Business Signage

Does Red Mean Bargain or Danger?

Written by Jay Shapiro for Gaebler Ventures

Colors have a language all their own, and while red has been used, traditionally, as an eye catching way to grab attention and announce sale prices or 'everything must go' deals it's also a gaudy technique. For businesses that deal with things in a subtler way, red won't mean bargain, it'll mean danger.

The big bright red SALE sign: It's been around so long you'd think we'd have built up an immunity to it by now.

Actually, some of us have. Not only that, we have an aversion to it. Cynical consumers see a red sale sign and think, "Oh right, it's not really a sale, they just put the original price up and then 'slash it'.

Not all of us trust the red sale sign.

When you think about it, it's hardly surprising. The color red is used to elicit different emotional responses. The problem is because those responses are wildly difference it's a bit of a lottery trying to make sure you elicit the desired one in your target audience. Red can mean danger, it can also mean stop. Add to that the fact that it is also used to represent passion and love and you've got a mixed bag of emotions going on.

The redder than red announcement is seen by some as nothing more than a garish sales tactic. In fact some customers, especially when buying luxury goods, aren't interested in sale items. Where money is no object they want the entire buying experience to be elegant and pleasing. They also don't want to be seen to be, as they might view it, scraping around for cheap deals. Part of their brand of consumerism is to be acknowledged as being able to afford anything they want to. That's not to say that the very wealthy are against getting price reductions. Far from it, they just don't want the fact publicized and the big red sale sign might as well be a loud haler as far as their concerned. It lacks discretion.

Often a red sale tag, wrongly, gives the impression that the item is either substandard or undesirable as an end of range product. The red sale tag can, instead of screaming 'bargain' scream 'out of style'.

So what alternative can you use if you're selling to such a discerning clientele? If you want to avoid red opt for gold instead. Perhaps instead of using in your face terminology like sale or slashed price or cut price go for something that gives the customer a feeling of elitism.

A gold tag with Gold Member Special on it won't upset the sensibilities of the fussier client. Gold is synonymous with luxury and if you want to keep an image conscious customer happy, there's no harm done in matching your promotions to the color of their credit cards.

Other reactions generated by the color red:

  • Anger
  • Violence
  • Alarm

Color therapy studies reveal that red can raise blood pressure and increase the rate at which a person breathes. Sound a bit like a panic attack? Is that the sort of reaction you are aiming to inspire in your clients?

The term 'seeing red' of course appertains to being so angry you can see nothing but a red mist. Again, although red is a warm color when it gets that hot it's not good.

When your bank account is overdrawn or a bill is overdue we refer to being in the red. So red, in some cases equals financial trouble. That'd not a good subliminal message to put across when you want people to spend money!

Jay Shapiro is a freelance writer based in the UK. Jay has a particular interest in the emotive aspects of the entrepreneur's character. "Alongside the nuts and bolts of business, the character of the person is often the ingredient responsible for success."

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