo locally: New Belgium, the original Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria, Mamacita’s Mexican Grill, Asheville Brewing Company pub, restaurant and theater, and Haywood Road’s West End Bakery.
Straying away from the regular PMS 185 or 486 reds are a few other local brands that tend more toward burgundy or a wine color: Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, East Asheville’s The Social bar and restaurant, AB Tech Community College and the home of local hard-hitting journalism, The Asheville Blade.
Need some more red inspiration? Here’s a great list of over 70 new, creative logos that prove the marketing power of red. We will follow up with an eye out for another local color in our next blog post.
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