Well red

Rogerandjessica_carrotcakeWhenever college PR students or complete strangers stop me and ask what they should be reading, I always provide the same response:

– Adweek and Advertising Age in order to learn where the wonderful world of integrated marketing communications is headed.
– PR Week in order to learn where the industry has been (as well as who the key players are at the global agencies).

I also recommend Don Spetner’s superb column in the monthly edition of PR Week and Robert Klara’s riveting ‘Perspective’ in Adweek (a note of transparency; Klara has interviewed me several times for Perspective).

Klara’s current Perspective column is absolutely fascinating, and traces the ad industry’s decision to use red as the preferred color for dresses in print and TV advertisements.

I learned for example that, “…through time, there’s been a common meaning for the red dress: it’s love, lust and love.” Oh.

I also discovered that, when celebrity photographer Milton Greene shot Marilyn Monroe in 1957, he made sure she wore a red dress. Of course, Monroe could make a brown potato sack look alluring.

Klara says the red dress effect is so potent that behavioral psychologists have studied it and demonstrated that women who don red are not only regarded by men as more physically and sexually attractive, but also tend to have more money spent on them (Note to self: Avoid dinner with women wearing red dresses).

Brand Consultant Liz Dennery Sanders says red has always signified wealth, power and passion. Right on! Guess who drives a fire engine red BMW M3?

Klara says marketers take to red like bees to honey. Over the years, women in red dresses have popped up in ads for everything from Barbasol to Buick.

But, and here’s what always makes Klara a must read: marketers are never sure how the general public will react to an ad displaying a lady in a red dress.

In one example, a 1962 print ad from Royal Lipstick by DuBarry, Klara says the red dress captures ALL of the excitement of a night out on the town.

But, a current one from Loews Hotels and Resorts evokes the opposite reaction, with experts uncertain if the woman in the red dress is, in fact, a lady of the evening. Good lord. Talk about unintended effects!

Most industry trade rags simply don’t provide this depth of analysis or, dare I repeat the word, perspective.

I, for one, am now locked and loaded for the next time a prospect asks our opinion of her re-branding effort and whether the second color should be blue, green or red. “Well,” I’ll deadpan with an authoritative air, “it all depends on whether you want your new brand to express love, lust and sex or boring, bland sameness.”

I’ll bet few, if any, PR people would come up with that rejoinder. And, I’ll have Robert Klara’s column to thank for making me look good.

7 thoughts on “Well red

  1. “Paint the town red”, “Seeing red”, “Red carpet”, the color of fire, heat and of course, passion. And like passion, if you shout ‘RED’ in a crowded room, each person will visualize their own, unique version of it. My personal theory is that the power comes from within ourselves because within, we are red blood cells, red muscle, red tissue… I suppose that when we wear red, we’re exposing something from deep within ourselves.

  2. Thanks Cat. Danderoo: I suggest you lodge your complaint with Robert Klara. He’s the one says marketers still very much associate red with sex.

  3. Interesting! I’ve always heard red is the color women with dark hair should wear, but never this! Very cool stuff, dad.

  4. First Lady Nancy Reagan wore it so often, a shade was dubbed “Reagan red” and became known not as a symbol not of sexy and alluring women, but of powerful and strong women. It took red out of the bedroom and into the boardroom.

  5. Think of a stop sign. Think of red ties in business meetings. Think Donald Trump. Virtually it’s the navy blue suit, white shirt and red tie. Power statement. Doesn’t necessarily need to be a “Lady in Red.”