In this week’s New Scientist, there’s a great article summarises all the different research that’s been done into the colour red. Semiotically it stands for a great deal – stop, danger, aggression, blood, etc. It turns out that this subliminally affects all of us, as we are ‘hard wired’ to view red as a dominant colour, and we’re not alone in animals behaving more submissively in the presence of the colour red. Turns out that given a red background or prompt we even make different decisions, in trials ‘red cued’ options were favoured far more than statistically normal – whether these options were potential male/female partners, sports teams, financial decisions etc. And the decision maker was never aware of this bias, it only shows up in stats analysis of the research findings.
In branding, I think we’ve always known red means dominant, a winner. Hence the desire for the likes of Vodafone, HSBC, and Tesco, to all play the dominant role in their categories and be ‘Big Red’. And in packaging design, we know red flags attention (‘New’!) and draws the eye.
Is it time that ‘green’ brands and businesses started playing by these rules? If we are hardwired to think of red as winner, dominant, preferred choices, then surely ‘green’ is a handicap before we even get started. Maybe for green to become more mainstream, we need to see less submissive gentle calm green codes and more RED – big shouting winning LOOK AT ME RED!
And on a more personal level, the research convinces me that Harlequins should start this season playing in RED….! (not wearing it dribbling from their chins)…