Hearts, lipstick, dresses, lingerie. Red is undoubtedly the color of love and all things related. But is there a reason why we so closely associate red with romance? Simply put, yes. Red may have always been intertwined with love and passion. And the reason for this is not emotional. There are physical effects that red has on not only humans but most mammals. The color red for most living things represents blood, and therefore life. When we see more life we make a connection to vitality and virility. The easy answer to why red is romantic is because it is the color of our heart and cardiovascular system. Let’s got a little more in-depth on the seductive effects of this sensual color.
Numerous studies have been conducted over the years to determine why red is so seductive. The research paper Color in Context: Psychological Context Moderates the Influence of Red on Approach- and Avoidance-Motivated Behavior, discusses the results of a test conducted to determine the connection between red and romance. The test involved a group of subjects, one female group, one male group, and 4 interviewers. The participants were randomly assigned an interviewer and shown a picture of them. The group got told one interviewer was going to ask dating questions, and the other was going to ask questions about intelligence. The participants had to walk down the hallway to meet with the interviewers. The test concluded that when the participants were shown a picture of the dating interviewer in a red shirt, they would walk down the hall faster than the other participants who were shown a picture of the same person in a blue shirt. The results were flipped for the intelligence interviewer. When the participants were shown the intelligence interviewer in a red shirt, they would walk slower than when other participants were shown the same interviewer in a blue shirt. The conclusion we can draw from this test is that the subjects were more excited to talk about dating when the interviewer was wearing red. Red increased the attractiveness of the interviewer, and the participants responded by walking to them faster.
The reason for the decrease in walking speed towards their intelligence interview also has an explanation. This same study concluded that the color red can be a signal of danger, threat, and caution. In some primate species, like humans or chimpanzees, red coloration on the face or chest signals dominance to potential opponents. In humans, red has long been used as a marker of warning or caution. Think about red lights, stop signs or red ink on a failing paper. As I write this document, I see that the word “chimpanzees” is misspelled, indicated by a red underline. When the intelligence interviewer was wearing a blue shirt, the participants viewed them as more calmed and less hostile. If we consider aggression and dominance in both sexual and intelligence-based contexts, it becomes clearer why the change in walking speed occurred. In the field of dating, high energy and confidence are appealing, while in the field of intelligence, it is threatening. How can you use this information for your business? Will the red of your packaging indicate that the contents are intimidating, or will the red project excitement? The reception and response depend on the nature of your product.
If you have a date, or a face time session coming up, consider wearing red. Red has shown to increase the attractiveness of the individuals that wear it. In the paper Red, Rank, and Romance in Women Viewing Men conducted at the Tianjin Medical University, researchers looked into the association of red and success. Just as monkeys respond more to redder males, so do women. The study concluded that women, like their more primitive female relatives, are biologically predisposed to interpret a display of red by a male conspecific as an indicator of high status. Why is this? We can say that red indicates good health and proper circulation, but why success? The study proposed some theories to explain this concept.
The researchers hypothesized that when individuals strive to obtain raises and promotions or to generally outcompete others, this is accompanied by testosterone-induced changes that produce subtle shifts in facial blood flow. Successful, high-status men may display red coloration more often than unsuccessful, low-status men. A second possibility that the study pinpointed was that men with high physiological health and vitality exhibit red more clearly and intensely due to enhanced health. Women may respond to this vitality as a sign that the man can navigate the challenges of life more successfully. A third possibility is that red coloration once served as an indicator of male status in an ancestral environment. This theory aligns well with the research conducted on the monkeys. What we can draw is that red equals health, which equals good breeding stock, which equals attractiveness.
Red colorations on the body also serve to indicate fertility. In the study, Extraneous color affects female macaques' gaze preference for photographs of male conspecifics by Benjamin Hayden, research determined that the color red can be a signal of sex and romance. In primates like the Rhesus macaques, red coloration on the chest or genitals serves as a signal of sexual receptivity. When their parts turn red, the opposite sex knows that it’s time to reproduce. Rhesus macaques turn a bright red color to indicate it is time to mate. Their faces and hindquarters will redden, leading to attention from the opposite sex. The conductors of the study showed pictures of female marquees to the males and vice versa. Results found that the monkeys would look at the pictures longer when the monkey in the photo was against a red background. Rhesus macaques and humans diverged 25 million years ago, and yet we both share an innate attraction to the color red. There is no doubt a primitive impulse that is at play.
Looking at all three studies, we see the same pattern shown in each. Men, women, monkeys, and humans all view red as the most attractive color. To put it bluntly, red is sexy. I think that is something that we have all concluded by this point. Consider red dresses, red lipstick, or Santa Claus. All three are icons of sexuality. You too can make your business sexy if you utilize the color red to its fullest potential. But is red intrinsically tied to sexuality in all cultures? Let's examine how different cultures view red.
Let's traverse the globe and examine how different cultures see red. One particular country that has a long history with Red is Russia. In Russia, red was the symbol of the communist party. During the rise of Communisms in 1923, the Bolsheviks appropriated the color red to symbolize the blood of the workers. Red became so deeply ingrained with the communist party that we see it in concepts like the Red Scare in America, or the nickname of communists as "Reds." Aside from communism, red in Russia is found in their Easter eggs. During Easter, the color red represents the re-birth of Christ.
A trend that is found in both Russia and America is the practice of red roses given to loved ones. In both courting rituals, red roses are symbols of love. In both cultures, women wear red to radiate a positive and beautiful aura. Red branding and packaging within Russia can expect positive reception, especially within a working-class industry like food.
Coming home to America, red and love is symbolized by the Hallmark's favorite holiday, Valentine's Day. The roots of Valentine's Day are theorized to be the Roman holiday, Lupercalia. During Lupercalia, a goat and dog were sacrificed, then strips of skin were cut off of the carcasses. The single men would then take these freshly cut strips, and run around town naked with them. Women would then gleefully wait outside their homes for the horde of naked men to approach them and smack them on the wrist with the bloody skin flaps. It was believed getting your wrist smacked by the skin would aid in childbirth. Today, we perform a slight variation of this ritual by giving cards and chocolates to our loved ones. The colors of Lupercalia and Valentine's Day are consistent, lots of reds. Add green to the mix and you touch on another Holiday, Christmas. In America, red packaging during certain times of the year is directly tied to the next upcoming holiday. During the lull between holidays, red is seen as exciting, fast, and bold. Red cars are faster, and red packaging is louder.
In India, red is not only connected to sensuality, but also purity. Red can be found used in weddings, births, and festivals. When women are cremated, they are wrapped in red cloth. Married women will wear red saris, and have red powder placed on their hair parting. Hindus and Jains will also place a bindi on their forehead for religious and spiritual significance. A red bindi is worn by married women, the red color having several purposes, one is to enhance the women's beauty. Red in Hinduism is also the color of Shakti, an important goddess and divine cosmic energy that flows through the universes. Shakti is called upon for strength, fertility, and to aid in marital affairs. Once again, we see red being a color of love. It’s begging to feel like all humans have a connection to the color red. Considering global marketing, red packaging or red branding in India will be received well because of the cultural associations with it. Wedding favors in red packaging is a good fit within this color and culture.
Similarly to India, brides in China will wear red. Red is worn because the color is associated with success, loyalty, honor, fertility, love, and other things. The founder and first emperor of the Han dynasty were said to be “the son of RED emperor.” Since then, red has symbolized the authority and the privileged. Chinese new years can be distinguished by the red decorations and lanterns. The origin of this date back to a fable in which a creature called the nián shòu would raid villages, devouring people and livestock. This creature could be scared away with loud noises and the color red. From this comes the practice of hanging red ornaments and lighting fireworks. Red packaging is fairly common in China during New Year's. Any industry can tap into the popularity, but specifically, foods and gifts would be excellent contents for red packaging.
Why do all of these different cultures all associate red with love and romance? We can reason it is because of the inherent attractiveness of the color, and the ability to increase the attractiveness of the person wearing it. We can also say that since all humans bleed red, the color is ubiquitously connected to life, and therefore love. The connection between the heart and love dates back to Ancient Greece, and possibly before that. The color of the symbol of love is then a common thread red to love through the world.
Red Hot Brands
A noticeable trend in fast food logos is that many of them are red. Wendy's, KFC, McDonald's, and more all use red iconography for their branding. The reason for this? The same as the reason monkeys are drawn to red. It is exciting. Red increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including the stomach. When hungry people see the bright red billboard of a Wendy’s restaurant, blood pumps to their stomach and kick starts their appetite. We can also connect the hot red colors to fresh, just cooked food. The next time you see a commercial for “smoking hot burgers” or “fresh never frozen patties” pay attention to the colors being emphasized in the ad. Chances are, it’s going to have lots of red colors and warm tones. Red can also generate a sense of security for the viewer. It is a bold and confident color that observers can trust. Going back to love, early exposure to red for children can help create brand loyalty at an early age. Children can in a sense fall in love with a fast-food brand, and chase the high they provide for their whole life.
A fast-food chain that managed to tie in the appetite-inducing and sex appeal of red was Carl's Junior/ Hardees. If we look at the 2006-2017 logos for this restaurant, we can see a bold red outline around their white text, and a bright yellow star. There is also the tag line "charbroiled burgers,” highlighting the heat evoked by the red color. An interesting pattern that can be seen is that during that era, Carl's Junior was notorious for its racy ads that featured scantily clad women messily eating burgers. However, in 2020, Carl's Junior has revamped itself. The logo is now much simpler, and now black white, and yellow. The ads are also no longer the smutty peepshows that they once were. In essence, Carl’s Junior abandoned their attempt to sell burgers using sex appeal, and as soon as they did that, they cut the red from their logos.
Look also at the Virgin Group. This is a conglomerate containing companies like Virgin Mobil, Virgin Air, and even Virgin Galactic. The company started by Richard Branson and Nik Powell was named because the two men considered themselves virgins in the industry when they were first starting. Their logo is simply Virgin, written in a stylized bright red font. The Virgin Group has successfully stuck its logo onto planes, trains, space ships, cruise ships, hotels, and health clubs around the world. The red of the script and the untainted perception of the company's names have no doubt played a role in the successful branding that the company has achieved.
We made our Red, Now Lie in It
At QQ Studio, we understand the tantalizing effects that the color red has on individuals. We try to capture intense heart-pounding effects with our red packaging. Consider our Crimson Red StandStrong™ and SlickSeal™ bags for red hot-blooded packaging bags that will light your customer's passion. Store food product's to activate the appetite of your customers and convince them to buy your product. Utilize the same methods being used by the top fast-food chains. If it works for them, it is sure to work for you.
Tapping into the Romantic connotations of the color is our Heart Red collection of packaging bags. These QuickQlick™ bags are the perfect container for Valentine’s Day favors and products. The glossy exterior has a shine brighter than the sun, and when customers receive these packages, the same unmatchable shine will be in their eyes. Nothing inspires romantic feelings better than red, and as you have learned, that statement is backed up by biology.
Using what you Have Red
So then, why is red romantic? It is not just because it's the color of your heart. It is because of biological reactions and primitive ingrained response to changes in our partner's facial blood levels. It also is because of cultural conditioning that has instilled in us the belief that red is the color of love. But, today, red is more often than not the color of fast food or sports cars. That is until February approaches, and then red hearts adorn all of America. Hopefully, some of your curiosity has been satiated. If you want more red inspiration before you make a packaging purchase, browse our red collection. Just try not to get too worked up.