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AMiable Solution #394: 4 Tips for Making the Most of Red

Red pen marks on your project mean you screwed up. What does red in marketing mean? That depends on how you use it.

Red is arguably the most impactful—and challenging—color used in print and digital marketing. Use too much of it, and your piece looks more like a danger sign than a promotional piece. Use it in a screen, and it appears pink, changing the tone of your message.

So how do you use red in marketing effectively?

First, know the general rule: use red sparingly and intentionally. Red is a powerful, attention-grabbing color, but you don’t want to overdo it or overwhelm your readers.

Second, consider what emotion you’re trying to evoke. Red can stir up feelings on both ends of the spectrum: from joy to fear. Your message and your industry will help predict your market’s response to red, but so will the shade you choose. Ashleigh Respicio, marketing designer, suggests using lighter tones of red for “a more feminine, softer emotion” and darker tones for “a more fiery, authoritative emotion.”

Third, consider what colors you plan to pair with it. Cool colors like blues, greens, and purples can tone down red’s intensity and instill a sense of professionalism and authority. Certain pairings, however—like green and red—traditionally represent certain holidays or images, so be careful which colors you choose and how you use them. Neutral colors like white, gray, black, and brown, on the other hand, have fewer emotional triggers and are therefore good for toning down red’s power.

Finally, think about what you want your audience to do. Warm colors like red draw attention to text and images more than any other colors, so use it to highlight key messages, calls-to-action, and other areas requiring attention.

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