“Remembering him comes in flashbacks and echoes. Tell myself, “It’s time now, gotta let go.” But moving on from him is impossible, when I still see it all in my head, in burning red. Burning, it was red.” When Taylor Swift wrote these iconic lyrics, she knew exactly what she was doing. Weaving colour theory and the psychological impact of the colour red through her lyrics helped evoke the precise feeling she wanted to conjure in her audience.

Yes, many feelings come with being in a relationship; some make you feel blue with sadness, others grey with indifference, but it’s the passion and the heat she recalls this time, and she wants us all to feel it. And we do; by the time the bridge hits the lyric burning red, we feel it. 

The Use Of Red In Branding And Fiction

Colours have power. We form associations with specific colours to the point that seeing a colour or describing something as a colour can evoke thoughts and feelings without anyone having to say more. Swifties are well aware of this phenomenon as TayTay is notorious for using colours in her work. Her current Eras tour – which has taken over all news coverage of the music industry for the last year – sees each era representing one of her albums and each defined by a colour.

So, when we talk about colour theory and its use in branding, it’s no different from how colour is used in life. It seeps into all areas; we instinctively paint our homes in colours that make us feel the way we want to feel in a particular room. Film, TV and music are peppered with deliberate uses of colour, and then there are our fiction writers. Who are well aware what colours appearing in a narrative deliberately can achieve.

Show, don’t tell. That’s what we’re taught first as fiction writers. We must learn to write in a way that conjures the plot, characters and setting in people’s minds as vivid imagery that’s enjoyable to ‘watch’, rather than dull, expository explanations in which we tediously tell people things. Colour is an excellent way of doing this; put a character in a red dress, and we subconsciously make associations. Paint the sky grey, and we know we’re in for a scene of moody introspection. The weather and natural phenomena like clouds and rivers are used similarly; it’s called pathetic fallacy.

I’m both a fiction writer and a marketeer, and while I’ve seen a lot of talk about colour use in branding, the literary part of my brain also knows a lot about its use in fiction. How fun then to combine the two and see what we can learn about colour theory and its application to branding and marketing from the way colours are used in fiction. And we shall begin, as the opening lyrics may have suggested, with red.

Taylor Swift frequently references colours in her lyrics to describe strong emotions, most notably the colour Red. Unlock the power of red in branding with insights from color psychology and archetypes. Learn how to captivate your audience and drive business success.

The Colour Red In Fiction

The use of red in fiction is a powerful tool for conveying many emotions, themes, and symbols. Across various literary works, red often symbolises passion, danger, love, anger, and vitality, among other things. Its vivid and striking nature makes it an effective device for capturing readers’ attention and imbuing narratives with depth and meaning.

One of the most common themes associated with red is passion and desire. Characters often wear red clothing or are surrounded by red imagery to represent their intense emotions or romantic entanglements. Additionally, red can symbolise danger or warning, serving as a visual cue for impending conflict or turmoil within the story.

Beyond its literal representation, red is also deeply intertwined with themes of identity, rebellion, and societal norms. In works like The Scarlet Letter, red marks characters who defy societal expectations or carry a burden of guilt or shame. It becomes a visual reminder of their transgressions, shaping how others perceive them and influencing their sense of self.

Using red can evoke a sense of vitality and life force, as seen in descriptions of blood or vibrant natural landscapes. Conversely, it can also symbolise violence, sacrifice, or the darker aspects of human nature.

Overall, the psychology of using red in fiction lies in its ability to evoke visceral reactions and convey complex themes and emotions. Whether representing love, danger, rebellion, or vitality, the colour red adds layers of depth and symbolism to literary works, enriching the storytelling experience for readers and inviting deeper exploration of the human psyche.

If you’re considering using red as a brand colour, you might want to consider how red works in fictional narratives; whether we realise it or not, literature, songs, film and TV all use colours in particular ways that seep into our subconscious. It’s worth understanding what people associate a colour with before you choose it for your brand.

You Were Romeo I Was A Scarlet Letter

“They averred, that the symbol was not mere scarlet cloth, tinged in an earthly dye-pot, but was red-hot with infernal fire, and could be seen glowing all alight, whenever Hester Prynne walked abroad in the night-time. And we must needs say, it seared Hester’s bosom so deeply, that perhaps there was more truth in the rumour than our modern incredulity may be inclined to admit.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne’s scarlet letter “A” transcends its initial mark of shame to become a powerful symbol of identity, resistance, and societal critique. It reflects the Puritanical zeal for punishment and the complex dynamics of sin and redemption. The community’s perception of the letter as “red-hot with infernal fire” underscores the deep-seated stigma attached to Hester Prynne, which she transforms into a testament to her strength, resilience, and moral complexity.

This transformation and the symbol’s cultural permeation underscore its relevance in discussions about public shaming and personal redemption, echoed in modern contexts like Taylor Swift’s lyrical reference (yes, I really like Taylor Swift. If you’ve not noticed that before, it should be apparent by now!), signifying the enduring impact of Hawthorne’s work on contemporary discussions of stigma and identity.

Taylor Swift references the iconic use of the colour red in Scarlet Letter, as part of her lyrics for Love Story. Unlock the power of red in branding with insights from color psychology and archetypes. Learn how to captivate your audience and drive business success.

Curley’s Nameless Wife

“Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off. A girl was standing there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers.” – John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Curley’s wife, described through her red attire and makeup, symbolises the dangerous allure and the marginalised position of women in a male-dominated society. Her vivid appearance amidst the dust and drabness of the ranch highlights her isolation and the misconceptions surrounding her. Steinbeck uses her to critique societal norms that lead to misunderstanding and tragedy, emphasising the consequences of loneliness and the human need for connection. Her character’s tragic end, never learning her name, intensifies the critique of her objectification and the broader implications for understanding gender dynamics and empathy.

Nellie’s In The Red Room

“You think I have no feelings, and that I can live without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so; and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back—roughly and violently thrust me back into the red room and locked me up there—to my dying day, though I was in agony;…And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me…People think you a good woman; but you are bad—hard-hearted.” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

The red room in Jane Eyre is a profound symbol of trauma, oppression, and the struggle for self-worth against societal constraints. Jane’s imprisonment in the room marks a pivotal moment in her development, imbuing her with a sense of injustice and a determination to seek respect and autonomy. The vividness of the room’s description underscores the intensity of Jane’s experience, making it a lasting memory that shapes her moral and ethical stance throughout the novel. This symbolism extends to broader discussions about individuality, resistance, and the quest for personal freedom, resonating with readers’ experiences of isolation and growth. 

If you’ve watched The Haunting of Hill House, the room at the heart of the haunted building is referred to as the red room, and houses the malevolent entity that dwells there. Each of the children sees this room as their own personal sanctuary and must resist its allures to avoid being devoured by the house. 

The Colour Of Blood, Which Defines Us

“Frowning, she tears out three tokens and hands them to me. Her face might be kindly if she would smile. But the frown isn’t personal: it’s the red dress she disapproves of, and what it stands for. She thinks I may be catching, like a disease or any form of bad luck.” – Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Atwood’s use of red in The Handmaid’s Tale encapsulates the commodification of women and the stripping away of their identities, reducing them to their biological functions. The red attire marks the handmaids as both vital and vilified within Gilead’s society, constantly reminding them of their roles and the omnipresent surveillance they are under.

This visual symbol of red becomes a powerful tool for exploring themes of autonomy, resistance, and the insidious nature of oppressive systems. The detailed descriptions of their attire and the societal reactions highlight the complex interplay between visibility, identity, and power, offering a stark commentary on control issues and the human spirit’s resilience. Other colours represent different elements, with the women in society all dressed in a colour that reflects their role. 

“I get up out of the chair, advance my feet into the sunlight, in their red shoes, flat-heeled to save the spine and not for dancing. The red gloves are lying on the bed. I pick them up, pull them onto my hands, finger by finger. Everything except the wings around my face is red: the colour of blood, which defines us.”

Molly Red Skirts

“I want to go home,’ he muttered as he tottered down the road beside me. ‘Me, too,’ I told him. And yet it was not Buckkeep that came to my mind, but a meadow overlooking the sea, and a girl in bright red skirts who beckoned me. A time, rather than a place. No road led there.” – Robin Hobb, Fool’s Fate

Molly’s vivid red skirts symbolise the unique and passionate bond between Fitz and Molly and signify a deeper yearning for a lost time and place that remains unreachable. Molly’s attire, described with affection and nostalgia by Fitz, encapsulates a moment of innocence and clarity amidst their complex, often dark world. The rarity of the dye and the beauty of the skirts in a sea of mundane colours highlight Molly’s distinct presence in Fitz’s life, serving as a beacon of hope and a reminder of simpler desires in a world filled with political intrigue and personal sacrifices.

The Psychology Of Red Branding In Marketing

In marketing and branding, colour shapes consumer perceptions, elicits emotional responses, and influences purchasing decisions. Among the colours used in branding, red stands out as a powerful and attention-grabbing hue with profound psychological implications.


Red is inherently eye-catching, thanks to its high visibility and ability to stimulate the senses. In marketing, the colour red often serves as a powerful tool to capture consumers’ attention amidst a sea of competing stimuli. Whether it’s a vibrant red logo, packaging, or advertisement, the colour red naturally draws the eye and encourages people to take notice.

Energy and Excitement

Red is associated with energy, vitality, and excitement. It can evoke feelings of passion, intensity, and urgency, making it particularly effective in marketing contexts where brands aim to create a sense of enthusiasm or urgency. For example, brands in the food and beverage industry, such as Coca-Cola and KFC, leverage the colour red to convey the excitement and flavour of their products, enticing consumers to indulge in a sensory experience.

Emotional Impact

Red is a colour that evokes strong emotions and elicits visceral reactions. It is often linked to feelings of love, desire, warmth, power, courage, and strength. In marketing, brands leverage the emotional resonance of red to forge deeper connections with consumers and tap into their underlying desires and aspirations. Whether it’s a luxury fashion brand like Louis Vuitton or a telecommunications giant like T-Mobile, the strategic use of red can evoke feelings of confidence, sophistication, and excitement, shaping consumers’ perceptions of the brand and its offerings.

Sense of Urgency and Action

Red is commonly associated with urgency and action, owing to its association with warning signs, stop signals, and emergency alerts. In marketing, the colour red can create a sense of urgency or prompt consumers to take immediate action, such as making a purchase or responding to a call to action. For example, brands like Target and Netflix strategically incorporate red into their branding to encourage consumers to act quickly and decisively, whether shopping for discounted products or binge-watching the latest shows.

Brand Recognition and Memorability

Red is a highly memorable colour that leaves a lasting impression on consumers. Brands that adopt red as a primary colour in their branding benefit from increased visibility, recognition, and memorability, as the colour helps them stand out in crowded marketplaces and reinforce their brand identity. From iconic logos like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to household names like Visa and Canon, the colour red plays a pivotal role in ensuring brand recall and association.

The psychology of red as a brand colour in marketing is multifaceted and powerful. Its ability to capture attention, evoke emotions, drive action, and enhance brand recognition makes it a popular choice for brands across various industries seeking to create impactful and memorable marketing experiences. By understanding the psychological nuances of red, marketers can harness its power to effectively communicate brand messages, engage consumers, and drive business success.

What Does The Colour Red Symbolise?

As we’ve seen from its use in fiction, the colour red symbolises a range of emotions, qualities, and concepts, including:

  • Passion and love
  • Energy and vitality
  • Power and strength
  • Courage and determination
  • Urgency and action
  • Danger and warning
  • Excitement and stimulation

Is Red A Good Colour For Branding?

Red can be a powerful and attention-grabbing colour for branding, but whether it suits your specific brand depends on factors such as your target audience, industry, and brand personality. Red is often associated with passion, energy, excitement, and urgency, so if these qualities align with your brand identity and objectives, red could be a good choice. However, it’s essential to consider how red will be perceived by your target demographic and whether it resonates with your brand values and messaging.

What Does The Colour Red Mean In Branding?

In branding, the colour red is commonly associated with several vital meanings and emotions, including:

Passion: Red evokes passion, intensity, and energy, making it suitable for brands looking to create a strong emotional connection with their audience.

Power: Red is often associated with power, strength, and assertiveness, making it a popular choice for brands seeking to project confidence and authority.

Urgency: Red is frequently used to create a sense of urgency and prompt action, making it effective for brands promoting sales, discounts, or limited-time offers.

Excitement: Red can evoke feelings of excitement, dynamism, and adventure, making it suitable for brands in industries such as entertainment, sports, and hospitality.

Is Red A Good Colour For Business?

Red can be a good colour for business, especially for brands seeking to stand out, create a bold impression, and evoke strong emotional responses from their audience. However, its effectiveness depends on factors such as the industry, target market, and brand positioning. Red may be particularly suitable for food and beverage, retail, entertainment, and technology businesses, where energy, passion, and excitement are valued.

Companies that use red in their logos and branding. Unlock the power of red branding with insights from colour psychology and archetypes. Learn how to captivate your audience and drive business success.

What brands use red as a primary colour?

Many well-known brands use red as a primary colour in their branding, including:

Coca-Cola: The iconic red colour of Coca-Cola’s logo symbolises energy, excitement, and the brand’s bold personality.

McDonald’s: Red and yellow are the primary colours of McDonald’s branding, representing the brand’s vibrancy, friendliness, and appetite appeal.

Target: Target’s use of red in its logo and branding conveys energy, excitement, and value while also symbolising the brand’s commitment to helping customers “target” their shopping needs.

Netflix: The red background in Netflix’s logo symbolises passion, entertainment, and the thrill of watching movies and TV shows.

Lego: Lego’s use of red in its logo and packaging conveys creativity, fun, and the timeless appeal of its products.

Adobe: Adobe’s logo features a prominent red square, representing the brand’s innovation, creativity, and passion for digital design and software solutions.

Canon: Canon’s logo includes a red symbol, symbolising the brand’s excellence, innovation, and leadership in imaging and optical products.

Nintendo: Nintendo’s logo features a bold red colour, reflecting the brand’s dynamic and playful personality and its focus on creativity and innovation in the gaming industry.

Kellogg’s: Kellogg’s uses red prominently in its logo and packaging for various cereal brands, conveying energy, vitality, and the enjoyment of breakfast foods.

YouTube: YouTube’s logo incorporates a red play button icon, representing the excitement, entertainment, and engagement associated with online video content.

Red Bull: As the name suggests, Red Bull’s branding is centred around the colour red, reflecting the brand’s energy, vitality, and adventurous spirit in the energy drink market.

Ferrari: Ferrari’s iconic logo features a prancing horse on a yellow shield with a red band across it. It’s frequently placed on a red background, and red Ferarri’s are most often used to market and represent the brand. Red symbolises the brand’s passion, speed, and excellence in the world of luxury sports cars.

Virgin: Virgin Group’s logo often includes red lettering, reflecting the brand’s boldness, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit across various industries, including music, travel, and telecommunications.

CNN: CNN’s logo incorporates a bold red, representing the brand’s commitment to delivering breaking news, urgency, and credibility in journalism and media.

KFC: KFC’s branding includes red prominently in its logo and packaging, representing the brand’s bold flavours, passion for food, and inviting atmosphere in the fast-food industry.

Louis Vuitton: Louis Vuitton has notably utilised bold red soles in its shoe designs for years. This incorporation of red symbolises luxury, sophistication, and timeless elegance in the fashion and accessories market, aligning with the brand’s reputation for high-quality craftsmanship and iconic design elements.

Pringles: Pringles uses red extensively in its packaging design, evoking feelings of excitement, flavour, and fun associated with its potato crisps and snacks.

Levi’s: Levi Strauss & Co., known for its denim jeans, often incorporates red accents in its logo and branding, representing ruggedness, authenticity, and American heritage.

Colour Theory And The Psychology Of Red Branding

As a brand colour, red is multifaceted and profoundly impacts consumer perceptions and emotions. Red is deeply associated with passion, energy, urgency, and excitement, making it a powerful tool for brands seeking to captivate their audience and convey a bold message. However, the effectiveness of red in branding extends beyond its surface-level symbolism; it intersects with deeper psychological concepts. Those familiar with my Divine Blogging method will know I’m a big believer in harnessing psychological insights to create a more nuanced understanding of audiences to attract the right people to your business.

Colour can play a role in this, and just as understanding the archetype of your ideal client can help you craft a content strategy that speaks directly to them, aligning your visual branding in terms of colours and vibes with the energy of that archetype can add an extra layer to your brand’s appeal. 

Red Branding And Archetypes

Brands can harness the symbolic power of red to resonate with specific facets of their ideal audience’s psyche. My Divine Blogging method uses the twelve personality archetypes outlined by Carl Jung and the theory that we are all one predominantly one of these archetypes at our core. The remaining archetypes are still present in our psychological makeup, but to a lesser degree. Much as colours have permeated popular culture to create universal symbolism and messages embedded within our literature, films, TV shows and music, archetypes are equally prevalent. 

Simply put, an archetype is a blueprint for a character that appears repeatedly in stories around the world, from all times and cultures. The characters’ names, faces, and specific quirks differ, but their essence is the same and instantly recognisable, making them immediately relatable. This is partly because we are so intimately familiar with them from the stories we have heard all our lives and partly because the people we know also conform to these archetypes. 

If you’ve ever played the game of which character am I from Friends or Sex and the City, you’ll know what I mean. It’s what makes certain films and TV shows so popular; the characters are new yet familiar, and we instantly connect.

Archetypes That Will Respond To Red Branding

Red as a brand colour is particularly appealing to several archetypes, making it an excellent choice for your business if your audience’s archetypal profile is dominated by one of these archetypes. 

The Warrior archetype embodies strength, courage, and action—all qualities associated with the colour red. A red brand aligned with the Warrior archetype would exude confidence, assertiveness, and a bold sense of purpose, appealing to consumers seeking empowerment and vitality.

Similarly, the Ruler archetype aligns with red’s authoritative and commanding qualities. A brand embodying the Ruler archetype in red would project a sense of leadership, authority, and prestige, positioning itself as a dominant force within its industry.

Furthermore, the Enchantress/Enchanter archetype offers another compelling framework for a red brand. This archetype embodies seduction, allure, and charm—all qualities that resonate with red’s vibrant and captivating nature. A brand embodying the Enchantress archetype in red would evoke feelings of desire, fascination, and enchantment, captivating consumers and drawing them into its spell.

In essence, the strategic use of red in branding can transcend mere colour theory, intertwining with the rich tapestry of Jungian archetypes to create a deeper and more resonant brand identity. By understanding the psychological nuances of both colour and archetype, brands can forge authentic connections with their audience, foster brand loyalty, and ultimately, drive business success.

If you’d like to learn more about archetypes and their use in branding sign up below to start reading my book, Divine Blogging, for free…

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