Marketing: What Your Sign Can Do

By Alexander Hiam

Signs as marketing tools are all over — if you’re in an office right now, step to the nearest window, and you can probably see a handful with ease. Signs are also undeniably important. Even if they serve only to locate a store or office, they do a job that marketers need done.

If your customers can’t find you, you’re out of business. And in many cases, signs also provide daily exposure to the brand name, helping to boost awareness and recognition. But most marketing reference books don’t bother to cover signs.

No national or international set of standards for signs exists. Nor can you find a major association that promotes standards and champions best practices. You’ll probably end up working with a local sign manufacturer, which means you and your designer will have to specify size, materials, copy, and art.

You need to take charge of the design and placement of your signs, because no one else seems to know or care how to do it well.

Signs have a limited ability to accomplish marketing goals — but perhaps not as limited as you may think. You can use signs to help people find you, starting with a sign near the freeway exit and ending with signs marking the entrance to your store or parking lot.

Numerous businesses make finding themselves difficult. Case in point: the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the biggest college in the state and home to a top business school. Why do thousands of visitors a year have to pull over in downtown Amherst and ask for directions to the campus? Well, no signs downtown point the way.

Aside from their practical value (letting people know where you are), signs can and should promote your image and brand name. An attractive sign on your building or vehicle can spread the good word about your business or brand to all who pass by.

Don’t miss this brilliant opportunity to put your best foot forward in public every day — and night, if the sign is lit or in an indoor public space such as a mall or subway station.

Don’t forget to maintain your signs! About a third of all commercial signs are in poor condition. Signs sit out in the weather, and when they fade, peel, or start to fall over, they give negative advertising for your business. Don’t let your sign give the public the impression that you’re going out of business. Maintain and refresh your signs at least four times a year.