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Thinking Strategically About Messaging and Signage

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Do you ever wonder if your latest promotional message is being lost in a sea of competing messages? In a recent discussion with one of our customers they told us that they were concerned because their promotional signage wasn’t driving the business results they were expecting.

It’s not uncommon for ongoing strategy and operational changes to lead to confusing and unclear messaging. This may appear in the form of signage on walls, floors or windows that tend to multiply and create visual clutter and confusion. The unfortunate outcome may be that your customer and employee experiences are suffering due to a lack of visual messaging strategy.

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While this customer was a retail oriented business, the same principals apply to many types of businesses. When it comes to signage you want two things:

To do this, it can be helpful to create an inventory of pieces already on display and assign them to categories based on the intended impact or outcome of the message. This inventory really shouldn’t be limited to just signage and may include messaging and collateral you use.

There are three categories of messaging: promotional, branding and educational. The key here is to get the right balance of each to support your overall business strategy. Too much of any or all of these and the intended messages can easily get lost.

20151018_jcp_nursery_1911_203253Promotional

Promotional signage is intended to drive awareness and action. Let’s say you’re running a special offer and you want to call attention to certain items in your store or restaurant that you feel have value for your customers. Those messages have to be given prime placement to be effective.

In this situation, promotional graphics on floors can be particularly effective at getting attention. The breakdown of how much promotional messaging varies by the type of business you run but as a general starting point, this category should not exceed 20-30% of the overall signage and messaging. How much of your inventory you devote to promotional messaging depends on your business strategy and objectives. Keep in mind; too much promotional messaging may lead to creating an impression or expectation of low prices. Apple has very little promotional messaging in their stores. That’s because their customers value their products based their design, function and desirability. In this case, Apple has properly aligned their signage objectives with their business strategy of being a highly desirable and somewhat exclusive brand.

Brand

Brand signage is aimed at building affinity, desire and loyalty. Branding in signage is often presented as lifestyle images on walls either as murals or large individual pieces that tell an engaging visual story about the company or customers.

Branding can be aimed at internal audiences, where it would be designed to instill pride in a workplace such as messages focused on a positive corporate culture. Internally focused branding affects particularly critical areas of your corporate culture including shoring up confidence, ability, motivation and opportunity which impact productivity.

Innovative companies recognize that creating an inspiring environment has a cascade effect on culture that leads to stronger talent recruiting and ultimately business performance. Examples of this include using life-sized images of standout performers, projects or teams with details to help others understand what can be achieved and what “excellent” performance looks like.

Branding is also commonly thought of as being externally focused on the positive things you do for the community and beyond. Whether internally or externally focused branding, the intended outcome is to capture the interest of somebody and build an indelible mark on their mind that represents what you want them to think about your company.20151018_jcp_nursery_0057_203253 (1)

Educational

Educational signage will vary in depth depending upon your business strategy and complexity of products. More complex products warrant more educational signage and if your strategy and brand call for being an educational resource to your customers.

Typically, educating customers has two purposes. One is to help them understand how to choose products/services and the other is more related to building brand affinity. As you might have guessed, there is frequently some blurring of the boundaries in the Branding and Educational categories.

An example of educational content that is purely educational might include an explanation of technical specifications, product comparison matrices or how to get the most out of a product.

However, the place where Education and Branding may intersect includes things like explaining how your products are sustainably made or how they can improve a person’s lifestyle. Sustainability and lifestyle can be key components of a brand, hence the blurred lines.

Additionally, educational content can move even closer to branding as you present information that is not directly related to your product but may be of interest to the customer. Companies use this approach to build affinity and alter a customer’s perception of their value from one of being a vendor to a partner who is interested in what their customers are interested in.

Final Thoughts

If you notice that you’ve begun to collect more signage over time, it may be time to take an inventory of your signage and collateral to prioritize what stays and what should be removed. Doing so will most certainly help you sharpen and align your messaging with business strategies. The effort put in to capture this information will help support internal productivity and cultural goals as well as revenue goals.

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