Elly Valas: Going Beyond Traditional Advertising

Elly Valas: Going Beyond Traditional Advertising


While stopped at a red light, I noticed the license plate of the car in front of me. Simple in its message, it said SMILE. And I did.

Shortly after that, I saw a bright green and white taxi. It was a Toyota Prius and different than most cabs in town. It stood out from its bigger yellow counterparts with its message of environmentalism and economy.

Then I saw a Starbucks billboard touting the chain’s new Pike Street Market blend and its new cup.

These experiences led me to think about the importance of signage. Americans are exposed to 3000 different advertising messages each day. In addition to traditional advertising vehicles like radio, TV and newspaper, businesses are finding new and unique ways to get their name in front of their prospects. Barber poles, skywriting and Burma Shave signs have given way to vehicle and bus wraps, mobile billboards and digital in-store signage.

You have to work hard to have your message heard and seen above all the clutter. Signage is a vital part of attracting customers to your store. Done right, though, it should also be an integral part of your overall business plan, helping to inform, guide and motivate consumers.

Signs are an expanding form of communication targeted to our mobile lifestyle. Start to view your signs as an important part of your advertising budget. Roy Williams, the “Wizard of Ads,” said outdoor advertising can be easily targeted to specific market segments, and is a relatively low-cost way to reach people.

Limited by a host of building restrictions, your store sign needs to clearly and quickly demonstrate who you are and what you do. Think about the power of Best Buy’s simple yellow price tag. Your signs must always be pristine and in perfect repair; it’s a first-time shopper’s initial hint as to what they’ll find inside. Drive by at night to ensure that your sign is properly lit and that it turns on promptly at dusk.

Don’t stop with typical store signage. Remember that your vehicles are roving billboards for your store. Graphic wraps can show consumers the limitless possibilities you can design in their homes. Even with just your logo, telephone number and website, trucks can promote your image. They must be in good repair and immaculately clean both inside and out. Driver courtesy only helps extend your brand equity.

Inside the stores, customers rely on signs to help them find what they want, learn about the products, locate promotional items and determine prices. As a silent sales person, signs must be professional, informational and attractive.

How important are POP and POS signs? According to the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute, 70 percent of customer-purchase decisions are made inside the store. Some signs, like the marquee-type over a cooking area or at the entrance to a home theater room, help customers find the products they want. Use different colors or neon to help distinguish different parts of the showroom.

Lifestyle signage—large photographs depicting families experiencing the products you sell—helps consumers create emotional bonds with the merchandise. They show prospects how their own families and friends may gather in a newly remodeled kitchen or in an over-the-top home cinema room. These signs add color and depth to your showroom and invite customers to see more. A picture certainly is worth a thousand words.

New electronic signs help promote merchandise to customers in the store.

Sometimes referred to as digital signage, it is basically advertising content displayed on flat panels. Major benefits of digital signs over traditional static signs are that they can be moved around the store, the content can be easily changed, messages can be animated, content can include audio as well as video, the signs can adapt to the context and audience, and even be interactive.

Merchandise tagging must be consistent and professional. Include a few key product benefits—not features—on the tags. The customer may not know what “7.1 Dolby Digital” is but they’ll relate to “theater-quality sound.”

Price tags should be uniform; if you’re having an event, incorporate it into your tags. The effort to re-tag everything will add credibility to your promotion.

Print sales tags on your computer. Handwritten tags look dated and open the door to price negotiation. Printed tags look professional and the price doesn’t appear like it is just a starting point for haggling customers.

Your signs reflect your personality and reinforce your brand. Consistent, quality signage can deliver a significant return on investment. They help tell your story and get customers emotionally engaged. Like any other asset, signage is an investment that needs to be reviewed, updated and kept current.