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What is The Purpose of Signage?

Additional Topics, Marketing

As the Five Man Electrical Band once sang:

Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign! 

And it’s true, each day you most likely see one. Maybe towering over the interstate on your morning commute. Or hanging on the exterior of your favorite coffee shop.

So what is the purpose of signage? Since I work for a signage company that sells it: it’s the most important part of your branding efforts! OK, that will be the first and only shameless plug in this article. It’s an interesting question though, isn’t it?

As you are walking through the streets of a city, hopping on public transportation, or trying to catch a flight: isn’t signage part of our everyday lives?

Growing up in New York, my parents owned a coffee, soda, and candy business. During the Summer as a teenager, I would help my dad fill vending machines in Manhattan. We were hustling toward freight elevators, trekking hallways for offices, generally just trying to get from point A to Point B. And when you’re walking with a loaded hand truck with pallets of product – you naturally look, and very much depend, on signs.

It’s easy to forget just how ubiquitous signs are in our everyday life – and yet, sometimes we don’t notice them we truly need them! In general, they serve several common purposes: to promote, identify, provide information, give directions or to raise safety awareness.

Ever wonder why we need signage?  Well, I guess you don’t need it. But if you are a business owner, or manage a brand, there are several reasons to use it.

Encourage Impulse Purchases and Generate Revenue

It’s a cost-effective way to interest customers about your business’s products & services. And of course, make a purchase. Even if they were not looking to make one: the U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that between 20 to 45 percent of business sales come from impulse sales. (businesspartnermagazine.com) 

The purpose of signage is to attract new customers.

Signs are often used for advertising and marketing by businesses – non profit and private companies alike. Outdoor signage building wraps generate interest for your brand and wide format printing has evolved where large graphics can be put almost anywhere! 

What is the purpose of signage? 1 impulse sales statistic

Key Takeaway:
Consider an outdoor sign an investment that will pay dividends.

Storefront Style

Many businesses use window graphics to encourage traffic. Or to let consumers know they are in the right place. According to the Sign Research foundation, 54% of Americans failed to find a business because their sign was too small or unclear.

What is the purpose of signage? 2 window decals full view aeslin

I wish I had the stats to support this next statement, but it will be anecdotal. Far too often, I walk past store windows that DON’T list a website address or phone number. It’s promotional real estate not being used!  Take that a step further: add a QR code so consumers can scan and learn about a special promotion or sign up for your newsletter. For example:

What is the purpose of signage? 3 window graphics side view at epic kitchen

Once inside, consider a power wall.

What is the purpose of signage? 4 people are visual learners

Key Takeaway: Don’t underestimate the drawing power of window panes. 65% of people are visual learners. Those graphics might do more good than an email newsletter!

In-house Promotions

Interior signs are also an inexpensive way to share special promotions or new offerings once customers are INSIDE your store. For example, at the end of an aisle, you could post graphics that communicate information about new arrivals or clearance sales. 

Banner stand in retail environment

Keep Customers Engaged When Visiting Your Store

I know not everyone is comfortable doing this (and Covid doesn’t help) but train your retail folks to use signs as conversation starters. For example: “I noticed you were checking out our latest posted specials – do you have any questions?” But again, not for everyone.  In retail, another very important item to list is pricing.

Key Takeaway: Internal signs promote products and start conversations.

What is the purpose of signage? 4 people are visual learners

Brand Awareness

Have you heard of the Rule of Seven? It’s an older concept but still rings true today.  It says a consumer needs to see your brand seven times before making a purchase. When used in with social media, email marketing, text messaging etc. signs can make the difference. 

What is the purpose of signage? 6 rush window graphic now open
Brand awareness is a significant benefit. For example, when you see a familiar logo it’s likely to make you think about the brand behind the graphic. Logos are well-embedded in our culture and one could make the argument are recognized before words written on paper.  

One last thought to leverage signage to generate a lasting impression. Use scientific palettes. What the heck am I talking about? Check out this is a fascinating article from the Shutterstock teamWhich color palette best represents the message you want to communicate? 

Direct Your Guests and Visitors

Back to my vending days, signs play a role in providing direction to visitors; whether it’s towards a specific area within your business or simply providing general instructions about ways to proceed through your store; locations such as a washroom or check out. Directional signs are necessary for larger locations such as shopping malls, hospitals and corporations. 

Ada compliant wayfinding in garage

Think for a moment what it would be like to not have these ever present? Your visitors or customers depend on them. I can almost imagine a reality show where a person enters a building, expecting the usual wayfinding or directional signs – and nothing appears.  

In some instances, specifically public areas, graphics such as ADA signage are required by federal law for people with visual disabilities. Directional signage can also be useful for large scale outdoor events such as festivals or places where there are multiple buildings or entrances.

Braille sign for restroom entrance at lake meadows apartments.

Health and Safety Awareness

Applying a similar principle as the rule of seven, health and safety signs are important when it comes to keeping our workplace safe. In the wake of Covid, gentle messages placed around the office remind employees to keep their mask on away from the desk, or simply to wash hands. You may offer online ordering where people can pick up curbside, and they educate clients on how to proceed.

What is the purpose of signage? 7 hand wash signage

Key Takeaway:
This type of internal communication shows you care about your team, workplace safety, and are an effective way to keep people aware and encourage a safe work environment.

In Conclusion
OK, so by no means is an exhaustive list but one we hope provides an idea of sign functionality and business impact. Are you using signage in unique or non-traditional way to market your company? We’d love to hear from you.  

Jon Davis

Jon Davis is Cushing’s Marketing Manager. From blogging to online communications, Jon writes about client developments, environmental branding, and much more. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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