2018: The Year of the Sign

Having been involved in the sign industry for 17 years, the adage “A business with no sign is a sign of a no business” has been indelibly impressed upon me.

However, there’s more to it than that simplistic idea. A sign that merely identifies a place and doesn’t reflect the brand of the place, or create a positive perception and experience. A sign is a business’ front-door calling card. If you don’t make that positive first impression, when will you get another chance?

In the 21st Century, some might argue that, with the wide array of available media outlets, how a physical space is now of less importance. And, unfortunately, many local sign-code administrators have adopted the view that signs are an aesthetic hindrance, rather than a key cog in a community’s economic engine.

Numerous studies have affirmed that signs bolster communities’ economic development, and that consumers depend upon signs to introduce them to unfamiliar businesses.

Here are several examples:

A. In 2012, Federal Express commissioned Ketchum Global Research and Analytics to develop a study that measures the impact a business’s signage quality has on its bottom line. These statistics emphasize how good signs translate into financial success:

  1. 52% of people are less likely to visit a store with a poorly constructed or grammatically incorrect signs.
  2. 68% of customers believe a store’s sign is a reliable indicator of the store’s product or service quality.
  3. 76% of consumers have chosen to enter a store they had never before visited based purely on its signage.

At Cima Network, we believes that effective signs and environmental branding play a valuable role in helping our clients engage, inform, direct and connect to their intended audience.

B. In 2012, the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center teamed with The Signage Foundation Inc. to study signs’ economic value. The surveyors tabulated responses from 225 business owners. Seventy percent of them owned a single location, the remaining 30% multiple outlets. Among those, 25% owned 2-9 properties, and companies owning 10 more locations represent approximately 5% of respondents.

Collectively, the respondents noted that the three most important functions signs serve include a) helping customers find location, b) making the business stand out, and c) reinforcing the company’s branding and image. This affirms several of the many important roles that signs play in gaining recognition – and growing business – for their end users.

Among respondents that had made changes to their signs in the last five years, 70% noted that changes involved a new logo or branding, 52% enhanced their sign’s visibility, 47% increased their signs, and 30% increased the sign’s size. The takeaway: a sign’s size is important, but the extent to which it reinforces and supports your brand is even more important.

And, perhaps most importantly, the survey noted the respondents’ perceived impact on business performance. Approximately 65% of respondents noted an average sales increase of 12%, 59% disclosed a 9% composite increase in profits, and 23% revealed a typical 6% increase in staffing.

C.A Villanova Univ. study addressed the importance of suitable sign lighting. The survey extracted data from 333 forms provided by business owners with on-premise signs. They noted the following sign-lighting characteristics as the most important:

  1. Branding the business location
  2. Enhancing store image
  3. Communicating business location
  4. Achieving overall marketing goals

Moreover, the Villanova study’s respondents estimated that, if government regulations forbade them from lighting their signs, they would suffer a 21% loss in business. As well intentioned as some governmental regulations may be, they sometimes serve as an impediment to economic and community growth.

In summary, well-placed, well-designed, well-lit signs practically guarantee economic benefit for their users.