London is grey in many things, but it has the most brilliant marketing. It’s the only city in the world that campaigns an integrated branding successfully with its iconic red: the double-decker, the royal postbox, the phone booth, the underground, the royal guard, Sir Branson’s Virgin empire, BBC, and even Kate in red. Take a second to walk down the memory lane of your past travels. Have you ever seen any other cities that offer parallel markings that are so memorable that you remember them to date? Not in my travel log of over 40+ countries and 400+ cities and towns around the world. This red, I assure you, is quite special and well-deserving to the British people.
From Sir Richard Branson’s fascination of red to Prince William’s wedding garb, red is British in so many ways. Your red experience starts onboard of Virgin Atlantic as soon as you tear open the plastic cover of that red fleece blanket and as soon as the air steward handed the Virgin comfort pouch in your hand. With the peeling cushions and the dull TV screens, Virgin Atlantic might not offer the latest air fleet in today’s aviation industry, but it offers the welcoming gesture to relax and to prepare to take in your Red experience in its entirety. And who are we to decline such allure?
The color red was chosen to make them easy to spot. It has become a British icon, although it was not universally loved at the start. The red color caused particular local difficulties and there were many requests for less visible colors. The red that is now much loved was then anything but, and the Post Office was forced into allowing a less strident grey with red glazing bars scheme for areas of natural and architectural beauty. Ironically, some of these areas that have preserved their telephone boxes have now painted them red. Despite a reduction in their numbers in recent years, the traditional British red telephone box can still be seen in many places in the UK, and in current or former British colonies around the world. The paint color used is known as “currant red” and is defined by a British Standard, BS 381C-539.
Ask any 5-year old what he remembers from his visit in London. Guaranteed it would be hanging onto the red double-decker across town and trying to make the royal guards sneeze, and if he could, pat the Afro hat that is so out of reach. An homage to time-honored discipline, these guards erect still and unperturbed. Even I wonder sometime, if any of these guards ever slipped and let down their guards?
The red double-decker equals London’s postmark. A pioneering design, the Routemaster outlasted several of its replacement types in London and survived the privatization of the former London Transport bus operators. The old-fashioned features of the standard Routemaster were both praised and criticized. The open platform, while exposed to the elements, allowed boarding and alighting in places other than official stops, even with the bus travelling at speed. Despite the retirement of the original version, the Routemaster has retained iconic status. Now the New Routemaster can be seen in several routes in London, marking the modernization and progression of the classic Routemaster. By 2016 the plan is to have 600 fleet of the New Routemaster serving the public of London. It’s a bittersweet view that part of us wants to see shiny new things with all latest technologies, but rest assured the other part of us longs for that familiar old Routemaster.
In 2014 red poppies were chosen to spill over the Tower of London. The evolving installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies will progressively fill the Tower’s famous moat. British history has been known as bloody red. The crown feasted on murders, hatred, jealousy, and rivalry. But the throne also lived on loyalty, camaraderie, loves, and compassion. Two sides of the blade always comprise what life is. It’s a classic composition and it will never change.
Red certainly makes the rainy English city dominated by steels and grey bricks popped for attention. These props are exclusively vibrant, directive, attention-seeking, and offer warmth and sense of familiarity for the tourists flocking from every part of the world searching for something they’ve seen on TV, in hundreds of guide books, or on postcards from they neighbors. Though who are we kidding here? Nobody sends postcards anymore in this cold and distant technology craze day and age. We are so sequestered within our social media illusion, convinced that our thousands of connections we never talked to or met face-to-face are far better than our twenty lifelong friendships. A breeze afternoon walk to drop off your snail mail might be seen only in BBC filming set nowadays – it’s a lost tradition and a forgotten culture. But if anything that London managed to command its millions of annual visitors to do, it is a message to pause for a few seconds, to breathe in the wisp of rain in the air, and to give a nod to the red box in the corner, that enthusiastically confirmed that they are indeed, in the royal city of London.